Torture Concrete

Jean-Luc Moulène and the Protocol of Abstraction


We might propose the following as an aphorism about abstraction and the history of contemporary art: “We’ve all heard of abstraction, but no one has ever seen one.”

Historically the concept of abstraction as a specific operation can be traced back to the dialectic between form (mathematics) and sensible matter (physics). The complex interknittings of this particular dialectic were responsible for both conjoining and disjoining philosophy, art, and science. It is in the unifying cauldron of these fields of thought that the concept of abstraction has taken shape and acquired a singular definition and content without which one cannot speak of abstraction. The concept of abstraction in the history of art is indeed the extension of this singular definition. Yet under the influence of the self-reflexive history of art, it has transformed to such an extent that one can no longer, without great difficulty, trace it back to its constitutive gesture or make sense of it in relation to what abstraction as a specific procedure signifies and entails…