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Terry Atkinson's 'The Siren Song Of Dualism' (AM 201, November 1996), raises some interesting general questions about the processes of cultural historification. Atkinson's ongoing interest in how Thomas Crow has written and rewritten the 'history' of Art & Language can be productively read alongside Henry Flynt's often less focused attacks on art history/art historians. Flynt's concerns in this area are perhaps brought out most clearly in his essay 'Mutations Of The Vanguard: Pre-Fluxus, During Fluxus, Late Fluxus' included in the catalogue Ubi Fluxus ibi motus 1990-1962 (Mazzotta, Milan 1990). While acceptance of Flynt's widely scattered claims on his own terms would require a complete rewriting of the history of Conceptual Art, Atkinson appears uninterested in the origins of the 'genre'. Crow, of course, slyly suggests that Flynt only imagined the category in his Concept Art essay of 1961 and that it didn't actually come into 'being' until several years later (see Thomas Crow The Rise Of The Sixties, Everyman Art Library, London 1996, page 156).

Likewise, while one can understand why Atkinson might view John Roberts as an 'ally' in his 'battles' against Crow (and even Charles Harrison), this 'ought' to be a question of tactics rather than strategy. Since it is clear from The Indexing (Manchester Cornerhouse 1992, pages 20-21) that Atkinson does not fully concur with Roberts' 'reading' of his work, I was somewhat surprised to see him recycling the term 'The New Aestheticism' in 'Siren Song'. As you may be aware, Roberts and Co. have been using the term as a rhetorical device in their current round of frenzied self-promotion. That Roberts contra Atkinson resorts to the visual as a fundamentalist ontology is clear from his piece Home "Truths" in everything 20 (pages 19-20), where he talks about my 'fiction' as though - despite continuities - it can be differentiated from what he and his chums have arbitrarily styled 'the newer art practices'. Similar flaws can be found in David Burrows' 'defence' of John Roberts, which was thinly disguised as a 'review' of my workfortheeyetodo show in Art Monthly 200 (October 1996). While the non-existent yBa has now been successfully hyped onto the agenda of contemporary art criticism, the doctrine of the 'philistine' as promulgated by Roberts and Co. (see for example the review of Dave Beech and David Burrows at the Conductors Hallway Gallery by Robert Garnett in AM 201, November 1996) is 'destined' to sink leaving as few traces as the Romo 'cult' heralded as the next big thing by the music press earlier this year.

Published in Art Monthly ???

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