Brief and Wholly Concrete Moments

By Daniel Neofetou, 28 October 2015
Image: Doris Salcedo, A Gap in the Row of Buildings is Filled with 1600 Chairs, 8th Istanbul Biennial, 2003

In his review of Renew Marxist Art History, Daniel Neofetou examines the anthology's attempts to liberate art writing from its current quietism. But in seeking to reunite art history with radical politics, these essays must return to the conundrum of Marxist engagements with art. As a product of capitalist alienation and division, where does art's subversive power lie?

That Renew Marxist Art History 1 is resolutely old fashioned is evident from its cover design. Unlike books by other publishers in the field of continental aesthetics, it is not sleek and minimalist. Instead, the red shadows of Marx’s visage loom imperiously behind the title in bold font, making for an aesthetic that would have been at home when western academics were still putting their faith in a really-existing socialism. Similarly, while free of avowed nostalgia for Sovietology, the Marxist art history underpinning most of its generally robust and accomplished scholarly essays is one untroubled by more recent developments such as communisation theory or intersectionality, for which poststructuralism stands in as a derailing watershed in leftist aesthetics. In the book’s introduction, Warren Carter denigrates Griselda Pollock’s attempts to cultivate a historical materialism which makes gender and race coterminous with class as ‘not actually any form of Marxism at all’, 2 and dismisses Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida as having taken a ‘negative stance [...] towards Marxism’, 3 ignoring the fact that, while Derrida was the only one to write a whole book on it, each of this triumvirate at some point in their careers claimed that they had been Marxists all along. 4

Moreover, this attitude towards poststructuralism is symptomatic of these essays’ general unwillingness to engage with ambiguity. With a number of crucial exceptions, that I will discuss below, the pieces in Renew are generally unified by more or less deterministic understandings of the relationship between economic bases and art-aesthetic superstructures. Notwithstanding the risk of Bourdieuian notions of the selfsameness of an art’s character and public to which a few of these essays succumb, this is no bad thing in itself. Mapping the dialectical interplay of art-aesthetic and socio-economic developments is always vital. Much might be explained with reference to such dynamics, and the careful work of many scholars within this collection is often illuminating in this respect. However, such efforts alone foreclose what must surely be another task of a Marxist art history, if its ‘Marxism’ is to retain its identity with revolution; the endeavour to show how art might point to, in the words of Paolo Virno, ‘new ways of living and feeling’ which do not accord to the reifications of capital. 5

The acute awareness of the status quo’s contingency, necessary for this speculative task, calls for a Marxism which is not counterposed to poststructuralism. 6 However, such an endeavour is also in many ways more anachronistic than Renew Marxist Art History’s dominant tendencies, recalling as it does the ambitions to synchronise the artistic and political radicality of early modernisms (many of which, along with their descendent movements through to the Situationist International, are treated historically in this book’s last two thirds). Conversely, though, this particular vocation is now as timely as it ever was, when the neoliberal mantra that there is no alternative to capitalism is reinforced by, as Susan Buck-Morss puts it, ‘appeals to economic laws and market rationality’, while simultaneously knowledge of this ‘bodiless phantasm, “the economy,”’ is ‘reserved for a priesthood of experts’. 7 That is, when the status quo is upheld by an apparent objectivism which is seemingly indifferent to the subjective experience of those whose lives it circumscribes, and thus must be done away with. If we are to maintain that art has any meaning or power beyond acting as a reciprocal symptom of economic relations, it is crucial that, to draw a distinction from one of the aforementioned historical accounts of modernism, a Marxist art history might not just serve as ‘a method for a more extensive elaboration of the art of the past’, but ‘excavate that past [...] in order to establish forms of art responsive to [...] the present.’ 8

