Journal #03 - Tom Holert - Art in the Knowledge-based Polis
Journal #03
February 2009
Journal #03 - February 2009

Art in the Knowledge-based Polis

Lately, the concept of “knowledge production” has drawn new attention and prompted strong criticism within art discourse. One reason for the current conflictual status of this concept is the way it can be linked to the ideologies and practices of neoliberal educational policies. In an open letter entitled “To the Knowledge Producers,” a student from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna has eloquently criticized the way education and knowledge are being “commodified, industrialized, economized and being made subject to free trade.”1

In a similar fashion, critic Simon Sheikh has addressed the issue by stating that “the notion of knowledge production implies a certain placement of thinking, of ideas, within the present knowledge economy, i.e. the dematerialized production of current post-Fordist capitalism”; the repercussions of such a placement within art and art education can be described as an increase in “standardization,” “measurability,” and “the molding of artistic work into the formats of learning and research.”2 Objections of this kind become even more pertinent when one considers the suggestive rhetoric of the major European art educational network ELIA (European League of Institutes of the Arts), which, in a strategy paper published in May 2008, linked “artistic research” to the EU policy of the generation of “‘New Knowledge’ in a Creative Europe.”3

I am particularly interested in how issues concerning the actual situations and meanings of art, artistic practice, and art production relate to questions touching on the particular kind of knowledge that can be produced within the artistic realm (or the artistic field, as Pierre Bourdieu prefers it) by the practitioners or actors who operate in its various places and spaces. The multifarious combinations of artists, teachers, students, critics, curators, editors, educators, funders, policymakers, technicians, historians, dealers, auctioneers, caterers, gallery assistants, and so on, embody specific skills and competences, highly unique ways and styles of knowing and operating in the flexibilized, networked sphere of production and consumption. This variety and diversity has to be taken into account in order for these epistemes to be recognized as such and to obtain at least a slim notion of what is at stake when one speaks of knowledge in relation to art—an idea that is, in the best of cases, more nuanced and differentiated than the usual accounts of this relation.

“Far from preventing knowledge, power produces it,” as Foucault famously wrote.4 Being based on knowledge, truth claims, and belief systems, power likewise deploys knowledge—it exerts power through knowledge, reproducing it and shaping it in accordance with its anonymous and distributed intentions. This is what articulates the conditions of its scope and depth. Foucault understood power and knowledge to be interdependent, naming this mutual inherence “power-knowledge.” Power not only supports, but also applies or exploits knowledge. There is no power relation without the constitution of a field of knowledge, and no knowledge that does not presuppose power relations. These relations therefore cannot be analyzed from the standpoint of a knowing subject. Subjects and objects of knowledge, as well as the modes of acquiring and distributing knowledges, are effects of the fundamental, deeply imbricated power/knowledge complex and its historical transformations.

Kim Howells (speaking) and Alex Roberts during a sit-in meeting. Photograph © John Rae

1. The Hornsey Revolution

On May 28, 1968, students occupied Hornsey College of Art in the inner-suburban area of North London. The occupation originated in a dispute over control of the Student Union funds. However, “a planned programme of films and speakers expanded into a critique of all aspects of art education, the social role of art and the politics of design. It led to six weeks of intense debate, the production of more than seventy documents, a short-lived Movement for Rethinking Art and Design Education (MORADE), a three-day conference at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, prolonged confrontation with the local authority, and extensive representations to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Student Relations.”5

Art historian Lisa Tickner, who studied at Hornsey College of Art until 1967, has published a detailed account of these events and discussions forty years after the fact. As early as 1969, however (only a few months after the occupation of Hornsey College of Art had been brought to an end by pressure from the above-mentioned local authority in July 1968), Penguin released a book on what had already gained fame as “The Hornsey Affair,” edited by students and staff of the college. This paperback is a most interesting collection of writings and visuals produced during the weeks of occupation and sit-ins, discussions, lectures, and screenings. The book documents the traces and signs of a rare kind of enthusiasm within an art-educational environment that was not considered at the time to be the most prestigious in England. Located just below Highgate, it was described by one of the participants as being “squeezed into crumbling old schools and tottering sheds miles apart, making due with a society’s cast-offs like a colony of refugees.”6 One lecturer even called it “a collection of public lavatories spread over North London.”7

Poster from Hornsey Occupation, 1968, artist anonymous.

