Subversion and Subsidy

Contemporary Art and Aesthetics

Rainer Rochlitz

Translated by Dafydd Roberts


6 x 7.5 inches, 240pp. 2008

ISBN : 9781905422708 & 9781905422715

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Art today is in deep crisis. Criticism seems to have abandoned any notion of evaluation, the public has been denied the possibility of understanding, and aesthetics have lost all legitimacy. Formerly, artists claimed their right to decide for themselves what counted as a work of art, thanks to the subversion of the established criteria of aesthetic judgment. But that very subversion is today the object of subsidy and support by museums and galleries, anxious to display their liberalism. A new and ambiguous game of complicity and antagonism has united artists and institutions.


Yet, however much the alliance of subversion and subsidy aims to exclude it, aesthetic judgment remains a necessity. Whatever the nature of a work of art, it can only be one if the artistic quality it claims for itself can be justified and shared. As symbol it cannot be reduced to a symptom; as an object of judgment it cannot depend on simple individual preferences. Thus it is now urgent to find aesthetic arguments that pay proper attention to the internal logic of artworks, arguments that are rigorous without claiming absolute truth.

Rainer Rochlitz was a philosopher, aesthetician and translator. He was in charge of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Centre for Scientific Research), Director of Seminars at the Practical School of the High Studies in Social Sciences and at the European University of Philosophy. He contributed much to make known the writings of the young Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin and Jürgen Habermas of whom he was one of the translators in France. He also translated the works of Adorno, Ricoeur and Levi-Strauss. He dies prematurely after a struggle with cancer at the age of 56. 


Dafydd Roberts is a translator from French and German, mainly in the fields of art, architecture and cultural history. He has translated catalogues and guides for many French and German galleries and museums, and for the past decade has been principal translator into English for the Centre Georges Pompidou. His translations include books and essays by Chantal Béret, Didier Ottinger, Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. He lives in London.

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