Moreover, such ideas are decisive if Marxist art history wants to be something more than one of many critical modes in a theorist’s toolbox, a fate which Carter repeatedly bemoans in his introduction. Indeed, a number of this book’s essays allude to this task, fewer make good on it. Stephen F. Eisenman, for instance, writes that artworks ‘may aid in the restructuring of consciousness’ and ‘highlight the affective deficits generated by capital’. 9 And John Roberts refers to the Marxian-Adornian hope that art might act as ‘a placeholder […] for the delayed promise of a non-alienated culture.’ 10 In terms of the former, however, the autobiographical nature of his contribution means he cannot elaborate upon his notions, while the latter’s essay is dedicated to tempering such hopes with a model of critique which is ultimately only concerned with how artworks internally manifest the contradictions of their historical moment. Yet this is not to say that every essay in Renew toes this party-line, and in what follows I will show how certain currents within the book might be read against its dominant grain, to (re)invigorate a Marxist aesthetics which looks to art for the affective lineaments of a mode of being proscribed by our reified world.

A good place to begin is an essay whose object precedes even early modernism: Matthew Beaumont’s account of the romantic anti-capitalist Walter Pater, ‘A Communion of Just Men Made Perfect.’ Pater was an impressionist critic and mentor to Oscar Wilde. Accordingly, he was a target for contemporaries who vilified aesthetes as elitist, and Beaumont attempts a critical rehabilitation of Pater as a political thinker. From the outset, Beaumont asserts his heartening opposition to similar attacks on aestheticism by the likes of Peter Bürger which continue to prove influential. Beaumont writes that these critiques fail ‘to capture aestheticism’s contradictory, sometimes confrontational relationship to the reified reality from which it attempted to escape’, and endeavours to show that, while containing little in the way of operative politics, Pater’s ‘impressionist criticism can […] productively be reconsidered as [...] social dreaming.’ 11 As Beaumont acknowledges, utopian speculation was at the time in no short supply; the pervasive intellectual climate of the last quarter of the nineteenth century was not one in which the notion that there was no alternative to the status quo reigned. Beaumont argues that this ‘utopian structure of feeling’ shaped Pater’s aesthetics, rendering it political despite the ostensible impossibility of practicably attaining the refuge from capitalist reification for which it yearned. However, I want to contend that, beyond this, we might find in Pater’s criticism the kernel of a revolutionary aesthetics just as apt today as it was then.

In framing Pater as a romantic anti-capitalist, Beaumont cites the definition given by Lowy and Sayre, who write that romantic anti-capitalism ‘represents the revolt of [...] the “magic” of imagination banished from the capitalist world’. 12 Now, if Pater’s aestheticism conformed to the seemingly dominant reading of this account, one would be justified in criticising him for the problems that, in his nuanced contribution to ReNew on Aby Warburg, Frederic J. Schwartz (sympathetically) identifies as endemic to such thinking. Schwartz writes that romantic anti-capitalism entails the positing of a former unified spirit or culture which is in fact a retrograde fantasy projected onto the past, yet which ‘for all its irrationality [is] preferable to a world drained of magic by the limitless instrumental knowledge of [...] means-ends rationality’. 13 However, in the same way that similar accusations levelled at Adorno are dispelled with a proper understanding of his thought, 14 Beaumont shows we might undercut such accusations by understanding Pater’s criticism as (historically) materialist, and not premised upon a mystical originary ground. In fact, Pater’s criticism also points towards an aesthetics which does not run into the problems of Adorno’s. I do not take these issues to be rooted in tired notions of Adorno as the high-priest of modernist elitism. 15 Instead, if Adorno’s aesthetic theory is problematic, it is because it often seems to run the risk of formal selfsameness with the kind of identity thinking it positions itself against – ranging over and subsuming the works in question, albeit in order to discern their radical oppositional content.

