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Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorshipby Claire Bishop
Synopses & Reviews
Since the 1990s, critics and curators have broadly accepted the notion that participatory art is the ultimate political art: that by encouraging an audience to take part an artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Around the world, the champions of this form of expression are numerous, ranging from art historians such as Grant Kester, curators such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Nato Thompson, to performance theorists such as Shannon Jackson.
Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” Claire Bishop follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of a participatory aesthetic. This itinerary takes in Futurism and Dada; the Situationist International; Happenings in Eastern Europe, Argentina and Paris; the 1970s Community Arts Movement; and the Artists Placement Group. It concludes with a discussion of long-term educational projects by contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Pawe? Althamer and Paul Chan.
Since her controversial essay in Artforum in 2006, Claire Bishop has been one of the few to challenge the political and aesthetic ambitions of participatory art. In Artificial Hells, she not only scrutinizes the emancipatory claims made for these projects, but also provides an alternative to the ethical (rather than artistic) criteria invited by such artworks. Artificial Hells calls for a less prescriptive approach to art and politics, and for more compelling, troubling and bolder forms of participatory art and criticism.
"Since the early 1990s, there has been significant global artistic interest in participation and collaboration in conceptual and performance art. In this critically astute and provocative study, City University of New York art historian Bishop (Installation Art: A Critical History) analyzes the meaning of what results from participatory art rather than solely emphasizing its artistic process. Bishop divides her incisive and meticulously researched study of participatory art into three sections: a theoretical introduction to the genre, contextualizing it in the Italian Futurists, Russian proletkult, and Dada; case studies in participatory art such as the Situationist International, Argentinian art of the late 1960s led by Oscar Masotta, and Brazilian director Augusto Boal's theater of social change; and contemporary art performance and pedagogy. Bishop's arguments are convincingly supported and potentially very contentious. She suggests that participatory art makes the ethics of interpersonal interaction more important than politics and social justice concerns, and that activist art is not enough for social change — other institutions are necessary. A critically challenging work of vital scholarship, the book will be of greatest interest to art historians, art theorists, artists, and cultural critics. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A searing critique of participatory art by an iconoclastic historian.
This is at once a book by and about William Pope.L and the catalog for his 2013 show at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.and#160; It serves as a forum for reflections on his work by several scholars, including a long, substantial essay by Lauren Belant (who was recently interviewed by Artforum in a major feature).
Sculptor and performance artist William Pope.L calls himself "the friendliest black artist in America," though many would disagree.and#160; He is not particularly friendly, and blacks and caucasians alike sometimes find his work offensive. This is because he does not suffer platitudes about race or racism.and#160; Racism simply exists, as does economic disparity and Pope.L makes us confront the hypocrisy that informs American society's "color blindness," corporate values, and our squeamishness about the human body and its functions.and#160; He often performs in the street--eating and vomiting copies of the Wall Street Journal, tying himself to a bank and handing out money, crawling up the Bowery wearing a business suit, or walking through Harlem warng a giant white cardboard phallus.
As major oil companies face continual public backlash, many have found it helpful to engage in and#147;art washingand#8221;and#151;donating large sums to cultural institutions to shore up their good name. But what effect does this influx of oil money have on these institutions? Artwash explores the relationship between funding and the production of the arts, with particular focus on the role of big oil companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Reflecting on the role and function of art galleries, Artwash considers how the association with oil money might impede these institutions in their cultural endeavors. Outside the gallery space, Mel Evans examines how corporate sponsorship of the arts can obscure the strategies of corporate executives to maintain brand identity and promote their public image through cultural philanthropy. Ultimately, Evans sounds a note of hope, presenting ways artists themselves have challenged the ethics of contemporary art galleries and examining how cultural institutions might change.
Iconoclast and artist Pope.L uses the body, sex, and race as his materials the way other artists might use paint, clay, or bronze.and#160; His work problematizes social categories by exploring how difference is marked economically, socially, and politically. Working in a range of media from ketchup to baloney to correction fluid, with a special emphasis on performativity and writing, Pope.L pokes fun at and interrogates American societyand#8217;s pretenses, the bankruptcy of contemporary mores, and the resulting repercussions for a civil society. Other favorite Pope.L targets are squeamishness about the human body and the very possibility of making meaning through art and its display.
Published to accompany his wonderfully inscrutable exhibitionand#160;Forlesenand#160;at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago,and#160;Pope.L: Showing Up to Withholdand#160;is simultaneously an artistand#8217;s book and a monograph. In addition to reproductions of a number of his most recent artworks, it includes images of significant works from the past decade, and presents a forum for reflection and analysis on art making today with contributions by renowned critics and scholars, including Lawrie Balfour, Nick Bastis, Lauren Berlant, and K. Silem Mohammad.
About the Author
Claire Bishop is Associate Professor in the History of Art department at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York. She is the author of Installation Art: A Critical History; Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship; and editor of Participation. in 2008 she co-curated the exhibition “Double Agent” at the ICA. She is a regular contributor to Artforum, October, Tate Etc, IDEA, and other international art magazines.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations and tables
List of acronyms
List of characters
2. Big Oiland#8217;s artwash epidemic
3. Culture and Capital
4. Discrete logos, big spills
5. The impact of BP on Tate: an unhappy context for art
6. Opposition to oil sponsorship and interventions in gallery spaces
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