To substantiate their reasoning the Authors go back in history to the aftermath of the World War II to retrace and explain the historical context and the reasons for the changes in the human psyche arriving to a peculiar state of mind called ‘meta-questioning’ (the term is credited in the book by the Authors to art critic J. Couteau), which changes, according to the Authors created the conditions for the birth of the contemporary art.
On the basis of this they argue that “…we should once more agree (in accordance with the international general definition) that the ‘contemporary’ element in an artwork is distinguished mainly on the meta-questioning mood as well the tendency to criticize, reflect, and commit in the work regarding issues of a personal, social or global nature…”
While all this might be so in broad and general terms, this “definition” could very well apply to art that is non-contemporary — for example the works of Goya; or artist like Picasso.
Just as well one can see it as rather exclusive, undemocratic and constraining to the multitude of different genres and the vast scope of contemporary art expressions and practices in the search for and the rise of new visual art forms today.
Importantly, this “definition” is a construct which relies entirely on attribution of certain qualities and “easily recognizable traits” as the Authors propose, and that is where they find themselves trying to describe and explain what is ‘contemporary art’, simply because it can not be defined outside its self-evident, self-contained, self-explanatory and self-referential definition.
They simply confuse a description with a definition.
The definition of the term ‘contemporary art’ should be left alone and free from interference and meddling with its actual self-descriptive meaning.
Concerning the attributes or features of contemporary visual art — the real strength of the visual art today is its capacity to be innovative, as it constantly absorbs and utilizes a vast amount of philosophical / theoretical, scientific and technological knowledge and constantly processes an endless stream of information of all kinds.
In fact contemporary art — or shall we better say — the visual art today does not like limitations, or for that matter reject anything per se, including the grand authority of tradition.
So, when the Authors claim that: ” The term is more or less free from theories (allergic to theories one would say). This, perhaps is different from architecture, literary criticism or philosophy, where theories regarding postmodernism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction are quite defined, and the term Postmodernism is often referred to.” — it is impossible to agree, unless the Authors believe that contemporary art should somehow come up with a theory of its own.
Contemporary art is based entirely on postmodern theory (Deleuze and Guattary, Michel Foucault, Baudrillard, The Frankfurt School, etc) and deconstructivism in the late 80′s and early 90′s (Derrida, etc).