Monday Night 07.19.04 -- Inheriting Constructivists (a question/discussion/reading) -- MASS MoCA Series -- 07.18.04
Monday Night 07.19.04 -- Inheriting Constructivists (a question/discussion/reading) -- MASS MoCA Series
1. About this Monday
2. Download the Reading
3. About Greg Sholette
4. About the MASS MoCA Series
5. Supplemental Material forwarded by Greg
1. About this Monday
What: Greg Sholette's text on Interventionists via Constructivists: a reading/discussion
Who: Anyone interested is invited
When: 7.00 pm,
Where: 16 Beaver Street 5th floor
Please join us for a discussion of Greg Sholette's text "Interventionism and the historical uncanny: Or; can there be revolutionary art without the revolution?"
Following up on last Thursday's discussion of the Adorno text on Commitment, this Monday Night we are pleased to invite you to yet another reading discussion that stays within a historical terrain ... drawing together points of comparison as well as variance between current politically engaged artistic practices/approaches (e.g., 'artist as toolmaker', 'artist as researcher', ... ), and practices/approaches from previous eras/movements (i.e., Constructivists and Productivists).
We want to keep this text short, so that there is time to actually read Greg's text, but the basic interest is as our introductory texts noted last week, something like a "back to the basics". What is so nice about this Monday's event is that we have a text that is specifically geared toward making links between current "interventionist" tendencies and a particular (art? / revolutionary?) historical moment.
We are also pleased to have Greg join us, not in the role of presenter or as someone who will explain the text to us, rather as a discussant, who will join us in tying together and pinpointing some of the key questions raised by the Constructivists that present themselves to cultural workers today, paying particular attention to the text as a guide.
We look forward to your participation in what will surely be a special evening.
2. Download the reading
We have two versions of the reading.
3. About Greg Sholette
Gregory Sholette is an artist, writer, activist. He was a founding member of the REPOhistory artist's collective and of Political Art Documentation and Distribution, a graduate of The Cooper Union, The University of California San Diego and the Whitney Museum Independent Studies Program in Critical Theory as well as Chair of the Master of Arts in Art Administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a former Curator of Education for the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Sholette has an upcoming retrospective at Colgate University opening Feb 9. 2004 and his work was recently featured in the exhibition Critical Mass at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago. His critical writings can be found in the journals Art Journal, Third Text, Afterimage, Oxford Art Journal, and the New Art Examiner. He is currently editing the book Collectivism After Modernism with UC Davis art historian Blake Stimson for University of Minnesota Press and developing a new web project with Terbor Scholz, Brian_Holmes, Tom Leonhardt and Orkan Telhan. He is a board member of the College Art Association and Public Edge.
Discussion with Sholette, Cesare Pietroiusti & Brett Bloom:
4. About the MASS MoCA Series
At the conclusion of May 2004, MASS MoCA opened its doors to "The
Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere - a brief survey of
interventionist political art practices of the 90s".
Since 1999, we have been organizing events, presentations, and activities which have among other things generated/addressed questions related to social engagement within cultural practice.
So rather than produce something outside our framework of ongoing activities for this exhibition, we will instead tie together our discussions/events which deal with the larger questions of art in the social sphere.
We will not only attempt to invite artists who are involved with the exhibition, but other projects, artists, practices which we find interesting and believe make an important contribution to the subject at hand. We also hope to organize some readings and open discussions that do not center on one particular artist or group.
Other events in the series have included:
5. Supplemental Material forwarded after the talk by Greg
Dear 16B reading group:
Last night's discussion was very much appreciated. Such feedback is all too infrequent and no matter how much we may have strayed from the text itself at times, the overall discussion was very useful to me. A number of the themes that emerged spontaneously are also subjects I have tried to address in other writings and so, at the risk of coming as self-important, I have listed a few follow up text's I have written on these topics for those who might be interested. I also want to suggest, since you are on a revisiting past classics journey, that you consider re-reading Marx and Engles Communist Manifesto.
Thanks again for the other night - gregory
/On the paradoxes of showing activist art in museums:
Fidelity, Betrayal, Autonomy: In and Beyond the Post Cold-War Art Museum.
on the RepublicArt site at: http://republicart.net/disc/institution/sholette01_en.htm
/On the (vast) creative activity that is NOT visible within the "art world":
Dark Matter, Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere.
on the Interactivist Info Exchange site at: http://slash.autonomedia.org/article.pl?sid=03/05/19/1844225
/On contemporary art and private money, or "Art into Business":
Welcome to the Desert of the Real Art World.
