Steven Vincent, 1997 essay award recipient


In his essay, “Listening to Pop.” Vincent demonstrates how the lesson of Claes Oldenburg’s work is distorted as it is reinterpreted today. According to the argument, representational art has reinforced the illusion of a knowable, static reality, while at the same time it has always explicitly deconstructed that illusion by its very nature of being artificial. Pop Art attempted to apply this lesson at large, showing how everyday objects should be seen as signs trying to establish an eternal logos. An important lesson indeed. But one that has backfired. As Vincent argues, these everyday objects have come to re-present themselves as signifiers of a signified, reversing Pop Art’s intention. They now “represent” the Mythology of the era in which they were produced. Vincent captures the eeriness involved in such a reinterpretation and reminds us how deeply invested the human race is in its will to believe. Copies of the essay can be obtained for $7 by writing to Note: Steven Vincent was murdered in Iraq in 2006 for questioning political practices in a NYTimes Letter to the Editor.