But this modernist nightmare of a school became the physical context of one of the most radical confrontations and revolutions of the existing system of art education to take place in the wake of the events of May ’68. Not only did dissenting students and staff gather to discuss new terms and models of a networked, self-empowering, and politically relevant education within the arts, the events and their media coverage also drew to Hornsey prominent members of the increasingly global alternative-utopian scene, such as Buckminster Fuller.

However, not only large-scale events were remembered. One student wrote of the smaller meetings and self-organized seminars:

It was in the small seminars of not more than twenty people that ideas could be thrashed out. Each person felt personally involved in the dialogue and felt the responsibility to respond vociferously to anything that was said. These discussions often went on to the small hours of the morning. If only such a situation were possible under ‘normal’ conditions. Never had people en masse participated so fully before. Never before had such energy been created within the college. People’s faces were alight with excitement, as they talked more than they had ever talked before. At least we had found something which was real to all of us. We were not, after all, the complacent receivers of an inadequate educational system. We were actively concerned about our education and we wanted to participate.8

From today’s standpoint, the discovery of talking as a medium of agency, exchange, and self-empowerment within an art school or the art world no longer seems to be a big deal, though it is still far from being conventional practice. I believe that the simple-sounding discovery of talking as a medium within the context of a larger, historical event such as the “Hornsey Affair” constitutes one of those underrated moments of knowledge production in the arts—one that I would like to shift towards the center of a manner of attention that may be (but should not necessarily be) labeled as “research.” With a twist of this otherwise over-determined term, I am seeking to tentatively address a mode of understanding and rendering the institutional, social, epistemological, and political contexts and conditions of knowledge being generated and disseminated within the arts and beyond.

Buckminster Fuller speaking at Hornsey College of Art, June 29, 1968. Photograph © Steve Ehrlicher

The participants in the Hornsey revolution of forty years ago had very strong ideas about what it meant to be an artist or an art student, about what was actually at stake in being called a designer or a painter. They were convinced that knowledge and knowledge communication within art education contained enormous flaws that had to be swept away:

Only such sweeping reforms can solve the problems . . . In Hornsey language, this was described as the replacement of the old “linear” (specialized) structure by a new “network” (open, non-specialized) structure . . . It would give the kind of flexible training in generalized, basic creative design that is needed to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances—be a real training for work, in fact . . . the qualities needed for such a real training are no different from the ideal ones required to produce maximal individual development. In art and design, the choice between good workmen and geniuses is spurious. Any system worthy of being called “education,” any system worthy of the emerging new world, must be both at once. It must produce people whose work or ‘vocation’ is the creative, general transformation of the environment.9

To achieve this “worthy” system, it was considered necessary to do away with the “disastrous consequence” of the “split between practice and theory, between intellect and the non-intellectual sources of creativity.”10 Process held sway over output, and open-endedness and free organization of education permeated every aspect of the Hornsey debates.11 It was also clear that one of the most important trends of the mid-1960s was the increasing interaction and interpenetration of creative disciplines. “Art and Design,” the Hornsey documents argued, “have become more unified, and moved towards the idea of total architecture of sensory experience”; England underwent “a total revolution of sensibility.”12

The consequences of the intersecting developments within the rebelling body of students and staff at Hornsey (and elsewhere), as well as the general changes within society and culture, had to become manifest in the very conceptual framework not only of art education, but of art discourse as such. Hence, there was a widespread recognition that in future all higher education in art and design should incorporate a permanent debate within itself. “Research,” in this sense, came to appear an indispensable element in education:

We regard it as absolutely basic that research should be an organic part of art and design education. No system devoted to the fostering of creativity can function properly unless original work and thought are constantly going on within it, unless it remains on an opening frontier of development. As well as being on general problems of art and design (techniques, aesthetics, history, etc.) such research activity must also deal with the educational process itself . . . It must be the critical self-consciousness of the system, continuing permanently the work started here in the last weeks [June, July 1968]. Nothing condemns the old regime more radically than the minor, precarious part research played in it. It is intolerable that research should be seen as a luxury, or a rare privilege.13

Though this emphatic plea for “research” was written in a historical situation apparently much different than our own, it nonetheless helps us to apprehend our present situation. Many of the terms and categories have become increasingly prominent in the current debates on artistic research, albeit with widely differing intentions and agendas. It seems to be of the utmost importance to understand the genealogy of conflicts and commitments that have led to contemporary debates on art, knowledge, and science.

