Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Use value

Interesting interview here with Charles Esche, regarding the function and role of museums and the value and uses of art in present day society. He has been recently announced as curator of the 2014 Sao Paulo Biennale. Here's an excerpt that I found interesting:

Domeniek Ruyters: Why this title: The Uses of Art? It suggests that art has another dimension than some of us, used to a more autonomous interpretation of art, might think it has.

Charles Esche: Well, you know Domeniek, that we have been working on this word at VAM for quite a while. To cut a very long story short, I could say that the role of autonomy in modern art is not its role in contemporary practice. Rather than freedom of expression, it is more related to the economy of attention and how ideas gain purchase in a competitive environment. So autonomy remains a crucial concept but instead we talk about use in order to get at autonomy from another angle and, of course, we realise that some people within the world of art find that difficult.

There is also one danger of misinterpretation that people overlook the plural of uses. We are not advocating that art has only one use, but want to address its potential utility within our current ‘overcoded’ conditions (to use Brian Holmes vocabulary). We suggest that the main issue today is not the form of art as such, but much more how we engage with it, how we debate it, how it inspires us to think creatively about where we are and where we could go. Those who at the moment fetishize autonomy as something that needs to be protected make an important mistake, because they cling on to a past value without engaging it with the present tense. Often when having discussions with people who champion autonomy at the end we find that we both value exactly the same things in art, its openness, its possibility to think differently and present things we’ve never seen before. Where we part company is that we believe we should find ways to allow this openness to have agency in the present, when it can constructively manifest itself in the lives of people.

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Don't know how it's taken me this long but I've only recently discovered the work of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri. This month's Art Forum has an amazing portfolio of images (the last two images are snaps from these) and an essay that is well worth a read if you would like to know more.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Sunday, 24 March 2013


Francis Alÿs - REEL - UNREEL
Kabul, Afghanistan 2011
In collaboration with Julien Devaux and Ajmal Maiwandi
20:00 min.

Watch here

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Division of labour

“… in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.” Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845)

Quoted by Anton Vidokle in Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art, e-Flux Journal Issue 43


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The 'locational turn'

"dOCUMENTA (13) takes a spatial or, rather, "locational" turn, highlighting the significance of a physical place, but at the same time aiming for dislocation and for the creation of different and partial perspectives — an exploration of micro-histories on varying scales that link the local history and reality of a place with the world, and the worldly."

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Curator documenta (13)
(My Photograph)

Monday, 11 March 2013

Public Sculpture in King's Lynn

Public sculpture on the Green Quay, King's Lynn, paying homage to the town's history as a major Hanseatic port town with links to Bergen, Norway and other Hanseatic towns across Northern Europe.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Ranciere on the aesthetic revolution

J.R.: What is the kernel of the aesthetic revolution? First of all, negatively, it means the ruin of any art defined as a set of systematisable practices with clear rules. It means the ruin of any art where art’s dignity is defined by the dignity of its subjects – in the end, the ruin of the whole hierarchical conception of art which places tragedy above comedy and history painting above genre painting, etc. To begin with, then, the aesthetic revolution is the idea that everything is material for art, so that art is no longer governed by its subject, by what it speaks of: art can show and speak of everything in the same manner. In this sense, the aesthetic revolution is an extension to infinity of the realm of language, of poetry.

It is the affirmation that poems are every- where, that paintings are everywhere. So, it is also the development of a whole series of forms of perception which allow us to see the beautiful everywhere. This implies a great anonymisation of the beautiful (Mallarmé’s “ordinary” splendour). I think this is the real kernel: the idea of equality and anonymity. At this point, the ideal of art becomes the conjunction of artistic will and the beauty or poeticity that is in some sense immanent in everything, or that can be uncovered everywhere.

That is what you find all through the fiction of the nineteenth century, but it’s at work in the poetry too. For example, it’s what Benjamin isolated in Baudelaire, but it’s something much broader than that too. It implies a sort of exploding of genre and, in particular, that great mixing of literature and painting which dominates both literature and painting in the nineteenth century. It is this blending of literature and painting, pure and applied art, art for art’s sake and art within life, which will later be opposed by the whole modernist doxa that asserts the growing autonomy of the various arts.

My Favourite Photograph

Wolfgang Tillmans - Young Man, Jeddah, a, 2012

Tomorrow I will be talking about this image at The Photographers' Gallery as part of their series of My Favourite Photograph Talks. The talk will begin in the gallery cafe at 1pm.