19th century aesthetes such as Pater, on the other hand, were indicted by contemporaries for lacking detachment from their objects of attention. Beaumont cites the German social democrat Eduard Bernstein, who accuses aestheticism of being decadently immersed in a perpetual present. Beaumont, however, argues that for Pater, ‘this assumption is inapplicable’, at least in terms of the intended negative connotations. 16 Citing Pater’s celebration of art’s ‘brief and wholly concrete moment[s]’ and ‘significant and animated instants’, Beaumont writes that ‘Pater understands the present as a dialectic of the past and future’; as carrying with it the plenitude and pregnancy of a lived existence, which undermines reified meanings and promises ‘to redress [the] condition of alienation’ under capitalism. 17 J.M. Bernstein makes a similar argument in his book Against Voluptuous Bodies. For Bernstein, the sensuous experience engendered by artworks draws attention to the obstinate particularity of artworks in the face of capitalism’s universalising logic of fungibility. In his case, though, Bernstein ultimately finds himself in a dialectical deadlock, because for him the only way that art undercuts reification is in its inefficaciousness – in its almost unique exception from utility. However, the concrete political potential of such a project, at least by Marx’s own lights, might be gleaned if we turn to the most heavily theoretical essay in ReNew – Stewart Martin’s speculative contribution on a Marxist aesthetics.

Martin attempts to discern the foundations of an aesthetic theory from Marx’s early writings on sensibility, allowing for Marx’s subsequent jettisoning of their Feuerbachian foundations. He commences by delineating how, in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Marx elaborates his debt to Ludwig Feuerbach on the grounds of a threefold achievement on the part of the latter. This achievement consists in showing that philosophy is to be condemned like religion as a form of the estrangement of man’s nature; founding a true materialism by basing his theory on the social relation of ‘man to man’, and opposing the negation of the negation as a means of reaching the absolute positive, instead justifying ‘taking the positive, that is sensuously ascertained, as his starting point.’ 18 However, within a year, Marx had written the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ and Martin shows that his attitude towards these aspects of Feuerbach’s thought was transformed as he decided each were insufficient. In reference to the first point, Marx asks why secular bases produce such estrangements in the first place, and asserts that Feuerbach’s argument must be extended to the critique of these secular bases and their contradictions. In terms of the second point, Marx contends that, because Feuerbach does not try to understand how estrangement is produced, he fails to see that ‘religious sentiment’ is a social product, and that the abstract individual he analyses in the relations of ‘man to man’ ‘belongs to a particular form of society.’ 19 Instead, for Feuerbach, human essence consists of an ahistorical, asocial and effectively isolated capacity to ‘make the essential nature of other things or beings an object of thought’. 20

This brings us to the third aspect of Marx’s former debt to Feuerbach, in that Marx’s commitment to the ‘sensuously ascertained’ is problematised by his realisation that Feuerbach’s sensuous consciousness is in fact founded upon an abstraction from humans’ historical and social existence. Nevertheless, Marx does not abandon sensuousness as a category, but wants to conceive of ‘sensuousness as practical human-sensuous activity.’ 21 This is in contradistinction with Feuerbach, for whom sensuous imagination is resolutely opposed to practice, which Feuerbach argues limits humans’ essential ability to disinterestedly conceptualise nature as a whole. For Marx, however, this ability is as much an abstract estrangement from real life as any other, and Martin delineates how Marx’s converse sensuousness neither conceives of the world as an object analysed by a passive human consciousness, as in Feuerbach, nor constituted in relation to an abstract subject’s conceptualisation of sensations, as in Hegelian idealism. Instead, Martin writes, for Marx’s sensuousness, reality must be figured as ‘practical, produced and reproduced by human labour on nature.’ 22 That is, as utterly opposed to Feuerbach’s ‘approach [to] reality as merely sensuous [which treats] it as an externality appearing to man’, and thus abstracts man ‘from any historical or social determination’, effectively presupposing ‘a consciousness that takes a theoretical standpoint, not a practical standpoint’, and maintains the status quo as if it were natural. 23

This is not to say that Marx’s sensuousness points towards an anthropocentric ‘for-us’ ontology, which would run the risk of homology with the reification of identity-thinking. Indeed, this is the philosopher who criticises dealers in minerals for seeing ‘only the commercial value but not the beauty and the unique nature of the mineral.’ 24 However, Martin shows that Marx’s sensuousness demands that we do not bracket this beauty and uniqueness off from the human consciousness that apprehends it. Yet he then complicates matters by asserting that the way in which Marx characterises his sensuousness is unclear. Martin writes that, upon expressing his dissatisfaction with both, Marx appears to ‘shuttle endlessly between Feuerbach and Hegel’, and explores how this ambivalence was latent even in the Manuscripts, in which Marx proclaims the importance of the latter’s negation of the negation, the very concept which in the same work he champions Feuerbach for discrediting in favour of ‘the sensuously ascertained’.

