Abject - state of being cast off, degraded, meanness of spirit. In post-structural sense, that which inherently disturbs conventional identity and cultural concepts.

Aesthetics - conversations about the look of art; philosophy of beautiful, ugly, etc. with a view to establishing the meaning and validity of critical judgments concerning works of art, and the principles underlying or justifying such judgments.

Allegory - thing or object being symbolic of something abstract or spiritual

Analogy - similar, comparable, things that are like each other

Autonomy - independent, self-governing

Cartesian - relating to the philosopher Descartes, emphasis on logical analysis and its mechanistic interpretation of physical nature

Combine painting - (as defined by Robert Rauschenberg) artwork that incorporates various objects into a painted canvas surface, creating a sort of hybrid between painting and sculpture. Items attached to paintings might include photographic images, clothing, newspaper clippings, etc. Critically blurred boundaries between (high) art and the everyday world.

Commodity - a product for sale

Community of Sense - (as Ranciere defines) aesthetics, traditionally defined as the “science of the sensible,” is not a depoliticized discourse or theory of art, but instead part of a historically specific organization of social roles and communality. Rather than art being outside of politics, aesthetics and politics are mutually implicated in the construction of communities of visibility and sensation through which political orders emerge.

Discursive - (philosophy) of or relating to knowledge obtained by reason and argument rather than intuition; also meandering, wandering

Efficacy - effectiveness, ability to produce desired result

Enigmatic - puzzling occurrence, situation, statement, person, etc.; perplexing; mysterious

Epistemology - the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.


Eschatology - any system of doctrines concerning last, or final, matters, as death, the Judgment, the future state

Ethical - pertaining to principals of morality, pertaining to right or wrong, morals

Equanimity - mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium

Fetish - an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency, unquestioning reverence or respect, erotic fixation

Gestalt - pattern, or organized field having specific properties that cannot be derived from the summation of its component parts; a unified whole

Greenbergian (Clemet Greenberg) - powerful art critic who promoted abstract expressionism in the 1960s, said to have defined modernist painting through critical guidance and dominant press coverage

Hermetic - airtight, sealed, isolated

Heterogeneous (heterogeneity) - composed of parts of different kinds, widely dissimilar elements

High Art / Low Art - culture of upper class, well-educated, tastefully elite placed in contrast to populist culture, commodity value, mass-appeal (modern painting vs. fast food)

Homogenous (homogeneity) - composed of parts that are all the same or similar

Hybridity - cross breeding of two different breeds or cultures to make a new one

Immanent - within, inherent, taking place within the mind of the subject, having no effect outside of it

Marginalized - sidelined place of importance, influence or power

Misogyny - hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women

Museum Without Walls - (as Andre Malraux defines in 1960s) Through photographic reproductions, he described a mode of visualizing art without the traditional confines (and constructs) of the museum grouping. The advent of the internet in the 1990s brought Malraux's notion of "museum without walls" to a new art museum community who began to define themselves in a web presence, delivering images to a public who never set foot in their museum.

Ontological - branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such

Paradigm - basic assumptions, ways of seeing, shared by members of a group

Phallic - of or relating to male genitalia

Polemical - an argument with opposing positions

Prosaic - ordinary, commonplace, dull, unimaginative

Protean - changing shape or character, able to play different roles

Scatology - the study of or preoccupation with excrement or obscenity

Semantic - meanings of words or other symbols

Semiotic - relating to signs or symbols, symptoms

Social Plastic (Joseph Beuys) - Beuys created the term "social sculpture" to embody his understanding of art's potential to transform society. As a work of art, a social sculpture includes human activity that strives to structure and shape society or the environment through language, thoughts and actions. Laid the philosophical groundwork for relational aesthetics of the 1990s.

Sublimation - purification or refinement; ennoblement, diversion of sexual impulse to more acceptable social moral

Synaesthesia - sensation is produced in one modality when stimulus is applied to another modality, as when hearing a sound induces the visualization of a certain color

Syncretism - the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties

Systemic - pertaining to or affecting a body or system as a whole

Topology - properties that remain constant (e.g. land forms)

Vernacular - native, local, plain, ordinary language or architecture