e-flux Lectures: Marco Baravalle, "Art, Populism, and the Alterinstitutional Turn"

What does populism mean when related to a work of art? This lecture will try to fill the "empty signifier" moving from Writers and The People, a book published in 1965 by the Italian thinker Alberto Asor Rosa. Asor Rosa was then part of the group of heretical Marxists called "Operaisti." The goal of the book was to criticize the official leftist Italian writers (Pasolini among them) whose populist approach, dictated by the Communist Party following the Gramscian rule, was, according to the author, a cultural device that closed the path to the real revolutionary potential of the working class.

We will apply the interpretation grid of Asor Rosa to some examples taken from the art of the last twenty years, trying to analyze it under the point of view of populism. Can we define a populist approach in visual art beyond the clear and vulgar examples of propaganda? If an alternative has to be found within the contemporary art field, the term Alterinstitutional can help us define it.

Marco Baravalle is a central figure at S.a.L.E. Docks, an independent space for visual arts, activism, and experimental theater located in what had been an abandoned salt-storage facility in Dorsoduro, Venice. Founded in 2007, its programming includes activist-group meetings, formal exhibitions, screenings, and actions. In addition to managing the diverse programming at S.a.L.E. Docks, Baravalle also is a research fellow at Ca' Foscari University of Venice. He researches art and activism, creative labor, gentrification, and how art is positioned within neoliberal economics.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

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