Yet Martin shows that, for Marx, this supposed philosophical impasse is resolved by substituting ‘the sensuous’ for ‘the abstract’ in Hegel’s first movement of the dialectic, so that its steps proceed accordingly: ‘(1) the sensuous, in which man exists in an unrealized or limited form, (2) the negation of the sensuous, as a moment of objectification and alienation of man, and then (3) the negation of this negation, as the dealienation or realisation of man’. 25 That is, the overcoming of alienation for Marx would be an ‘expansion or realisation of sensuousness’. 26 Martin acknowledges here that it might seem confusing that Marx still presupposes alienation’s elements, rather than interrogating the sensuous practice which subtends and generates it. However, he argues that this is because Marx follows Hegel’s suppositions that objectivity is not in opposition to the abstraction of consciousness, but instead is a derivation of it, and, because it is apprehended by consciousness, sensuousness is not opposed to this abstraction. Thus, Martin writes, it is clear why Marx might look to a pre- or non-conscious sensation in order to understand the reality of practice, and yet still see alienation as a decisive issue, because, if it is consciousness which separates subjectivity from objectivity, consciousness is responsible for alienation. That is, rather than alienation being imposed from without by the machinations of capital. In this way, Martin establishes that for Marx, sensation, as distinct from already-alienated consciousness, must reveal to the latter its alienated nature so as the latter might realise itself fully in disalienated sensuousness. Upon ascertaining this, Martin goes on to problematise Marx’s notion of a sensuous practice independent from consciousness, and concludes that, while it is possible to grasp ‘sensuous practice as the principle according to which Marx’s aesthetics must be elaborated’, Marx’s ‘texts seem to equivocate when it comes to defining the independence of [sensuous] practice from the practice of consciousness.’ 27

But, rather than attempting to establish a Marxist aesthetics from Marx’s ambiguous sensuousness, is it not more fruitful to discern this sensuousness from aesthetic experience as Pater defines it? That is, if we construe aesthetic experience as neither the impassive reception of objectivity by a disembodied perspective, nor the perception of immediate particularity in need of contextualisation by consciousness, but instead as ‘brief and wholly concrete moments’ which make manifest the plenitude of lived existence, and during which the chiasmatic inextricability of perceiver and perceived is clearest. Thus, while Bernstein is not wrong to claim that art occupies a privileged position in terms of its capacity to engender a foretaste of dealienated consciousness, this does not mean that this fleeting shift has no implications for how we experience the rest of reified reality. To the contrary, Martin’s essay shows it might be understood as selfsame with a critical movement in Marx’s dialectic towards reconciliation. Such an experience nods to the ‘use value’ of objects (broadly defined) as against their capitalist ‘exchange values’. 28 It constitutes ‘the expansion or realization of sensuousness’, 29  and makes evident that practice is ‘always specific, always concrete, and never abstract except in the treatment of it from outside from the vantage of consciousness or capital.’ 30

This latter distinction chimes with Adorno’s concept of art’s double character – ‘its autonomy and fait social’ – and allows us to challenge the Bourdieuian error of identifying art’s immanent quality with the class interests of its patronage, present in essays in ReNew such as Alan Wallach’s piece on the ‘luminist’ movement in mid-1800s New York. 31 This movement emerged from the Hudson River School, whose enormous landscapes offered paeans to Manifest Destiny. Luminism, however, was instead typified by ‘an attentiveness to nuances of light, colour and atmosphere.’ 32 Wallach argues that such aspects, in appealing ‘to nothing much more than [...] visual pleasure’, contemporaneously ‘required skills associated with connoisseurship.’ 33 Thus, that ‘subject matter had lost most of its importance’ and viewers’ attention was effectively drawn to Pater’s significant instants instead, for Wallach renders luminist paintings ‘embodiment[s] of a rarefied artistic sensibility.’ 34 Assuming one requires class privilege to appreciate anything other than brute narrative content in art, Wallach aligns luminism’s emphasis upon sensuous elements with the class interests of the New York bourgeoisie, who at the time were looking to distinguish themselves from the rabble and legitimise their drive for cultural hegemony.

