Keti Chukhrov has a ScD in philosophy. She is an associate professor at the Department of Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Russian State University for the Humanities, visiting professor at the European University at St. Petersburg, head of the Theory Department at the National Center for Contemporary Art, and member of the editorial board of the Moscow Art Magazine. Chukhrov has authored numerous texts on art theory, culture, politics, and philosophy which have appeared in periodicals such as, among others: Afterall, Moscow Art Magazine, Artforum, Brumaria, Documenta magazines, e-flux journal, New Literary Review, and Springerin. Her books include: To Be – To Perform. ‘Theatre’ in Philosophical Criticism of Art (2011); Pound & £ (1999), and two volumes of dramatic poetry: Just Humans (2010) and War of Quantities (2004). Chukhrov lives and works in Moscow.
Contemporary art’s most important epistemological traits have been the modernist rejection of realism as illusionism; avant-garde legacies of dissolving art in the social sphere; and institutional critique, which reconsiders art as a self-reflective institution. All these traits developed “under the gaze of theory” (Groys), mainly as a conceptualizing practice which in the long run has led to the paradoxical impasse that art is facing at present. On the one hand, contemporary art claims agency in the social sphere, whilst, on the other, inevitably retaining its modernist anti-realist episteme, forbidding any sensuous bond with reality. This contradiction encourages art to get rid of its conceptual rigidity (P. Osborne), and at the same time to persevere its social engagement without much societal result, while epistemologically retaining its negative modernist genealogy. The paper positions this contradiction as early as Hegel’s premise of the collapse of Sinnlichkeit – sensuousness in art, featured in his “Aesthetics” as the rupture between the cognitive and the sensuous, the matter and the notion (idea). It was exactly this gap that was to be bridged in the so called ‘realist’ art, as it was provisioned in former socialist aesthetics (Lifshitz, Lukács, Ilyenkov). It seems that the revival of interest in various materialisms today leads to the reconsideration of realist aspirations.