Art Theory

Professor Dr. Kerstin Stakemeier

Since the emergence of contemporary art in the 1960s, a field which has now grown into a globally active industry, art theory has also increasingly become a distinct field of work, one that increasingly detached itself from art history. Self-historicizations of the field, its own jargons and forms of canonization developed. And with the increasingly clear questioning of the artistic sphere as a practice fundamentally distinct from other popular aesthetic forms, art theory too has changed significantly since the late 2010s. At the very least, a continued dispute over the autonomies and heteronomies of the field has gained more and more traction since.

In order not to be passively confronted with the evaluations and categorizations of these discourses, it became increasingly urgent, not least for artists since the 1960s, to be able to assert their own work not only practically but also theoretically. Even more, art theory changed significantly through the continued interventions of artists into it, through artistic formats of theoretical writing from art. While discussions, correspondences, manifestos, and other forms of writing have always been central components of artistic production, the emergence of art theory as a discipline in its own right has necessitated a change in its use for artists: art-theoretical writing by artists not only means the possibility of always also determining the interpretation of the works themselves, but also of expanding artistic ways of working through this written practice. Art theory is a practice of thinking, writing, speaking and arguing in and about art - whose social life decisively determines its forms. Art Mediation is the practical handling of these forms within changing publics - publics that are not least existing beyond the social spheres of contemporary art.
The teaching of art theory at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg therefore starts with the historical and systematic understanding of fundamental concepts and categories of modern art, such as autonomy, authorship, the category of the work of art and the conceptualization of its aesthetic experience. At the same time, it understands itself as a theoretical movement along what could be called the debordering of the arts already that has been underway since the beginning of the 20th century. These tendencies are not only to be understood as forms of decomposition directed at art, but also as a necessarily expanded understanding of what art is: an understanding of art that recognizes the colonial history of its forms as a central moment of its production as an autonomous, modern sphere. A sense of art that does not attempt to evacuate the forms of violence that are aesthetically subsisting within it – and which are constantly renewed until this day – but rather sees them as inherent to art itself and works through their perpetual exposition. At the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg, art theory is therefore a kind of orientation discipline that is as open to students of the free arts in painting, sculpture, film, photography, design, and gold- and silversmithing, just as it is to those in art education, and that addresses in particular the relationship between theory and practice, production and reception, history and present, locality and globality, both in relation to individual artistic positions and to the medial, cultural, and political conditions of their mediation in the exhibition system. Art theory and art mediation are a common contemporary practice ,whose standards are historically changeable - a practice whose standards we ourselves can historically change.
In the teaching of art theory and mediation at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg, special attention is paid to the practice of writing: writing one's own texts is increasingly one of the requirements that young artists from a wide variety of fields have to meet today. In varying writing exercises, for example in essay form, narratives, theoretical treatises, aphorisms and critiques, an own positioning on the ubiquitous art theory of (contemporary) art is to be formed and expanded in the medium of text.


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