This is the first of three conversations that we (David Hodge and Hamed Yousefi) will be convening over the following two months. For each conversation we have assembled a group of fantastic artists and writers to think through some key issues for contemporary theory and art practice today. Each discussion will last three weeks and one of the participants will contribute a post every weekday, beginning with us as convenors each Monday.
This first conversation is on the relationship between art and radical politics today. Despite the artworld’s ever-increasing integration into the realms of high capital and the culture industry, much of its discourse currently centres on vehement claims regarding the revolutionary nature of contemporary practice. Especially in the context of large-scale exhibition projects, curators regularly claim that contemporary art has the capacity to open up a space for social transformation, often implicitly or explicitly using the language of the radical left. This conversation seeks to probe these claims – to consider what historical circumstances might have led to their prominence in recent times.
Yael Bartana, Zamach (Assassination), 2011. Production photo by Marcin Kalinski
We must quickly introduce our contributors to this conversation, all of whom we are extremely lucky to be working with. Briefly, the participants are Pil and Galia Kollectiv (Tuesdays), Nina Power (Wednesdays), John Roberts (Thursdays) and Gregory Sholette (Fridays).
Pil and Galia Kollectiv are London-based artists, writers and curators, who work in collaboration. Their activities are highly varied – as well as showing work together in many venues (including a performance at the Stedilijk Museum in Amsterdam last year), they also run Xero, Kline and Coma, a project space in ast London. Nina Power is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Roehampton. She has written widely on philosophy and politics, including numerous articles on the work of Alain Badiou and the 2009 book One Dimensional Woman, on the issue of feminism in the early twenty-first century. John Roberts is Professor of Art and Aesthetics at the University of Wolverhampton. John has published on many topics relating to the crossover of art and Marxist theory and he is currently working on a book titled Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde, to be published by Verso in 2015. Finally, Gregory Sholette is an artist and writer who has written frequently on the political economy of art practice, including the book Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (2010). His ongoing work Imaginary Archive will be on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania from Feb 4 – March 22 this year.
To begin the conversation, we thought it best to begin with some very simple, general questions, which we will pose to all of the contributors. We would like everybody to answer these questions in relation to their different backgrounds and interests, and we can see how the conversation unfolds from there. So, firstly, how seriously do you think we should take the common claims that contemporary art offers a space or platform for radical political reflection and action? If you do believe that there is some basis to this idea, then please explain what that might be. If not, could you suggest why this claim is so commonly made – might it be symptomatic of the current political climate in general, or the present organisation of the art scene in particular?