Interesting questions about the simultaneous glut and absence of meaning in modern art, and the compulsion for pre-packaged meaning that is essentially fluff. I think maybe Giorgio Agamben approached this in his book The Man Without Content which is described this way:
In this book, one of Italy’s most important and original contemporary philosophers considers the status of art in the modern era. He takes seriously Hegel’s claim that art has exhausted its spiritual vocation, that it is no longer through art that Spirit principally comes to knowledge of itself. He argues, however, that Hegel by no means proclaimed the “death of art” (as many still imagine) but proclaimed rather the indefinite continuation of art in what Hegel called a “self-annulling” mode.
With astonishing breadth and originality, the author probes the meaning, aesthetics, and historical consequences of that self-annulment. In essence, he argues that the birth of modern aesthetics is the result of a series of schisms—between artist and spectator, genius and taste, and form and matter, for example—that are manifestations of the deeper, self-negating yet self-perpetuating movement of irony.
Through this concept of self-annulment, the author offers an imaginative reinterpretation of the history of aesthetic theory from Kant to Heidegger, and he opens up original perspectives on such phenomena as the rise of the modern museum, the link between art and terror, the natural affinity between “good taste” and its perversion, and kitsch as the inevitable destiny of art in the modern era. The final chapter offers a dazzling interpretation of Dürer’s Melancholia in the terms that the book has articulated as its own.
The Man Without Content will naturally interest those who already prize Agamben’s work, but it will also make his name relevant to a whole new audience—those involved with art, art history, the history of aesthetics, and popular culture.
And, who knows, maybe we left art behind long long ago. It isn't dead, it's still standing alongside the road where we left it. Maybe we've really been eating plastic cheeseburgers. Maybe worrying about art/the state of art/the death of art is a waste of time.
I'm going to start a new feature, inspired by the article above, where I will provide descriptions and meanings for art installations/exhibits.
An extravagant dining table and chairs with obviously expensive place settings. In the center of the table lay platters piled high with pyramids of plastic child's play food. A human skeleton sits in each chair with more plastic food piled in and spilling over the pelvis onto the floor.
[insert your very own personalized meaning here]
I don't know. Maybe this would be better:
A diner counter inside an art exhibition area. People working behind the counter are dressed in artist costumes. People dressed as art lovers sit on the stools and order from the menus. The artists set plates piled with plastic food in front of the customers. The customers chew on the plastic food. Through sour, confused faces, the customers nod and rave about the food.
Maybe that's not vague enough, though.