The Central Concepts of Ordinary Language Philosophy in the Art of Marcel Broodthaers and Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos

Ivana Bašičević Antić


While claiming that there are no fixed meanings behind words, Wittgenstein has focused attention on the possibilities of manipulation with linguistic categories. ‘Language game’ can be changed by rotations of the semantic field. On the trace of this philosophy, language became the most important media in many practices of visual arts of the second half of the 20th century. I will focus on two cases: Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos and Marcel Broodthaers.
Wittgenstein’s concept of ‘language game’ and Austin’s concept of the ‘performative’ have become the main tools in building delicate art projects like Broodthaers’ museum or Mangelos’ noart strategy. Here I’d like to prove that Broodthaers’ construction of a museum (Musée d’Art Moderne) was based on the same concept as Austin’s ‘performative’ and that the revolutionary act in this art project was to show that saying that something is art is not a given, it is not a statement. Who is declaring what art is, and how is this ‘action performed’ (Austin), is the main subject of Mangelos’ Picasso phenomenon. When Mangelos asks the spectator to think about the concept of ‘kitsch’ he draws our attention to those who have the power or the license to declare that some art is ‘kitsch’ and some is true art. This issue could be related to Clement Greenberg’s attempt to discard everything popular, commercial in art by naming it ‘kitsch’.
The main ideas of ordinary language philosophy were important for both Mangelos and Broodthaers. The idea that the language and more precisely, grammar of the language that defines the rules of connecting names and things is a place where the solution (solution meaning the answer to questions about the nature and definition of art) is hidden (behind the obvious), provided a very fruitful basis for their research.


conceptual art, language games, performative, speech act, institutional critique

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