2. An Art Department as a Site of Research in a University System

Becoming institutionalized as an academic discipline at the interface of artistic and scientific practices at an increasing number of art universities throughout Europe, artistic research (sometimes synonymous with notions such as “practice-led research,” “practice-based research,” or “practice-as-research”) has various histories, some being rather short, others spanning centuries. The reasons for establishing programs and departments fostering the practice-research nexus are certainly manifold, and differ from one institutional setting to the next. When art schools are explicitly displaced into the university system to become sites of research, the demands and expectations of the scientific community and institutional sponsorship vis-à-vis the research outcomes of art schools change accordingly.

Entitled “Development and Research of the Arts,” a new program of the Austrian funding body FWF aims at generating the conceptual and material environment for interdisciplinary art-related research within, between, and beyond art universities. Thus far, however, the conceptual parameters of the FWF appear to be the subject of debate and potential revision and extension. One should be particularly careful of any hasty grafting of a conventional image of a “scientific” model or mode of research (whatever it may be) onto the institutional context of an art academy. This is not only a matter of epistemological concern, but of education policies and of political debate as well.

One only has to look at the history of the implementation of practice-led research in Art and Design in Great Britain. In 1992 the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) of the Higher Education Founding Council for England (HEFCE) began to formulate criteria for so-called practice-based/practice-led research, particularly in the field of performance, design, and media. By 1996 the RAE had reached a point where it defined research as

original investigation undertaken in order to gain knowledge and understanding. It includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce and industry, as well as to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances and artifacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction.14

The visual or fine arts of that time had yet to be included in this structure of validation, though in the following years various PhD programs in the UK and elsewhere did try to shift them to an output-oriented system of assessment close to those already established for design, media, and performance arts. “New or substantially improved insights” as well as “substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes” are the desired outcomes of research, and the Research Assessment Exercise could not be more explicit about the compulsory “direct relevance to the needs of commerce and industry.”

PARIP (Practice as Research in Performance) is a research group that supervises, assesses, and discusses the ongoing research in the new art and design environment initiated by the RAE and other organizations concerned with higher arts education in the UK. A 2002 report by Angela Piccini repeatedly focuses on the relation between research and (artistic) practice, and on the subjects and subjectivities, competencies, and knowledges produced and required by this development. After having interviewed various groups of researchers and students from the field of performance arts and studies, it became clear that both concepts assume specific meanings and functions demanded by the configuration of their new settings. One of the groups Piccini interviewed pondered the consequences of the institutional speech act that transforms an artistic practice into an artistic practice-as-research:

Making the decision that something is practice as research imposes on the practitioner-researcher a set of protocols that fall into: 1) the point that the practitioner-researcher must necessarily have a set of separable, demonstrable, research findings that are abstractable, not simply locked into the experience of performing it; and 2) it has to be such an abstract, which is supplied with the piece of practice, which would set out the originality of the piece, set it in an appropriate context, and make it useful to the wider research community.15

It was further argued that “such protocols are not fixed,” that “they are institutionalized (therefore subject to critique and revision) and the practitioner-researcher communities must recognize that.” The report also expressed concern about “excluded practices, those that are not framed as research and are not addressing current academic trends and fashion,” and it asked, “what about practices that are dealing with cultures not represented within the academy?”16

When articulated in terms of such a regime of academic supervision, evaluation, and control (as it increasingly operates in the Euroscapes of art education), the reciprocal inflection of the terms “practice” and “research” appears rather obvious, though they are seldom explicated. The urge among institutions of art and design education to rush the process of laying down validating and legitimating criteria to purportedly render intelligible the quality of art and design’s “new knowledge” results in sometimes bizarre and ahistorical variations on the semantics of practice and research, knowledge and knowledge production.

For applications and project proposals to be steered through university research committees, they have to be upgraded and shaped in such a way that their claims to the originality of knowledge (and thus their academic legitimacy) become transparent, accountable, and justified. However, to “establish a workable consensus about the value and limits of practice as research both within and beyond the community of those directly involved” seems to be an almost irresolvable task.17 At the least, it ought to be a task that continues to be open-ended and inevitably unresolved.

