June 14, 2011 - e-flux journal - issue no. 26 out now
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June 14, 2011

issue no. 26 out now

e-flux journal issue no. 26
“Artistic Thinking”

e-flux.com/journal/issue/26

In the February 2009 issue of e-flux journal, Luis Camnitzer suggested in his essay “Art and Literacy” that a core problem in education (particularly for artists) can be traced back to an early stage when one is taught to read and write, in that order.

On one level, it is simple common sense to suppose that one can only begin to write after learning how to read. But, at the same time, this ordering also takes for granted that consumption must necessarily come before production; only after you consume knowledge will you then be capable of producing it. It is a fundamental understanding of learning that is typical of the master-apprentice model found in craft guilds. The problem arises when the language to be learned has not yet been invented, or the practice of a craft is not controlled by a guild.

Art education, on the other hand, has deeply internalized this problem by taking the inverse for granted; that one writes; first, and only later develops a language with which to read what was written. What would it mean to then build an institution around this idea? Such an institution would necessarily be ahistorical, and perhaps even amnesiac. It would resemble a Tower of Babel, in which each work could be understood as its own language, projecting its own art history.

In the past few years, debates around art education have experienced a gradual, yet determined drift from an interest in open formats and the emancipatory potentials of semi-institutional structures, to discussions of how those educational institutions can be optimized, or even standardized. One can easily dismiss this shift towards pragmatism for reflecting an endemic crisis of the imagination; and it probably does, but it is also a necessarily concrete response to very real threats to art education that have come in the form of severe budget cuts and sweeping measures to bring art production in line with the broader administrative mandates of research universities.

Yet the field of art is not set up to deal with these administrative challenges, for it refuses to offer a definitive answer to the question of what it is actually doing: the question “What is art?” must be left open. The more important and interesting question then concerns not the prudishness of this refusal, but the fact that the most useful answers are always provided in the negative. These are the answers that account for the fact that art education is, in fact, a fundamental paradox; almost a contradiction in terms. For how can we even begin to think about teaching something that, on a basic level, cannot be taught? How to form the audacity to make moves that have not been already sanctioned, and within spaces where they may not be acceptable? Fostering this audacity is less a structural concern; of how to deal with a given space, of how to access a history or a network of relations, of how to make work visible, and so forth—and more a question of identifying the kind of thinking that can surpass structures and institutionalization altogether. We might call this artistic thinking.

On the one hand, following from Camnitzer, granting the artist a position that precedes language (and, by extension, history), while opening a large space for experimentation, could be seen as a tediously romantic endorsement of the artist as mad genius; unaccountable and unaware of the vocabularies that have consolidated around him or her. But would this not be another way of describing an already-existing hysteria embedded in a field where all legitimating mechanisms are subject to highly contingent and subjective impressions and projections of value and importance? While we could say that a vocabulary exists for linking these together, it still does not manage to form a coherent language of judgment, of totalizing denouncement or terms that could otherwise measure the definitive success or failure of a work of art. This could be the source of a good amount of psychosis, but it would be even more insane to suggest that a central authority should form a central criterion of aesthetic judgment as a template for all. And anyhow, art at its best does not provide answers and solutions; it creates problems.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Hans Ulrich Obrist; In Conversation with Julian Assange, Part II

Regardless of what financial people call these offshore havens, they are actually secrecy havens made explicitly for hiding money flows. The United States military and the CIA were engaged in the same practice in Guantanamo, except there they laundered people through offshore jurisdictions to evade the commonly accepted laws of most countries. And I wondered whether I could devise a system that would turn this on its head. Instead of having a secrecy haven, we could have an openness haven.

Luis Camnitzer; Museums and Universities

As substance, artistic thinking is more important than medical thinking, since art may inform and contribute to the latter, while the opposite is less likely. However, as crafts go, a surgeon is more important for society than a painter is.

Michael Baers; Inside the Box: Notes From Within the European Artistic Research Debate

While one could argue the impossibility of adequately representing institutional aims in a paragraph or two, this does not mean prospectuses cannot be read as being symptomatic of the transformations art is likely to undergo in entering the university context. Accordingly, one could infer a positivist slant in their formulation of what constitutes an artistic PhD; revealing an attitude proximate to other disciplines based on the incremental accumulation of knowledge.

Lars Bang Larsen; Giraffe and Anti-Giraffe: Charles Fourier’s Artistic Thinking

The writings of Charles Fourier (1772–1837) are a glorious fuck you to all that exists. Yet they are neither punk’s provocation nor the apodictic objectivity of Marxian dialectics, but an enculage of civilization through the filigree work of total world reinvention.

Mary Walling Blackburn; XOXO Insanity, Institution

There were instances in which there was no singular first; in nineteenth-century Canada, inmates from one mental institution were borrowed to provide the necessary labor required to build another. Once the building had been completed, these same patients were secured in a structure of their own making but not their own design.

Jon Rich; The Blood of the Victim: Revolution in Syria and the Birth of the Image-Event

It is in this sense that the image creates meaning, and one can say that this one created an expression: those of us who saw the photo and were affected by it are now able to chart the course of death walked by this child. Carter’s photo is an image of the isthmus that separates life from death. It is thus pain imagined, and pain transformed from an individual and private feeling to a shared and public one.

Ghalya Saadawi; Sharjah Biennial 10: Institutional Grease and Institutional Critique

Although censorship and self-censorship were, are and always will remain an issue in the showcasing of art, whether in the UAE or elsewhere (or perhaps one should say that overt censorship exposes a show of force by the powers-that-be when the implicit rules of self-censorship fail), it is clearly not the only issue at stake now, several weeks after these events began to unfold.

The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
Amsterdam: De Appel / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Athens: OMMU Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Monica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Bergen: Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / do you read me? / NBK, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Pro qm Berlin and Zurich: Motto Bern: Kunsthalle Bern Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefelder: Bielefelder Kunstverein Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: Wiels Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) / Townhouse Gallery Calgary: The New Gallery Cambridge: Wysing Arts Center Castello: Espai d´art contemporani de Castelló (EACC) Chicago: Graham Foundation / The Renaissance Society Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Dubai: Traffic Dublin: Dublin City, The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Łaźnia Genève: Centre de la Photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / Kunsthaus Graz / para_SITE Gallery Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Hamburg: Kunstverein Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Istanbul: BAS / DEPO / SALT Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandet Art Museum Kansas: INKubator PRESS Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija London: Architectural Association / Bedford Press / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery / The Showroom / Visiting Arts / Zabludowicz Collection Los Angeles: REDCAT Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / Pensart Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art Mexico City: Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center Moscow / Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop, Haus der Kunst Munich New Delhi: Sarai-CSDS New York: e-flux / Independent Curators International (ICI) / Printed Matter, Inc Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary Omaha: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Oslo: Kunstnernes hus Oxford: Modern Art Oxford Padona: Fondazione March Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers / Palais de Tokyo Pori: Pori Art Museum Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, (PICA) / Publication Studio Prague: Dox Centre for Contemporary Art Prishtina: Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina Providence: AS220 Reykjavik: Reykjavik Art Museum Riga: Kim? Rio de Janeiro: Capacete Rotterdam: Witte de With Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, Centre D’art Contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace São Paulo: Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art Seoul: The Books / The Book Society Sherbrooke: Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery St Erme Outre et Ramecourt: Performing Arts Forum St Louis: White Flag Projects Stockholm: Bonniers Konsthall / Index / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Sydney: Artspace Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: Fillip/Motto / Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia / READ Books, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC, Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki / Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art, NPAK Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, DeLVe Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space.

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