Hal Foster: On Post Criticism
FORART LECTURE 2011
The FORART Lecture 2011 was given by Hal Foster, the Townsend Martin Professor of Art & Architecture at Princeton.
Critical theory took a serious beating during the culture wars of the 1980s and the 1990s, and the 2000s were only worse. Under Bush the demand for affirmation was all but total, and today there is little space for critique even in the universities and the museums. Bullied by conservative commentators, most academics no longer stress the importance of critical thinking for an engaged citizenry, and, dependent on corporate sponsors, most curators no longer promote the critical debate once deemed essential to the public reception of advanced art. Indeed, the sheer out-of-date-ness of criticism in an art world that couldn’t care less seems evident enough. Yet what are the options on offer? Celebrating beauty? Affirming affect? Hoping for a “redistribution of the sensible”? Trusting in “the general intellect”? The post-critical condition is supposed to release us from our straightjackets (historical, theoretical, and political), yet for the most part it has abetted a relativism that has little to do with pluralism.
Hal Foster is Townsend Martin Professor of Art & Architecture at Princeton & co-editor of October magazine and books. His most recent books are The Art-Architecture Complex (Verso, 2011) and The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha. Previous books by Foster include The Return of the Real (MIT Press, 1996) and Compulsive Beauty (MIT Press, 1993).