In her article, Formis introduces the notion of the syncope as a methodological tool to explore the genealogy of contemporary art. The syncope, a term used in different fields, presents a pathology, an omission, or a breakdown. The article unfolds the “story and history”—the syncopated history—of Duchamp’s urinal as a particular example. The non-linear development of this artwork splits into five different episodes. The coexistence of several times in the work of art itself is thus revealed to be a decisive feature of contemporary art.
Although art always takes place in time, its manifestations – actual works of art – can be characterized by the specific and close connection they maintain between contemporaneity and timelessness. Their relation to time must be differentiated in a twofold manner: on the one hand, there is the relation to the time in which they are embedded, and, on the other, the relation to the time that they themselves create. In particular historical conditions a specific temporality of the artwork emerges. Both temporalities are superimposed on by one another, namely as a timelessness of artworks as such. The book assembles a variety of thinkers that confront one of the most crucial questions when dealing with the very definition, concept and operativity of art: How to link art to the concept of the contemporary?