The Role of the Artist in Self-Referent Art

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This book explores the relations between “artist” and “person” in “self-referent art.”
“Artist as author” and “person” are taken as mutually related notions, and their connections and influence of one towards the other are explored in the context of art strategies that put the “artwork,” “artist,” and/or “human being” (“person”) in the “self-relational” (referential) position – as tautologies. Those strategies, named here “self-referent art,” do not present any formerly defined group or movement but are a selection among different artists and art concepts: Joseph Kosuth, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Carl Andre, Frank Stella, Art & Language, Gilbert & George’s art-life strategy, Ad Reinhardt’s concepts of “art as art” and “artist as artist,” Joseph Beuys’ understanding of human being (“Mensch”) and artist, and Keith Arnatt’s projects related to the “disappearance” of the artist (Self-burial) and self-referential formulations of the artist (I am a Real Artist).

Based on the research presented in the work, it can be concluded that the artist appears as the source of the artwork when the artwork functions as a tautology (Kosuth, Minimal Art, Art & Language). In other instances, where an artwork is equalized with the artist or when an artwork serves as a demonstration of the artist’s “ownership” upon artiness of artworks, the artist is also underlined as the originator (the author) of artworks (Gilbert & George, Robert Morris The Statement of Esthetic Withdrawal, Frederic Barthelm Instead of Making Art I Filled Out This Form and Keith Arnatt).

Furthermore, the person appears as the source of the artist even when the artist functions as a self-referent system. The examples of Gilbert & George, Arnatt and, to a certain extent, Reinhardt, speak in favor of such a formulation.

Finally, the person appears as the concluding tautological phenomenon being identified with itself in Beuys’ strategy (jeder Mensch ist ein Mensch) and with a person in communion (communion with other persons). The person becomes a self-referential entity because its purpose is realized within the person itself and because it is identified in its achievement with what it is. The existence of a person inside a community implies, paradoxically, that it is also not a consistent tautology because, to be what it is, it has to be placed in relation to other persons, i.e. into a context of communion. This way the person in its self-referential character is and is not a tautology, affirming the self-referential aspects of apophasis and irrational approach in its description.

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