The problem is, once you enter the academic power-knowledge system of accountability checks and evaluative supervision, you have either explicitly or implicitly accepted the parameters of this system. Though acceptance does not necessarily imply submission or surrender to these parameters, a fundamental acknowledgment of the ideological principles inscribed in them remains a prerequisite for any form of access, even if one copes with them, contests them, negotiates them, and revises them. Admittedly, it is somewhat contradictory to claim a critical stance with regard to the transformation of art education through an artistic research paradigm while simultaneously operating at the heart of that same system. I do not have a solution for this. Nonetheless, I venture that addressing the power relations that inform and produce the kind of institutional legitimacy/consecration sought by such research endeavors could go beyond mere lip service and be effective in changing the situation.

3. Art in the Knowledge-Based Polis

I would like to propose, with the support and drive of a group of colleagues working inside and outside the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, a research project bearing the title “Art in the Knowledge-based Polis.” The conceptual launch pad for this project is a far-reaching question about how art might be comprehended and described as a specific mode of generating and disseminating knowledge. How might it be possible to understand the very genealogy of significant changes that have taken place in the status, function, and articulation of the visual arts within contemporary globalizing societies?

With reference to the work of French sociologist Luc Boltanski, the term polis has been chosen deliberately to render the deep imbrications of both the material (urbanist-spatial, architectural, infrastructural, etc.) and immaterial (cognitive, psychic, social, aesthetic, cultural, legal, ethical, etc.) dimensions of urbanity.18 Moreover, the knowledge-based polis is a conflictual space of political contestation concerning the allocation, availability and exploitation of “knowledge” and “human capital.”

As a consequence, it is also a matter of investigating how the “knowledge spaces” within the visual arts and between the protagonists of the artistic field are organized and designed.19 What are the modes of exchange and encounter and what kind of communicative and thinking “styles” guide the flow of what kind of knowledge? How are artistic archives of the present and the recent past configured (technologically, cognition-wise, socially)? In what ways has artistic production (in terms of the deployment and feeding of distributed knowledge networks in the age of “relational aesthetics”) changed, and what are the critical effects of such changes on the principle of individualized authorship?20

The implications of this proposal are manifold, and they are certainly open to contestation. What, for instance, is the qualifier enabling it to neatly distinguish between artistic and non-artistic modes of knowledge production? Most likely, there isn’t one. From (neo-)avant-garde claims of bridging the gap between art and life (or those modernist claims which insist on the very maintenance of this gap) to issues of academic discipline in the age of the Bologna process and outcome-based education, it seems that the problem of the art/non-art dichotomy has been displaced. Today, this dichotomy seems largely to have devolved into a question of how to establish a discursive field capable of rendering an epistemological and ontological realm of artistic/studio practice as a scientifically valid research endeavor.

As art historian James Elkins puts it, concepts concerning the programmatic generation of “new knowledge” or “research” may indeed be “too diffuse and too distant from art practice to be much use.”21 Elkins may have a point here. His skepticism regarding the practice-based research paradigm in the fine arts derives from how institutions (i.e., university and funding bodies) measure research and PhD programs’ discursive value according to standards of scientific, disciplinary research. For Elkins, “words like research and knowledge should be confined to administrative documents, and kept out of serious literature.”22 In a manner most likely informed by science and technology studies and Bruno Latour, he argues instead that the focus should turn toward the “specificity of charcoal, digital video, the cluttered look of studio classrooms (so different from science labs, and yet so similar), the intricacies of Photoshop . . . the chaos of the foundry, the heat of under-ventilated computer labs.”23 I think this point is well taken.

However useless the deployment of terms such as “research” and “knowledge” may seem, such uselessness is bound to a reading and deployment of the terms in a way that remains detached from the particular modes of discourse formation in art discourse itself. The moment one enters the archives of writing, criticism, interviews, syllabi, and other discursive articulations produced and distributed within the artistic field, the use of terms such as “research” and discussion about the politics and production of “knowledge” are revealed as fundamental to twentieth-century art—particularly since the inception of Conceptual Art in the late 1960s. After all, the modernists, neo- and post-avant-gardists aimed repeatedly at forms and protocols relating to academic and intellectual work—of research and publication, the iconography of the laboratory, scientific research, or think tanks.

Administrative, information, or service aesthetics, introduced at various moments of modernist and post-modernist art, emulated, mimicked, caricaturized and endorsed the aesthetics and rhetoric of scientific communities. They created representations and methodologies for intellectual labor on and off-display, and founded migrating and flexible archives that aimed to transform the knowledge spaces of galleries and museums according to what were often feminist agendas.