Wallach completely identifies this aesthetic development with the paintings’ patronage, and if we turn to Fred Orton’s contribution to ReNew on Harold Rosenberg, we can see how this undialectical approach impedes one’s ability to discern the development’s seditious power. Paraphrasing Orton; quoting Rosenberg; citing Marx, we might say that Wallach fails to prevent an affirmative recognition of the status quo from clouding his ability to discern the potential for that status quo to be broken up. 35 For Rosenberg, this potential was present in abstract expressionism, insofar as it attested ‘that there was still a space [...] for personal revolt.’ 36 As I have made clear above, I am arguing that this potential is present in all art which encourages the very mode of reception that Wallach sees as inherently reactionary, insofar as it engenders a sensuous consciousness. For art to do this, though, it must be apprehended as autonomous to an extent. That is, it must stake out its otherness from objects hypostasised by the totality of capitalism. In this contention, I am therefore diametrically opposed to another essay in ReNew by Kerstin Stakemeier, ‘Deartification this Side of Art’. Stakemeier addresses Adorno’s concept of Entkunstung, sometimes translated as deartification. As Entkunstung, Adorno refers to the movement in art in the 1960s towards happenings, environments, assemblages, etc. Adorno bemoans this development away from ‘works that are not in themselves determined by the law of form’ as ‘a praxis that, devoid of reflection and this side of art’s own dialectic, progressively delivers art over to the extra-aesthetic dialectic.’ 37 Making ‘art’ and ‘life’ indistinguishable, for Adorno, deprives art of the capacity to manifest the status quo’s effaced underside, both in terms of the suffering it causes and the possibility of reconciliation it prohibits.

Against this, Stakemeier argues that Entkuntstung bears with it the potential to open up ‘concrete social perspectives within art, its production and circulation.’ 38 She makes this case by rejecting the continued relevance of what she identifies as Adorno’s notion that Fordism, in separating physical and mental labour, allowed for an area of mental labour ‘seemingly prior to the sphere of distribution, a potentially autonomous area of activity.’ 39 Stakemeier writes that post-Fordism’s subsumption of immaterial labour in the second half of the 20th century invalidates this model of resistance through art, because intellectual labour no longer leaves a zone of mental autonomy untouched. However, she argues that it points to a new model of autonomy and resistance, contending that the liquidation of any space outside of capitalism and shift in production from goods to events coincided with artists’ acting ‘out events with artistic means, making their production public.’ 40 For Stakemeier, this is a movement towards artists seeing themselves from the perspective of production rather than capital; emancipating themselves from the status of wage labourers; and attaining political autonomy.

Stakemeier thus attempts to recast the notion of autonomy in art not so as to denote its potential to engender otherwise unavailable experience, but in terms of the struggle for autonomisation of artistic workers, just like any others. However, in the formulation of aesthetic autonomy which I am proposing, aesthetic experience itself, insofar as we can understand it in terms of Marx’s sensuousness, draws attention to human activity from the perspective of production, as ‘always specific, always concrete’, rather than abstractly, as ‘in the treatment of it from outside, from the vantage of [...] capital.’ 41 To claim that the post-Fordist colonisation of affective labour leaves no room for aesthetic contemplation apart from the sphere of distribution, is not necessarily to argue that it leaves no room for such a space within the sphere of distribution. If we accept Marx’s homology between consciousness per se and hypostatisation, then it is not only through self-reflexive praxis that resistance might be cultivated. Rather, the sensuousness of aesthetic experience continues to provide a sense of the plenitude of being which capitalism effaces and excludes, and thereby the potential for human emancipation.

