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In this paper we discuss the deadlocks of defining art in modern culture. The lack of criteria and modernism revisited are of crucial issue in this account. The theoretical mainframe of our approach is founded on the Frankfurt School thinkers (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin), and of course Jürgen Habermas. This theoretical apparatus also draws on contemporary accounts given by Sorbonne Professor Marc Jimenez and art critic John A. Walker.[1] The paper discusses whether fine art may survive, in what forms – and to what purpose – in an age of mass media and in conditions of rapid networked communication. The paper sets off from the critical role radical art plays in today’s divided yet global world and on the continuing debates between high art and low culture, but reflects on the interaction between art, media and technology.

To support our argument we suggest Body Art and other web/digital and technological applications in art, and the cyber-art currently being produced for the internet. The paper acknowledges the numerous interactions between art and culture in a postmodern pluralistic world, and draws from the vast range of contemporary works of art to illustrate and to criticize theoretical points. The true test of theory in aesthetics is their application to particular cases. When a theory shows limitations in such an application, we gain clues as to what theoretical adjustments or innovations are called for to accommodate today’s works.

The introductory part of the essay comprehensively surveys recent debates on works of art, mass culture and society, and their socio-philosophical significance. The main discussion refers to the work of Walter Benjamin and Jürgen Habermas, aptly commented on by Marc Jimenez;[2] after exploring the complex relationships between culture and art as it’s reflected in that work, the argument provides an account of the 1980s political turn in aesthetics and explicates the impact of new communication technologies in modern culture. The narration is enhanced by specific examples of works of art in the era of mass media, web and digital culture, and underlines both the styles’ pluralism and the variety of parameters affecting the interaction between art and mass media communication. Critical findings and suggestions for further research conclude the paper.


[1] Marc Jimenez, Qu’est-ce que l’esthétique, Paris: Gallimard, 1997; John A. Walker, Art in the Age of Mass Media, London: Pluto, 2001.

[2] Jimenez, Ibid.

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