Jakub Stejskal is a MASH Junior researcher at the Department of Art History, Masaryk University, where he heads the research group “Remote Access: Understanding Art from the Distant Past”. Previously, he held fellowship positions at eikones (University of Basel) and Freie Universität Berlin. His recent work has appeared in Critical Inquiry, World Art, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, British Journal of Aesthetics, or RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, and he recently finished a book manuscript entitled ‘Objects of Authority: A Postformalist Aesthetics’ (under contract with Routledge). He is also an associate editor of the academic journal Estetika.
Monumentality between Art History and Archaeology
Monumental structures play a central role in both art history and archaeology. Their ruins have traditionally attracted the attention of archaeologists; and the artefacts art historians study, if not themselves monumental, tend to have found their natural or adapted home in or around monumental structures: palaces, temples, urban public spaces, not to mention modern museums and galleries. Art history and archaeology are traditionally conceived as backward-looking, oriented towards restoring and recovering the past. But the mind that stands behind the raising of monuments is anticipatory, as it aims to keep the legacy of an event, an agent, or an idea alive for posterity. In a sense, the monumental mind creates archaeological and art-historical objects for the future, as if laying out for the archaeologist and art historian their work.
Arguably, this is not the usual way art historians and archaeologists think about what determines their agenda. If anything, the respective students of past cultures worry, with good reason, that the flow of influence goes in the reverse direction – that is, they worry more about the contamination of the past by their own evaluative and classificatory instincts. The worry notwithstanding, in this presentation, I will explore the consequences of what the builder of monuments, the archaeologist, and the art historian share: an interest in how an object’s visual configuration sustains its relation to whatever source of relevance it has over time.