Join cultural symptoms!

How many times art is looking for politics outside its field and never touches its own issues? It is more and more trendy to deal with ‘art and politics’ as a vague concept, especially when politics is somewhere out there. As Hito Steyerl argues[1] there is a much more interesting perspective we should look into:

the politics of the field of art as a place of work.

How shall we redefine our profession and practice?

How many risks are we willing to take in order to be critical on our own institutions, knowing that if we don’t play the “social prostitutes”, sooner or later we might be excluded?

It is a fact that the art field is itself participating in making “capitalism beautiful”[2] but it is critical art practice that we are interested here. Often artists do risk their position, leave out political correctness and speak up the problems. Terms and practices such as art activism… cultural activism… interventionism become more and more necessary to explore. An established artist and writer advised us recently that in art activism we need to go ‘as far as we can’. At the same time he was struggling with his fear of taking the same risks he urges for. Self-censorship in public space is a battle. This battle is ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of our thinking, ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the (art) institutions, their materiality and their discourse. And to paraphrase Barbara Kruger’s famous picture

‘Your art world is a battleground’

When art is evacuated [3] from the political (Mouffe), perhaps the responsibility is not to be found somewhere far away or thoroughly out of the art field. How often we “participate in our own torture”? We volunteer again and again, we work for a so-called symbolic capital (Bourdieu), with minimum recognition that producing art is also artistic labour. But how much self-precarisation can we still take? We see the abuse of terms such as ‘politics’, ‘resistance’, ‘intervention’, ‘activism’, staying more or less silent. How can we re-/act against the very problematic space we are working in?

The instrumentalization of art, the art work as a fetish, the ‘autonomy’ of art versus its engagement in its own politics, any sort of definitions of artists as cultural producers, as workers, as agents, as intellectuals can be both the symptoms of the ‘art world’ and the cause of such symptoms.

Cultural Symptoms seek to explore the contradictions inside the art field and also self-contradictions as artists, researchers, cultural producers, art laborers, provocateurs, revolutionists, theorists, teachers, actors, dancers, directors, curators, art dealers, bar keepers, cleaning ladies, mothers, fashion victims  …

This platform is open to anyone for comments, agreements or disagreements, videos, photos, examples, texts, actions and reactions. As the ‘art world’ is not globally the same and it has its localities, the idea is to shift from the local scale to the global and vice versa, meaning that any detail in a remote corner of the world can be very important. We are looking forward for participation, interaction and action!

[1] e-flux
[2] e-flux
[3] The reference here goes to the term of Marina Grzinic on the ‘evacuation’ of the political aspect in everyday politics, what Colin Crouch calles ‘meta-democracy’ and Jacques Ranciére ‘postdemocracy’.


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