Here, it is imperative to stress the chiasmatic nature of Marx’s concept of sensuousness. In opposition to Feuerbachian sensuousness, for Marx the sensuousness of objects presupposes the physicality of the subject. This is particularly important when discussing aesthetic experience because it provides a way to differentiate a Marxist reading of aesthetic sensuousness from the various ‘new materialisms’ that so excited the art world in recent years. Recently in Mute, Svenja Bromberg effectively skewered these trends, writing that to attempt to break out of ‘oppressive, exploitative and reified capitalist social relations’ by positing ‘the world of matter against [...] man-made [...] neoliberal existence’ completely circumvents a critique of these relations. Moreover, for Bromberg, calls to embrace one’s objective materiality provide no glimmer of emancipation for the masses that have been rendered mere objects by capital anyway, and were never afforded representation in the first place. However, a crucial moment in the ‘de-reifying’ materialism I am proposing is the embodiment of the recipient’s perception. This, in order to stress the limits of viewpoints which would reify the world according to totalising identity thinking, and to stake claims for localised meanings in the face of such hypostatisation. De-reifying materialism constitutes an attempt to productively confront prevailing social relations with a fuller account of being, which allows for the perspectives that are currently effaced.

This position, in fact, finds affinity with another essay in ReNew which explicitly concerns stratagems for resistance within contemporary art: Gail Day’s ‘Realism, Totality, and the Militant Citoyen.’ In her essay, Day explores the ways that many contemporary artists engage in work which ‘imagine[s] how we might [...] exceed capital’s social relations’ by mediating ‘the gap between the existing state of things under capitalism, and the desired transformation of human social relations.’ 42 For Day, in the works of these artists, this transformation is determined by human action, and thus the multitudinous powers of concrete production. Particularly notable in relation to my argument is Day’s discussion of Allan Sekula. In his practice, Sekula deconstructs dominant representations and focuses on elements of social life which are not productive of surplus value. In this way, writes Day, he attempts ‘to release social distillates from their reified suspension.’ 43 However, it seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between art portraying experience which contradicts dominant narratives, as Gail Day champions, and art that engenders such experience in its recipient. This is of course in no way a hard-and-fast binary; art which ostensibly fits into the former category might well effect the shift in perception I am attributing to the latter. However, this distinction is still important, because if an artwork’s political opposition is solely a matter of discursiveness or signification, this opposition, as something apart from a given work’s existence as a fait social, is far easier for capital to recuperate than art whose challenge is premised upon its sensuousness.

To elaborate, we might take the example of Doris Salcedo, who is the subject of Chin-tao Wu’s essay in the collection, ‘Scars on the Landscape.’ Wu asks whether ‘the artistic expression of anguish’, which constitutes the political import of Salcedo’s work, is in some way compromised when it is ‘given a price within capitalism and traded for profit.’ 44 She concludes optimistically that Salcedo’s inevitable complicity with ‘the very power structures’ that her work apparently criticises is a necessary condition for her to have been able to change ‘the artistic landscape for the better’ and make her voice heard ‘loud and clear.’ 45 Yet, if dominant institutions not only buy and sell an artist’s work, but also readily accommodate its apparently subversive message, is there anything held in reserve which would work to eliminate this power structure?

The example of Salcedo is particularly significant for me because in the summer of 2012, I was working as an invigilator in a commercial gallery exhibiting her work. Standing in the space for hours daily, I heard countless salespeople extol ‘the power’ of Salcedo’s work to wealthy clients on the premise of its critique of globalisation’s barbarism, without ever quite mentioning the c-word (the scrupulous sidestepping of which appears to be a particular speciality of that institution). 46 The very facets of Salcedo’s work which Wu celebrates as subversive, then, did not exist in spite of its being given a price within capitalism and traded for profit. Instead, they were the work’s major selling points: concepts under which the work’s material elements could be subsumed. Conversely, in my time working there, I never once, not even when the work in question might have engendered such an experience, heard a salesperson discuss a work in the terms of sensuousness which I have sketched out in this piece as Marxian. They would always take recourse to assertions which positioned the work in opposition to the client’s consciousness as a Feuerbachian object, irrespective of its capacity, in gesturing towards the concrete possibility of reconciliation, to indict the same system of unfreedom that sustains those clients’ lifestyles.


