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How far can provocation in art go, before it becomes cynical and abusive? Scandalous: A Reader on Art and Ethics

Recent encounters between art and real life, the ubiquity of images of violence and humiliation in visual culture and the media, and the persistence of controversial debates on public and participatory art projects are raising fundamental questions about the importance of ethical decisions in art and curating. How far can provocation in art go, before it becomes cynical and abusive? Does “good censorship” exist? Are ethical decisions seen as more urgent in participatory art?

This reader introduces current notions of ethics in several contexts related to the cultural field. Responding to the instrumentalization of ethics as a privileged tool of neoliberalism, the reader claims the need for an ethics that critically reflects the mechanisms of contemporary global power structures. The contributions discuss models of subjective and situational ethics and pit them against a canon of unquestioned principles and upturned notions of ethics and human rights.

Texts by Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss, Franco Bifo Berardi, Galit Eilat, Ronald Jones, Maria Karlsson and Måns Wrange, Nina Möntmann, Peter Osborne, Marcus Steinweg, Nato Thompson; conversations between Simon Critchley and Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro, Renzo Martens and T. J. Demos

Scandalous: A Reader on Art and Ethics
Nina Möntmann

Text and Image via Sternberg Press

Art/Aesthetics · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Public Space · Social/Politics

Where do artifacts go when they are destroyed? | Journal #47 September 2013 | e-flux

Boris Groys
Becoming Revolutionary: On Kazimir Malevich

After all, what is revolution? It is not the process of building a new society—this is the goal of the post-revolutionary period. Rather, revolution is the radical destruction of the existing society. However, to accept this revolutionary destruction is not an easy psychological operation. We tend to resist the radical forces of destruction, we tend to be compassionate and nostalgic toward our past—and maybe even more so toward our endangered present.

Nato Thompson
The Insurgents, Part I: Community-Based Practice as Military Methodology
The US military is seductive and repulsive in its grandiose violence. But it is also a fruitful place to examine developing techniques for the manipulation of culture. Considering the sheer scale of the US military—with its colossal budget—it’s not a bad place to look for new ideas and new methodologies concerning tactics for “getting to know people.”

Amanda Boetzkes and Andrew Pendakis
Visions of Eternity: Plastic and the Ontology of Oil

If plastic appears irreducible—appears to be a constitutive basis, instead of having emerged from and subsequently effaced its earthly basis—then the challenge is to uncover what plastic so readily disguises. Plastic is a petroleum product that claims at least a quarter of all the oil extracted. More than this, though, it is through plastics that we begin to fathom the complete permeation of oil into every facet of cultural life.

Jon Rich
The Bachelor Century: Single Sinners Seeking God’s Job

A soldier in the battlefield kills indiscriminately—gunfire and stabbings directed at whomever happens to be present. In contrast, the target of the bomb in Hiroshima is entirely ethnic, akin to the way Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s chose his victims. It is a crime against the human race, or a part of that race, because the bomb acts without regard for the political views of its victims. To be murdered because you are American, or Japanese, or Kurdish, or Christian, or Muslim is fundamentally different from being targeted because you are a soldier.

Claire Fontaine
We Are All Clitoridian Women: Notes on Carla Lonzi’s Legacy

In the Italian feminist ultra-left of Lonzi’s time, a deep connection between knowledge of oneself—especially of one’s own pleasure—and satisfaction was regarded as the only way to reach autonomy. There was a vivid awareness that colonization operates through the mind and the body, and the only way to reach freedom was working on one’s own subjectivity.

Lars Bang Larsen
The Society Without Qualities

Money is the one thing that connects us and that we cannot truly have in common. In societies without qualities we can, in theory, have any number of things in common. However, after the decline of symbolic orders, it is an enormous effort to call them up and give them words and form. Remember, this is the desert of the real … So never mind good intentions, they won’t get us anywhere: when art addresses the future in (self-)skeptical ways, it refuses nostalgia and hope as sentimental compensations for an uncertain future.

Where do artifacts go when they are destroyed? | Journal #47 September 2013 | e-flux
Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
Editorial

Art/Aesthetics · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Performativity · Public Space · Social/Politics

Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship

Since the 1990s, critics and curators have broadly accepted the notion that participatory art is the ultimate political art: that by encouraging an audience to take part an artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Around the world, the champions of this form of expression are numerous, ranging from art historians such as Grant Kester, curators such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Nato Thompson, to performance theorists such as Shannon Jackson.

Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” Claire Bishop follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of a participatory aesthetic. This itinerary takes in Futurism and Dada; the Situationist International; Happenings in Eastern Europe, Argentina and Paris; the 1970s Community Arts Movement; and the Artists Placement Group. It concludes with a discussion of long-term educational projects by contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Paweł Althamer and Paul Chan.

Since her controversial essay in Artforum in 2006, Claire Bishop has been one of the few to challenge the political and aesthetic ambitions of participatory art. In Artificial Hells, she not only scrutinizes the emancipatory claims made for these projects, but also provides an alternative to the ethical (rather than artistic) criteria invited by such artworks. Artificial Hells calls for a less prescriptive approach to art and politics, and for more compelling, troubling and bolder forms of participatory art and criticism.

Text and Image via Verso Books