© giovanni casu, 2016
(...)A worthy opponent of the Institutional Theory of Art is philosopher J. Levinson with his "Music, Art, and Metaphysics" (3). Although, strangely enough, his work is sometimes akin to Institutional Theory, he clearly departs from it on several points. Dickie´s institutional thesis seems to be the main target of Levinson’s criticism(5) (...). In Music, Art, & Metaphysics (3) Levinson states: “In this essay I would like to begin to develop an alternative to the institutional theory of art, albeit one that is clearly inspired by it. What I will retain from that theory is the crucial idea that artworkhood is not an intrinsic exhibited property of a thing, but rather a matter of being related in the right way to human activity and thought. However, I propose to construe this relation solely in terms of the intention of an independent individual (or individuals)-as opposed to an overt act (that of conferring the status of a candidate for appreciation) performed in an institutional setting constituted by many individuals- where the intention makes reference (either transparently or opaquely) to the history of art (what art has been) as opposed to that murky and somewhat exclusive institution, the artworld. The core of my proposal will be an account of what it is to regard-as-a-work-of-art, an account that gives this an essential historicity.(…)I want to remark on two major difficulties with the institutional theory. (I pass over the oftenmade charges that the theory is uninformative, and that the key notion of “artworld” and “conferral status” are vague and artificial.) The first problem is the implication that art making must involve a certain cultural performance, (…) On the contrary, I would urge that there can be a private, isolated art that is constituted as art in the mind of the artist. (…) The second and main problem I find with the institutional theory is that the artworld must do all the work in specifying the way in which an object has to be presented or treated in order for it to be a work of art, whereas the notion of appreciation (the point of the enterprise) is not specified at all or only in the most general terms.”(pag 4. Defining Art Historically). (...)
Levinson´s contextualism identifies the following constitutive elements: a work of art is an indicated structure (vehicular medium) created by an individual(s), provided with a title, and set in a specific context (art historical context) at a specific time (t). In other words, an artwork must be understood in terms of (1) a historical tradition of regarding artworks in particular ways and (2) the maker´s intention that the product of her making be regarded in one of those ways. (...) To give an extended example of the concept-context of the artwork we can quote Levinson's (1980) description of the historical-artistic context: “The total musico-historical context of a composer P at the time t can be said to include at least the following: (a) the whole of cultural, social, and political history prior to t; (b) the whole of musical development up to to t; (c) musical styles prevalent at t; (d) dominant musical influences at t; (e) musical activities of P´s contemporaries at t; (f) P´s apparent style at t; (g) P´s musical repertoire at t; (h) P´s oeuvre at t; (i) musical influences operating on P at t”(J.Levinson 1980:69).
(...)Levinson’s example of the Indian in the Amazon further clarifies his point: “(…)Consider a solitary Indian along the Amazon who steals off from his non-artistic tribe to arrange coloured stones in a clearing, not outwardly investing them with special position in the world. Might not this also be art? (and note, before any future curator decides that it is? ” (Music, Art, and Metaphysics).
(...)Origin here signifies that from where and through which a thing is what it is, and how it is. What something is, how it is, we name its essence (Wesen). The origin of something is the provenance of its essence. The question of the origin of the work of art asks after the work's essential provenance. The work, according to common understanding, springs out from and through the activity of the artist. But through what and from what is the artist what he is? Through the work; the saying that the work commends the master, says: The work first let´s the artist emerge as a master of art. The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. However, neither of them alone bears the other. Artist and work are , each in themselves and in their mutual relations, through a third, namely through art, which is the first from which artist and artwork have their name. THE ORIGIN OF THE WORK OF ART. Martin Heidegger.