Daniel Neofetou <d.neofetou AT> is a multidisciplinary artist and writer. He is the author of a monograph on the films of David Lynch, Good Day Today.


Warren Carter, Barnaby Haran and Frederic J. Schwartz (Eds.), ReNew Marxist Art History, London: Art / Books, 2013.


1 Warren Carter, Barnaby Haran, Frederic J. Schwartz eds. ReNew Marxist Art History, London: Art Books Publishing, 2013. Referred to as ReNew from here onwards in this text.

2 Warren Carter, ‘Introduction’ in ibid., p.22

3 Ibid, p.24

4 In a 1990 interview Deleuze asserts ‘I think Felix Guattari and I have remained Marxists, in our two different ways, perhaps, but both of us’ (Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia University Press, 1990. p.171), and in 1975 Foucault claims that he necessarily uses ‘a whole range of concepts directly or indirectly linked to Marx’s thought and situated [himself] within a horizon of thought which has been defined and described by Marx’, before refuting the attitude taken towards him by ‘those who call themselves Marxists’, because ‘they play a game whose rules aren’t Marxist but communistological, in other words defined by communist parties who decide how you must use Marx so as to be declared by them to be a Marxist’. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge, trans. Colin Gordon; Leo Marshall; John Mepham; Kate Soper, New York: Pantheon Books, 1977, p.53.

5 Sonya Lavaert; Pascal Gielen; Paolo Virno, ‘The Dismeasure of Art. A Precarious Existence. An Interview with Paolo Virno’, Open, No.17, 2009.

6 While Carter’s mitigations to poststructuralism in the introduction are limited to the tentative affirmation of work by Frederic Jameson, Benjamin Buchloh and Hal Foster, which, Carter writes, seek ‘to bring [such] theoretical departures [...] within the orbit of historical materialism’ (p.24), what is necessary for a Marxist aesthetic philosophy which seeks in artworks the hope of disalienation in the face of capitalist subsumption is the Marx who Tom McCarthy enumerates along with Nietzsche, Lyotard, Deleuze-Guattari, Foucault and Derrida as examining ‘the constructedness of all social contexts and knowledge categories’ (Tom McCarthy, ‘On Realism and the Real’, London Review of Books, Vol.36, No.24. 18 December 2014. pp.21-23). This is the Marx to whom - ironically enough, considering Marxist art history’s wholly justified antipathy towards his legacy – Clement Greenberg alludes in 1939 when he refers to a nineteenth century ‘superior consciousness of history’ which is aware of the contingency of capitalism’s seeming naturalness (Clement Greenberg, ‘Avant Garde and Kitsch’ in Pollock and After: The Critical Debate ed. Francis Frascina, London: Harper & Row, 1985, p.22). It is the Marx who asserts in Capital Vol. 1 that ‘one thing [...] is clear: nature does not produce on the one hand owners of money or commodities, and on the other hand men possessing nothing but their own labour-power. This relation has no basis in natural history, nor does it have a social basis common to all periods of human history’ (p.273).

7 Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 2009, pp.4-5.

8 As Martin L. Gaughan characterises the attitudes taken by, respectively, the 1920s German critics Gertrud Alexander and Lu Marten in one of the book’s aforementioned essays concerning early modernism, ‘Lu Marten and the Question of a Marxist Aesthetic in 1920s Germany.’ In this essay, Gaughan’s evident preference for the latter approach makes his failure to stress its continued necessity all the more frustrating. Martin L. Gaughan, ‘Lu Marten and the Question of a Marxist Aesthetic in 1920s Germany’, in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., p.291.

9 Stephen F. Eisenman, ‘The Political Logic of Radical Art History in California 1974-85’ in ibid., p.63.

10 John Roberts, ‘Art Histories Furies’ in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., p.36.

11 Matthew Beaumont, ‘A Communion of Just Men Made Perfect’ in ibid., pp.94-5.

12 Ibid, p.96.

13 Fredeick J. Schwartz, ‘Aby Warburg and the Spirit of Capitalism’ in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., p.127.

