Academic Vanitas: Michael Aurbach and Critical Theory

Dorothy Joiner

Abstract


In a satiric series of sculptures, Michael Aurbach uses laughter to lampoon the excesses of the contemporary scholarship known as critical theory. Spun from psychology, linguistic hermeneutics, and philosophy, critical theory, in Aurbach’s view, tends to deemphasize art objects, substituting fatuous speculations for straightforward analysis. The Critical Theorist (2003) is a fantastical contraption on a metal table, each element of which is a visual joke. Reliquary for a Critical Theorist (2005) parodies the tradition of containers for relics. Two Plexiglas “books,” C’est Nothing and Deux Nothing (2009), continue the notion of vacuity. And Critical Theory’s Secret (2010) imitates a safe. It’s empty, however, mocking the notion of an underlying meaning.


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