Karen Archey’s After Institutions
              Ben Eastham
              The question of whether and how contemporary art can contribute to the reform of society is, let’s say, increasingly pressing. Emerging from a cancelled exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, where Karen Archey is curator of contemporary art, this book-length essay posits a “reinvigorated” Institutional Critique as the best available means to this end. Featuring artists from Hans Haacke to A.K. Burns, the show aimed to reflect the influence on cultural production of the post-2008 economic recession and social movements including Occupy Wall Street, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter. In articulating the ideas behind it, After Institutions makes the case for works of art that, by situating their critique in institutions ranging from healthcare to education, might meaningfully change them. To demonstrate that this is the natural next step in the evolution of what Archey, following Andrea Fraser, calls a “methodology” rather than a movement, she divides a potted history of Institutional Critique into three “waves.” Emerging out of the overwhelmingly white and Eurocentric context of western Conceptual Art in the late 1960s, the first focused its critique on the social and economic structures supporting the art institution. In order to resist its recuperation by the market and foreground idea over …

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