When in summer of 1994 Texte zur Kunst for the first time chose the discipline of "art history” as a central theme of one of its issues, the critical examination of the methods and subject-matter of this field of study was still strongly influenced by theory imports from the Anglo-American context, in which deconstruction, psychoanalysis, queer and cultural studies had newly configured the traditionally dominant approaches and methods of interpretation of historiography and iconography, or even begun to replace them as preferred models of interpretation. At the time, German-language art history was to be aggressively confronted with what "elsewhere in the field of art history” was being theorized not only by art historians but also by literary scholars and philosophers in order to stimulate the discipline to "continuation and contradiction". Since this attempt to challenge the methodological as well as political conservativisms of art history taught at universities by means of more recent theory formations, the discipline’s institutional conditions, trends in research and fields of study have indisputably changed in Germany and elsewhere and can hardly be criticized anymore by referring to a notorious lack of methodological reflection or the rigid adherence to well-known subjects. Instead, one is today faced with the paradoxical situation that the kind of art history conducted in special fields of research, graduate lecture halls and seminar rooms is characterized by a multitude of methodological approaches and an increasingly broader range of topics. However, one of the basic arguments of this issue is that this tendency can by no means be equated with an interdisciplinary opening and politicization of the discipline, as one could associate with new methodological questions and the expansion of the legitimized canon of research and teaching subjects. Quite to the contrary: Under the increased pressure to acquire third-party funds and the institutional restructuring of the faculties of the arts and humanities in the wake of the Bologna process, parts of the discipline seem to be interested in highlighting precisely their alleged core competences in order to link their activities in subjects that are also relevant for funding by private foundations with the claim of being a guiding discipline for the neighboring arts and cultural studies. This double movement - the expansion of the classical art-historical subjects of study and the demarcation of supposedly genuine areas of responsibility vis-à-vis other disciplines - becomes paradigmatic in the contested field of "Bildwissenschaft” ("image sciences"), for example. For quite some time now, there seems to be a publicly voiced uncertainty regarding the degree to which historians of science, literary scholars or philosophers are in a position to do justice to the terminologically fleeting phenomenon of the "image” in the way trained art historians are, who in the tradition of Warburg are also concerned with scientific visualizations and contemporary political iconography. Especially in view of the overlapping of image-theoretical issues and the range of topics addressed by the history of science or media studies, which seems to dominate the field of art-historical research today, the question as to the trendiness and validity of methodological approaches must again be debated. At present, the meanwhile well-known demand of so-called "New Art History” to expand the discipline’s scope of topics does not yet seem to connect to the second demand simultaneously raised, namely, to integrate in a productive way the achievements of institutional critique and a cultural analysis oriented toward representation-theoretical and representation-political issues in everyday art-historical research and teaching activities. It seems that the dispute over methods, in which this magazine was also involved in the 1990s, today can no longer be separated from the question of its parameters and implications regarding science and funding policies. It therefore appears unavoidable to grasp the professional dealing with art history as an epistemological interest in concrete social and economic conditions. The discipline has become one of the showpieces of knowledge society that is involved in the competition for research and teaching locations and can be utilized for politico-cultural argumentations.
Since it is now possible to do one’s doctorate in art history at art academies, as well, it today -appears to make all the more sense to explici-tly put up for discipline-internal debate the increasing rhetoricizing when speaking about and conducting research on art - particularly contemporary art. Although the methodological and political lessons of "New Art History” seem to have become superficially accepted more and more since the mid-1980s - and have meanwhile even been presented by several of its leading protagonists in the form of an authoritative introductory course in "Art since 1900” - it is still not a matter of course, at least in the German-speaking art-historical institutes, that topics drawn from the field of contemporary art and the accompanying theory formations are included as a constitutive part of research and teaching or as the subject of dissertations.
But at art universities and academies, as well, the meanwhile vehemently pursued exchange between art-historical and artistic work turns out to be far more complicated than the university heads, with their reform efforts and in their struggle for centers of "excellence” to be funded by government money and third-party financial contributions, appear to have imagined. "Artistic research” is the catchphrase under which in the training of artists administrative models are being developed that aim at establishing comparability and enhancing the status of artistic modes of writing and thought vis-à-vis the university standards of art-historical research, something which is basically to be welcomed. But at the same time, these models all to smoothly feed the demands of "New Art History” into the process of the neoliberal restructuring of university mandates. Since none of these artist’s doctorates have been completed to date, it can also not yet be foreseen precisely which competences and fields of knowledge are to be conveyed in these newly established courses of study and to which altered career plans this new form of qualification can contribute - against the background of both a rapidly changing university landscape and an "operating system art” that is increasingly oriented toward markets trends. Despite the ambivalences of this endeavor, it is certainly productive to aggressively expand art-historical knowledge by forms of contemporary artistic production and reflection so as to avoid the traditional mode of a one-sided transfer, which Robert Morris already addressed in 1964 in his performance "21.3” - shown on the cover of this issue - in which he moved his lips in the style of a professor to Erwin Panofsky’s text "Iconography and Iconology”.
The contributions in this issue of Texte zur Kunst, produced in cooperation with Sabeth Buchmann and Karin Gludovatz, attempt to more closely examine the altered institutional conditions and the new fields of study from an international perspective, and to assess the current state of art history at universities and art academies.