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Two Regimes of Fact

Back to issue: Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft Band 60. Heft 1
EUR 14.90

In her contribution, Kamini Vellodi reflects on the chances of a methodological shift in the discipline of art history thanks to this expanded rethinking of fact by concentrating on the notion of the “pictorial fact”, or “matter of fact,” in Gilles Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism. Vellodi argues that Deleuze’s matter of fact can help us to overcome the still prevalent self-conception of art history as discipline, which has to trace historical facts, understood as given entities that “represent” already accomplished events, that provide the foundations and target for subsequent interpretation and elaboration. Following these assumptions, facts are antecedent to art historical investigations; they are seen as empirical material, independent from the art historian, something, which he or she has to collect in order to reconstruct the authentic essence of the artwork. This reductive notion of facticity in art history dominates not only the understanding of material and historical facts of artworks but as well the understanding of their formal qualities, as Vellodi shows. In the representational regime, as Vellodi calls it, forms in artworks are reduced to their function to represent an antecedent “fact”, hence an external meaning. Instead, she counts to augment this regime of fact – which might be important concerning questions of technique, dates etc. – by a second conception of fact that foregrounds the dynamic qualities of those material qualities of the artwork, which cannot be explained by their representational function, but are sensed in presence of the artwork. Vellodi proposes to follow Deleuze’s notion of “matters of fact” as proper pictorial ligatures acting as living forces and hence affecting the perception of art by challenging prevailing notions of the artwork. Facticity in this sense is understood as the material quality of the artwork realized in sensation and hence radically dynamic and contingent. This notion of “matters of fact” bears ramifications for a philosophy of painting as well as for art history, as Vellodi shows. Art historical practice would in consequence be forced to take account of the difference of each artwork acting as dynamic force beyond and even against already acquired facts. If one follows Vellodis analysis, one could draw the consequence, that art history should be practised as a never completed activity trying to create facticity by forming differentiated new relations to each work of art in its specific material appearance.