Within the art world today, the discursive formats of the extended library-cum-seminar-cum-workshop-cum-symposium-cum-exhibition have become preeminent modes of address and forms of knowledge production. In a recent article in this journal on “the educational turn in curating,” theorist Irit Rogoff addresses the various “slippages that currently exist between notions of ‘knowledge production,’ ‘research,’ ‘education,’ ‘open-ended production,’ and ‘self-organized pedagogies,’” particularly as “each of these approaches seem to have converged into a set of parameters for some renewed facet of production.” Rogoff continues, “Although quite different in their genesis, methodology, and protocols, it appears that some perceived proximity to ‘knowledge economies’ has rendered all of these terms part and parcel of a certain liberalizing shift within the world of contemporary art practices.” However, Rogoff is afraid that “these initiatives are in danger of being cut off from their original impetus and threaten to harden into a recognizable ‘style.’” As the art world “became the site of extensive talking,” which entailed certain new modes of gathering and increased access to knowledge, Rogoff rightly wonders whether “we put any value on what was actually being said.”24

Thus, if James Elkins is questioning the possibility of shaping studio-based research and knowledge production into something that might receive “interest on the part of the wider university” and be acknowledged as a “position—and, finally, a discipline—that speaks to existing concerns,” 25 Rogoff seems to be far more interested in how alternative practices of communality and knowledge generation/distribution might provide an empowering capacity.

4. Artistic Knowledge and Knowledge-based Economies

Since the neo-avant-gardes of the 1960s (at the latest), knowledge generation within the visual arts has expanded through the constitutive dissolution (or suspension) of its subjects and media. Meanwhile, however, its specific aesthetic dimension has continued to be marked by elusiveness and unavailability—by doing things, “of which we don’t know what they are” (Adorno).26 A guiding hypothesis of the “Art in the Knowledge-based Polis” conceit is that this peculiar relationship between the availability and unavailability of artistic knowledge production assigns a central task to contemporary cultural theory, as such. This not only concerns issues of aesthetics and epistemology, but also its relation to other (allegedly non-artistic) spaces of knowledge production.

To advance this line of reasoning, the various reconfigurations of knowledge, its social function, and its distribution (reflected within late modernist and post-modernist epistemological discourse) have to be considered. From the invocation of the post-industrial information society27 to the critique of modernist “metanarratives”28 and the theorization of new epistemological paradigms such as reflexivity, transdisciplinarity, and heterogeneity,29 the structure, status and shape of knowledge has changed significantly. Amongst other consequences, this has given rise to a number of specific innovative policies concerning knowledge (and its production) on national and transnational levels.30

A point of tension that can become productive here is the traditional claim that artists almost constitutively work on the hind side of rationalist, explicated knowledge—in the realms of non-knowledge (or emergent knowledge). As a response to the prohibition and marginalization of certain other knowledges by the powers that be, the apparent incompatibility of non-knowledge with values and maxims of knowledge-based economies (efficiency, innovation, and transferability) may provide strategies for escaping such dominant regimes.

Michel Foucault’s epistemology offers a hardly noticed reasoning on artistic knowledge that appears to contradict this emphasis on non-knowledge, while simultaneously providing a methodological answer to the conundrum. In his 1969 L’Archéologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge), Foucault argues that the technical, material, formal, and conceptual decisions in painting are traversed by a “positivity of knowledge” which could be “named, uttered, and conceptualized” in a “discursive practice.”31 This very “positivity of knowledge” (of the individual artwork, a specific artistic practice, or a mode of publication, communication, and display) should not be confused with a rationalist transparency of knowledge. This “discursive practice” might even refuse any such discursivity. Nonetheless, the works and practices do show a “positivity of knowledge”—the signature of a specific (and probably secret) knowledge.

At the heart of “Art in the Knowledge-based Polis” would be a recognition, description, and analysis of such “positivity”—as much as an exploration of the epistemological conditions in which such positivity appears. Just as the forms and discourses through which artists inform, equip, frame, and communicate their production have become manifold and dispersed, so has a new and continuously expanding field of research opened up as a result.

