In the Asia Art Archive library you can not only find books concerning Asian artists and exhibitions, but also works that tackle interesting thoughts or discussions of contemporary art and society. I recently found some thought-provoking books about current issues in the art world.
Most of those publications are anthologies containing many essays by various contributors. Anthologies can be dipped into – we can start wherever we want, and skip some of the essays – and they are great for discovering authors we may not already be familiar with. You can also enjoy many different perspectives at the same time.
The excitement I feel towards them is, in a way, similar to the feeling I have when I stand in front of a gorgeous, all-you-can-eat buffet table thinking about where to start. You can have a taste of everything, and if it is very good, you can try the whole dish next time.
This extra issue of the magazine Open was published in collaboration with the first Brussels Biennial in 2008. Artists, curators and political philosophers contributed articles about biennales from different points of view.
As editor Pascal Gielen writes, biennials are a useful tool for the neoliberal strategy of making a ‘creative city’, and a problematic hybrid monster for curators, art managers and artists. For those who know the rules of the art world, the biennale is a challenge and an opportunity, but one that must have both cynicism and opportunism.
Artists and curators today are very concerned with issues of social responsibility, and with critiquing current environmental problems and forms of globalization. Yet, there is a problem here: the biennale offers a kind of global cultural tourism which can hardly be described as eco-friendly – it requires massive and costly transportation, including huge numbers of flights. The form of the biennale colludes with global marketing and political discourse that the art world itself often positions itself against. Gielen thinks there is a “yawning gap” between the intention of the artistic theme of biennales and what biennales actually bring about.
Contributors include: Chantal Mouffe, Boris Groys, Michael Hardt, Simon Sheikh, Thierry de Duve, Brian Holms, Charles Esche, Maria Hlavajova and Irit Rogoff.
There are, I believe, two ways of making institutional critiques. One is by artists who criticize institutions through their works – this tactic started in the 1970s, notably by artists Hans Haacke and Daniel Buren. The second form of critique uses text rather than art itself, by curators or art historians who present discourses or question how the current museum system can respond to the art world.
Institutional Critique and After deals with both sides of the issue. Editor John C. Welchman includes essays by artists and critics, curators and art historians in this book that came out of the symposium of the same title, held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in May 2006.
I enjoyed the short text by Haacke and the amusing Guerrilla Girls’ trivia quizzes, but was most interested in the article by Christiane Paul entitled ‘New Media Art and Institutional Critique: Networks vs. Institutions’. An adjunct curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art and professor of Visual Arts at The New School in New York, Paul analyses how current new media artworks, including video art, cannot really fit into conventional museums and how difficult it is to archive them. She offers many examples and elaborates a theory called ‘white cube or black box’ which suggests that the existing museum system is not appropriate for these new forms of contemporary artistic practice.
Contributors include: Alexander Alberro, Maria Eichhorn, Andrea Fraser, Renee Green, Monica Bonvicini, The Yes Men, Jens Hoffmann and Mike Kelly.
At first glance, this is a cool, well-designed book with a grey cover and colourful pages. Its contents are just as impressive – funny, scary, intriguing, and always thought-provoking. Arkive City is about changing the role of archiving in culture. It concerns aesthetics and politics, artistic strategies and power relations and the processes of history-making and individual memories. I believe that the archive always has authoritative power in terms of history-making, and has to hold a neutral and fair point of view. However, this act of ‘being neutral’ is extremely difficult, never mind the archivist’s intention, and it can be dangerous. Arkive City covers the topic in six themes: Taxonomies, Technology, Memory and Identities, Liberty and Surveillance, Market and Resources, and Voids, and can also be investigated on its website: http://interface.ulster.ac.uk/arkivecity/about.html
Contributors include: Julie Bacon (editor), Anne Bean, Paul Clarke, Pat Cooke, Chris Dorsett, John Gray, Matthew Hearn and Stuart Howard.
All of these anthologies make me excited. They offer a luxurious selection of writers, thinkers and interesting artists, with eye-opening approaches to up-to-date themes. Some essays are short, some are just manifestos or introductions, and sometimes a famous thinker’s writing is not as interesting as one would have expected. Still, I love to take these books in hand and am always thrilled at the prospect of dipping into them.
Hitomi Hasegawa is a founder and director of Moving Image Archive of Contemporary Art in Japan (MIACA). The curator and writer is currently a visiting researcher with Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, with a grant from the Japanese Government Overseas Program.
- Collection Spotlight
- Sun, 1 Aug 2010