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James meyer essay whatever happened to institutional critique

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  • Here the authority and authenticity of the critical gesture would be reduced to theatre;
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  • In this sense reading can be understood as a directed, active, productive process of interpretation;
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Introduction — Since the emergence of practices of institutional critique in the late 1960s, the institution of art has expanded and transformed in ways that have required both a renegotiation of critical strategies and, as seen in the writings of art historians such as Miwon Kwon and James Meyer, a corresponding renegotiation of the terms of site-specific art.

According to Fraser, Institutional Critique ought to be considered as one mode of practice amongst others that is collected, exhibited and commissioned by the museums and galleries.

James meyer essay whatever happened to institutional critique

Their first institutional involvement is to identify themselves as an artist. Thus to work outside of social constructions of art practice, display and reception is to make something else other than that art, as art is inevitably an institutional construction. Artists are involved in the institutions they critique, yet critique does also necessitate a distance from its object. Towards a Theory of Postmodernism, published in the journal October in 1980, offered an explanatory framework for such practices.

Owens extends this discussion and argues that allegory is also characteristic of Postmodernism, contrasting this analysis with the importance of the symbol for Modernism.

Rather, he adds another meaning to the image. If he adds, however, he does so only to replace: Robert Smithson, A Heap of Language, pencil on paper, 66cm x 17cm, 1966. Laurie Anderson, Americans on the Move, illustration from the text accompanying the performance1979.

In this sense reading can be understood as a directed, active, productive process of interpretation.

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Instead of making recourse to values and principles over and above the context that is placed in question, the reading is made radically site-specific, engaged only with the context itself. Hal Foster has been a prominent voice: It may be too much to assert that such complicity is a conspiracy, but a convention, form, tradition, etc.

In such a context, the distance that an interrogative act creates between itself and its object appears to evaporate when the critical procedures employed belong to the context in question. Here the authority and authenticity of the critical gesture would be reduced to theatre.

In her 1989 work, Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, Fig. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1978. This foregrounds the problem of distance as an issue for postmodern critique. The functional site may or may not incorporate a physical place.

James meyer essay whatever happened to institutional critique

It certainly does not privilege this place. It is an informational site, a palimpsest of texts, photographs and video recordings, physical places and things: These artists conceived of sites in terms of movements and interactions between physical spaces and modes of representation, advancing the conception of the institutional site as a socially ordered location, active in the reproduction of social codes.

The artist collected samples of plant and animal life in the Venezuelan rainforest and delivered them to the museum Sala Mendoza in Caracas, where they were displayed in a group exhibition, thus intervening within conventions of curatorial practice and representations of nature. Wilson worked as if he were a curator and Dion worked as if he were a biologist. In the phase of flexible accumulation, material production has been supplemented by interventions within discursive fields, re-producing specific ideologies.

Fri 14 Nov – Second Wave Institutional Critique with Andy Broadey

Here the demand for critical distance has to be squared by artists, institutions and exhibition visitors with the reality of services rendered. In this sense, critical readings undertaken by artists or exhibition visitors within museum or gallery spaces have to be understood as integral components of the institutional framework operative within that material site. From positions within that framework, in the performance of these roles, critical distance is constructed as a parameter of the institution.

Ultimately the debate shifts from one concerning just the critique of institutions to questions of institutional responsibility.

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We will go on next week to consider how artists identified with Relational practice responded to this imperative, by seeking to re-invigorate sites of artistic display as social environments.