In many ways, the recent history of methodologies and modes of articulation in the visual arts is seen to be co-evolutionary with such developments as participate in the complex transition from an industrial to a postindustrial (or in terms of regulation theory: from a Fordist to a post-Fordist) regime. However, the relationship between art and society cannot be grasped in terms of a one-sided, sociological-type causality. Rather, the relationship must be seen as highly reciprocal and interdependent. Hence it is possible to claim that in those societies for which “knowledge” has been aligned with “property” and “labor” as a “steering mechanism,” the visual arts dwell in an isolated position.32“Immaterial labor” (a concept that originated in the vocabulary of post-operaismo where it is supposed to embrace the entire field of “knowledge, information, communications, relations or even affects”) has become one of the most important sources of social and economic value production.33 Hence, it is crucial for the visual arts and their various (producing, communicating, educating, etc.) actors to fit themselves into this reality, or oppose the very logic and constraints of its “cognitive capitalism.”34

Amongst such approaches is an informal, ephemeral, and implicit “practical wisdom” that informs individual and collective habits, attitudes, and dialects. Moreover, the influence of feminist, queer, subaltern, or post-colonial epistemologies and “situated knowledges” is of great importance in relation to the visual arts.35 Thus, for the purposes of inquiring into “Art in the Knowledge-based Polis,” the array of artistic articulations (both discursive and those deemed non-discursive) will be conceived as reaching far beyond common art/science and theory/practice dichotomies, while a careful analysis of the marks left on artistic epistemologies will be pursued throughout.

The relocation and re-contextualization of the knowledge issue create room-for-play absent in traditional research designs. The socio-spatial dimension of knowledge production within the visual arts should constitute another essential interest. Urban spaces are understood today as infrastructures of networked, digital architectures of knowledge as much as material, built environments. The contemporary knowledge-based city is structured and managed by information technology and databases, and the new technologies of power and modes of governance they engender (from surveillance strategies to intellectual property regulations to the legal control of network access) demand an adapted set of methodologies and critical approaches. Much of the work to be done might deploy updated versions of regime analysis and Foucauldian governmentality studies (which would by no means exclude other approaches). This urban “network society” displays features of a complex “politics of knowledge” that cannot be limited to stately and corporate management of biotechnological knowledge, because it is also actively involved in sponsoring the so-called creative industries, universities, museums, etc.36 By this token, it also becomes important to investigate and explore the social, political, and economic shares held by the visual arts in the knowledge-based polis.

What is needed is a multifocal, multidisciplinary perspective with a fresh look at the interactions and constitutive relations between knowledge and the visual arts. The specific, historically informed relations between artistic and scientific methodologies (their epistemologies, knowledge claims, and legitimating discourses) should play a major role. However, as deliberately distinguished from comparable research programs, research will be guided onto an expanded epistemic terrain on which “scientific” knowledge is no longer a privileged reference. Internal exchanges and communications between the social/cultural worlds of the visual arts and their transdisciplinary relationalities will be structured and shaped by those very forms of knowledge whose legitimacy and visibility are the subject of highly contested epistemological struggles.

An adequate research methodology has to be developed in order to allow the researchers positions on multiple social-material time-spaces of actual making and doing—positions that permit and actually encourage active involvement in the artistic processes in the stages of production before publication, exhibition, and critical reception. I would suggest that notions of “research” motivated by a sense of political urgency and upheaval are of great importance here. As can be seen in what took place at Hornsey in 1968, positions that are criticized (and desired) as an economic and systemic privilege should be contested as well as (re)claimed. Otherwise, I am afraid that the implementation of practice-based research programs and PhDs in art universities will turn out to be just another bureaucratic maneuver to stabilize hegemonic power/knowledge constellations, disavowing the very potentialities and histories at the heart of concepts such as “practice” and “research.”


This essay is a revised and abridged version of a talk given at the conference “Art/Knowledge. Between Epistemology and Production Aesthetics” at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, November 11, 2008.

A Chinese translation of this text has been published in issue #4 of Contemporary Art & Investment.

Tom Holert is an art historian and cultural critic. A former editor of Texte zur Kunst and co-publisher of Spex magazine, Holert currently lives in Berlin and teaches and conducts research in the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He contributes to journals and newspapers such as Artforum, Texte zur Kunst, Camera Austria, Jungle World, and Der Standard. Among his recent publications are a book on migration and tourism (Fliehkraft: Gesellschaft in Bewegung—von Migranten und Touristen, with Mark Terkessidis), a monograph on Marc Camille Chaimowicz' 1972 installation "Celebration? Realife" (2007) and a collection of chapters on visual culture and politics (Regieren im Bildraum, 2008).

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Journal # 03
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Journal # 03 - February 2009
Tom Holert
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