The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade
A rich and groundbreaking study of conceptual art, from Duchamp to Warhol, and its relationship to capitalism
In this intellectually wide-ranging book John Roberts develops a labor theory of culture as a model for explaining the dynamics of avant-garde art and the expansion of artistic authority in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From Duchamp to Warhol, conceptual art, and the “post-visual” practices of the moment, Roberts explores the relationship between artistic labor and productive labor, and the limits and possibilities of authorship. In doing so, he confronts a recurring theme of both conservative and radical detractors of modern art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: how is skill, and the seeming absence of skill in modern art, to be theorized and evaluated? Drawing on cognitive psychology, labor process theory, social anthropology, and debates in contemporary political philosophy, Roberts‘ book establishes a new critical topography for examining the cultural form of art today.
“A profoundly original approach to the fate of the aesthetic and the avant-garde in contemporary society through the labor theory of culture… Over the last two decades, John Roberts has established himself as probably the most original Marxist critic of the contemporary visual arts around.”— Andrew Hemingway, Professor in History of Art, University College London
John Roberts is Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art at the University of Wolverhampton. His books include The Art of Interruption: Realism, Photography and the Everyday; The Philistine Controversy (with Dave Beech), and Philosophizing the Everyday. He is also a contributor to Radical Philosophy, Oxford Art Journal, Historical Materialism, Third Text, and Cabinet magazine.