14 An understanding which consistently evades his most significant erstwhile student Habermas, who has essentially built his illustrious career on a misreading of Adorno.

15 The kind of which I had hoped Ben Watson’s Adorno for Revolutionaries, for all its flaws, had decisively swept away, but which are represented in ReNew by an essay from Norbert Schneider.

16 Ibid, p.97.

17 Ibid.

18 Marx quoted. in Stewart Martin ‘Approaching Marx’s Aesthetics’, in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., p.79.

19 Ibid, p.80

20 Ibid, p.81

21 Ibid, p.82

22 Ibid, p.84

23 Ibid, p.85

24 Marx, ‘from: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844’ in Lee Baxandall; Stefan Morawski (Eds.), Marx/Engels on Literature and Art, New York: International General, 1974. p.52.

25 Ibid, p.87.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid, pp.91-93.

28 Here, I have in mind particularly the passage in ‘The Commodity’ chapter of Capital Vol.1, in which Marx writes that, while economists assert that ‘the use-value of material objects belong to them independently of their material properties’ and their exchange-value ‘on the other hand, forms a part of them as objects’, the reverse is in fact that case (p.177). That is, capitalist subsumption creates the appearance that the exchange-value of objects, which is contingent upon its particular mode of production and division of labour, is value per se. However, it is use-value which refers to objects’ materiality.

29 Martin, in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., p.87.

30 Ibid, p.91.

31 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor, London: Continuum, 1997, p.229.

32 Ibid, p.143.

33 Ibid, pp.144 and p.146.

34 Ibid, p.146.

35 Orton, ‘Action, Revolution and Painting’, in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., p.356.

36 Ibid.

37 Aesthetic Theory, op. cit., pp.239-240.

38 Kerstin Stakemeier, ‘Deartification This Side of Art: Ideology Critique, Autonomy and Reproduction’ in ReNew Marxist Art History, op. cit., pp.494-5. Entkuntstung was also the topic of Stakemeier’s PhD completed at UCL, London 2012.

39 Ibid, p.498.

40 Ibid, p.498.

41 Martin, Ibid, p.91.

42 Gail Day, ‘Realism, Totality and the Militant Citoyen’, Ibid., p.479-8.

43 Ibid, p.482.

44 Chin-tao Wu, ‘Scars on the Landscape: Doris Salcedo Between Two Worlds’, ibid., pp.458-9. Admittedly, this political import is ambiguous at best without prior knowledge, a fact which Wu acknowledges with a humorously sly dig at Adrian Searle’s claim that ‘It is hard to look at Salcedo’s work and not think of real disappearances and kidnapping in her native Colombia’ (p.467). However, Wu maintains this import must be grasped for ‘a proper appreciation of the pieces’, and stresses how Salcedo always provides clear statements as to how a viewer is to interpret her work, thus directing ‘the critical discourse to which he work is to give rise’ (p.467; p.471).

45 Ibid, pp.475-6.

46 Especially notable in this respect is the artist Theaster Gates. In the press release for his show at the same gallery during Frieze 2012, a seemingly nonsensical and arbitrary comparison was drawn between him and his father, who, the press release informed us, had kept working as a roofer during the Chicago strikes. Upon investigation, I discovered that Gates’s father had used the money he had earned doing so to fund the resistance’s strike funds etc. With this additional information, the analogy is clear: just as his father worked within the bounds of an unjust system to help those trying to change it, Gates sells art to rich people in order to fund his (incredibly problematic, as elucidated by Marina Vishmidt among others) redevelopment projects in impoverished, predominately black areas. Yet, the show’s press release did not mention that his father had used the money in this way; this fact had been awkwardly lopped off, presumably lest it offend the clients who figure in this analogy as the class driving this iniquitous system which is to be ameliorated by taking their money. Such people tend to imagine that the conditions they improve through whatever philanthropy they choose to engage in have no causal relationship with the way they acquire their money in the first place. It is unlikely that drawing attention to these connections, even via analogy with historical struggle, would go down well.