Adorno after Kiefer
AsPro Geoffrey Boucher (Deakin University)

October 9, 2012, 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Deakin University

221 Burwood Highway
Melbourne 3125


  • The Alfred Deakin Research Institute, the Centre for Citizenship and Globalization and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Adorno’s posthumously published Aesthetic Theory (1970) is his most important statement in defence of the autonomous artworks of the modernist movement and, specifically, in support of the dissonant aesthetics of postwar modernism. My intention is to confront Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory with the Neo-Expressionist work of Anselm Kiefer, whose works stage a provocative retrieval of representational painting after Conceptual Art. The choice of a painter-sculptor whose work returns to figuration is a motivated decision, because I wish to address two common, related misreadings of Adorno’s position. Adorno is often thought to impose a ban on images that leads to an “end of representation” sort of position. What Adorno actually says is that the expressive subject cannot be eliminated, because it is itself a residue of nature caught in the rational machine, and the resulting impossibility of the individual’s complete adaptation to society means a permanent potential for resistance. Kiefer shows us how and why this happens in post-conceptual art.

Geoff Boucher is a Senior Lecturer in the Psychoanalytic Studies Programme and in Literary Studies at Deakin University. He is the author of several books on critical theory, including The Charmed Circle of Ideology (2008) and Zizek and Politics (2010). His books on Understanding Marxism and Adorno Reframed are appearing in 2012. He works on contemporary culture from a perspective influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis, publishing in the fields of continental philosophy and psychoanalytic studies.

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