My review of Chin-tao Wu's book, "Privatising Cultur" in the current issue of Oxford Art Journal, Volume 27, Issue 2, 2004: a PDF is available at: http://www3.oup.co.uk/oxartj/current/
/On the radically changed - post-post modern/digitized nature of art today:
Some Call It Art: >From Imaginary Autonomy to Autonomous Collectivity
on the EIPCP site at: http://www.eipcp.net/diskurs/d07/text/sholette_en.html
Counting On Your Collective Silence: Notes on Activist Art as Collaborative Practice
But also forthcoming in the November issue of Third Text:
Periodizing Collectivism by Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette - that I think
you will find picks up in may ways where the Interventionist text leaves off and riffs on the necessity of a utopian vision and the need to go beyond "art" by collectively intervening in the means of production. again.
and for those who do not have a subscription to Artforum (such as myself) this is my letter (minus the edits) about the "new" art collectivism now in the current (summer) issue :
To the editor
Insouciant Art Collectives: the Latest Roll-Out from Enterprise Culture
For those who crave cultural distraction without the heavy intellectual price tag now comes a pack of new and inscrutable art collectives offering colorful, guilt -free fun. Forcefield, Derraindrop, Paper Rad, Gelatin, The Royal Art Lodge, HobbypopMuseum, their names flicker impishly across the otherwise dull screen of the contemporary art world invoking not so much the plastic arts as the loopy cheer of techno music and its nostalgia for a make-believe 1960s epitomized by LSD, free love and day-glo -- instead of civil rights, feminism and SDS. Yes, artists' groups are hot. Or so chimes the harbingers of art world value production as its symbol-producing machinery gears up to meet what is still a speculative demand. As Alison M Gingeras tells us in the March edition of Artforum this new collectivity is not at all solemn. It is "insouciant." It eschews the "sociopolitical agenda associated with collective art making" and reflects "a juvenile disregard for historical veracity." And all that is fine because its indifference "mirrors the times."
What times I ask?
The United States has tossed international law to the four winds and invaded another nation using the most transparent of pretexts, global capitalism has penetrated every corner of life including art, education, and leisure time, and meanwhile the art world carries on, business as usual. Those times? Or the bad new days as Bertolt Brecht remarked?
One thing Gingeras does get straight however is that radical politics were very much a central concern for the collectives I knew and worked with in the 1980s and 1990s including Political Art Documentation and Distribution (PAD/D), Group Material, Carnival Knowledge, and REPOhistory as well as those that came before and after including Artists Meeting for Cultural Change (AMCC), Art Workers Coalition (AWC), Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG), Paper Tiger in the 1970s and early 1980s more recently Dyke Action Machine, Guerrilla Girls, Gran Fury, RTmark, the Yes Men, Sub Rosa, Critical Art Ensemble, Yomango, Whisper Media and Temporary Services to mention but a smattering of the many self-organized artists organization that have emerged over the past thirty years. And if group anonymity permitted these varied art collectives to boldly challenge the status quo it is likely that it also provides a mask for the anti-social cynicism of the new and the few who "stake their identity on a certain strategic frivolity."
So why this sudden rush to revamp the political rebelliousness of group artistic practice? To re-package it as "tribal," "exuberant," "insouciant"? Because when compared to almost every previous collective and many new ones, the recent crop of gallery sponsored art groupettes is unmistakably a product of enterprise culture. As put forward by historian Chin-tao Wu enterprise culture is the near total privatization of everything up to and including that which once stood outside or against the reach of capitalism including avant-garde and radical art. If communal activity, collaboration, egalitarian cooperation run directly opposite individuated forms of individualistic greed enterprise culture will not aim to overtly repress this tendency, but instead seek a way of branding and packaging contradiction in order to sell it back to us. No surprise then that this new collectivity is organized around fashion with its members sharing " nothing more than vacant facial expressions and good taste in casual clothes." Thus these groovy new art groups not only appear freshly minted but thanks to an endemic historical amnesia on the part of curators, art historians, art administrators, critics and sadly even artists they actually appear, choke, radical, well at least from within the circumscribed horizon of contemporary art.
My advice? Perhaps it is time to engage in a bit of reverse engineering. I mean if the prestige and financial power of the art world can be mobilized to authenticate one rather anemic form of collective practice, then why not use that breach to leverage other, more challenging and socially progressive collaborative forms as well? Why stop at the museum either? What about work places, schools, public spaces, even the military? The challenge therefore is to concoct a counter-vaccine or Trojan Virus that renders administrated culture defenseless before a self-replicating, radically democratic and participatory creativity but one that is every bit as playful and nimble in its own passionate way as so-called insouciant collectivity. Any takers?