Abstract

Establishing a connection between the novel coronavirus pandemic and the viral spread of misinformation emanating from the Trump administration, this essay suggests that we are now experiencing a general condition of the de-authorization of information—what Trump calls “fake news—in which the legitimacy of every form of knowledge is rendered questionable. The health crisis, Joselit argues, is equally a crisis of the authorization of information gone viral. This situation heightens a contradiction within the history and criticism of modern and contemporary art, which, on the one hand, has typically valued avant-garde practices for their capacity to challenge authority, and on the other hand, has taken postmodern calls to de-authorize canons to heart. The essay concludes with a call for critics and art historians to risk authorizing new historical narratives, just as artists, since at least the moment of Pop art, have appropriated viral images in order to furnish them with new authors—to author-ize new meanings.

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