→ Continued from issue #0: Conditioned Contemporaneity (Reartikulacija, Part 1 of 3), by Sebastjan Leban
Now my main questions would be: how do economic processes affect art production by instrumentalizing it and transforming it into consumable forms? Can there be a place of critique and resistance inside the art world today? We could say that the dependence of art production on the market has formed biopolitical processes that transform the artist’s profession into a search for apolitical identities sufficiently compatible with the system to dwell inside it. This is manifest in the idea that the only way for a young artist to emerge in the field is to adapt his or her practice to standards imposed by various competitions and scholarships arranged by multinational corporations (which also build their own art collections and influence the art market, in turn privatizing the production of art history). The next question thus becomes: what is art for those who finance it? If we return to the above-mentioned SeaFair and the name of one of its first exhibitions, “Contemporary and Cutting Edge: Pleasures of Collecting,” we see an example of how the market measures art production through a prism of commodity and surplus value rather than through an idea that art can change society or politicize a population. It is obvious that in contemporary art, no emancipatory values are needed. Or, to be more precise, the spectrum of critical or resistant ideas that contemporary art can produce is so regulated that the market is capable of producing its own self-critique, creating a sense of democratic plurality. It is not possible to produce any real critical discourse within the existing art system simply because most forms of resistance are so quickly converted into consumable forms. Marina Gržinić links this process to the notion of kidnapped creativity developed by Suely Rolnik, who describes how capitalism appropriates creative processes by separating them from their resistant capacity by “reiterating its alienation with respect to the life process that engendered it.”2
It is, in a sense, totally acceptable for art production to oscillate between luxurious arts events such as SeaFair and more socially engaged events because they are ultimately different sides of the same coin. How can a population be moved by an event that takes place inside an art gallery if it cannot be moved by real processes of violence? It seems as if art as we know it has become obsolete in its mission to actively intervene in social space. It is for this reason that critical art practices have to inhabit new forms of being: less bound by traditional notions of production and representation and closer to forms of practice that might involve the mixing of critical theory, social sciences, and politics. In short, art has to re-frame its own position and its role in contemporary society. Jacques Rancière argues that “art is more and more today about matters of distribution of spaces and issues of redescriptions of situations. It is more and more about matters that traditionally belonged to politics. But it cannot merely occupy the space left by the weakening of political conflict. It has to reshape it, at the risk of testing the limits of its own politics.”3 In order for critical art practice to remain critical it must, in a way, stop being art (in the traditional sense) and attempt to produce its visibility, territories of reception, and history on its own terms and in ways that cannot be reproduced inside the existing art system.
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