Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton VidokleWhat is Contemporary Art? Issue Two
Hal FosterContemporary Extracts
The category of “contemporary art” is not a new one. What is new is the sense that, in its very heterogeneity, much present practice seems to float free of historical determination, conceptual definition, and critical judgment.
Cuauhtémoc MedinaContemp(t)orary: Eleven Theses
But given the lack of historical occasions signifying an experience of the core of our era—the absence of pivotal revolutionary moments of significant social change or upheaval—a participation in the eternal renewal of the contemporary might not be completely misguided, for it at least invokes a longing for the specter of an enthusiasm that asks for more than just the newest technological gadget. “Contemporary art” then becomes the sanctuary of repressed experimentation and the questioning of subjectivity that was effectively contained in any number of arts, discourses, and social structures following the collapse of the twentieth century’s revolutionary projects. I suspect that the circularity of our current cultural narratives will only be broken once we stop experiencing contemporary culture as the déjà vu of a revolution that never entirely took place.
Hans Ulrich ObristManifestos for the Future
And here one encounters a paradox in the contemporary, just as the historicizing of modernism has itself been paradoxical: how can the ephemeral, the contingent, and the future be things of the past? For within the art world nowadays, the term “contemporary” does indeed most often assume a periodizing function, and such temporal markers always imply a before and an after. It is in this way that the “contemporary” presupposes more than it initially declares, and begins to approach a more specialized usage, one that may require nothing more than its repeated use within the ranks of the art world for its meaning to be apparent.
Raqs Media CollectiveNow and Elsewhere
Escapement is a horological or clockmaking term. It denotes the mechanism in mechanical watches and clocks that governs the regular motion of the hands through a “catch and release” device that both releases and restrains the levers that move the hands for hours, minutes, and seconds. Like the catch and release of the valves of the heart that allow blood to flow between its chambers, setting the basic rhythm of life, the escapement of a watch regulates our sense of the flow of time. The continued pulsation of our hearts and the ticking of clocks denote our freedom from an eternal present. Each heartbeat, each passing second marks the here and now, promises the future, and recalls the resonance of the last heartbeat. Our heart tells us that we live in time.
Martha RoslerTake the Money and Run? Can Political and Socio-critical Art “Survive”?
Categories of criticality have evolved over time, but their taxonomic history is short. The naming process is itself frequently a method of recuperation, importing expressions of critique into the system being criticized, freezing into academic formulas things that were put together off the cuff. In considering the long history of artistic production in human societies, the question of “political” or “critical” art seems almost bizarre; how shall we characterize the ancient Greek plays, for example? Why did Plato wish to ban music and poetry from his Republic? What was to be understood from English nursery rhymes, which we now see as benign jingles? A strange look in the eye of a character in a Renaissance scene? A portrait of a duke with a vacant expression? A popular print with a caricature of the king?
Jan VerwoertStanding on the Gates of Hell, My Services Are Found Wanting
Weeping and laughing on the gates of hell, I do not feel particularly postmodernist. Postmodernism was neither particularly funny nor sad. We uncontemporary contemporaries, however, are particularly funny and sad. Because we have experienced the fact that history never ended. We have seen the unresolved tensions of modernity erupt in local conflicts, plunging modern countries around the globe back into hell. This is not over. It never was, and it doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. Articulating our contemporary experience, we cannot therefore be anything other than uncontemporary.