Notes Towards Practicing Žižekian Ideology Critique as an Art Historical Methodology

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This article argues that an engagement with the powerful critical insights of Žižek’s theory of ideology and practice of cultural critique is a necessary step for any art historical methodology which aims to fully account for a work of art’s function within the society of its creation and reception, and to explain how it came to play such a role. However, any attempt to situate cultural artefacts within historically contingent networks of social relations requires an account of historical change incompatible with any formalist or transcendentalist methodology. Moreover, if it is to be of any use as an academic discourse, art history must be able to account for the specifities of ‘art’ as a distinct—but not autonomous—sphere of human activity. It is precisely these two issues that a wholesale importation of Žižek’s writing into the domain of art history encounters. A solution must be found whereby the critical lessons of Žižek are
not ‘lost in translation’. In this vein, the present article begins by outlining Žižek’s conception of ideology and elucidating the problematic consequences of any straightforward application of its parameters as an art historical methodology. It then reads the interventions of Jacques Rancière and Judith Butler as providing the necessary theoretical tools by which one can construct the possibility of a powerful ‘Žižekian art history’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Žižek Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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