Seminar 4: Maria Lind

To speak of "agency" in the visual arts is currently the most polite way to raise the hairiest of questions, namely, does art have anything to do with a world beyond its own professional rituals and priorities, and, if so, could and should it strive to shape that world somehow. To raise the question of agency is to address matters of activism, realpolitik, the aesthetics of politics and the politics of aesthetics, but in a hope of discreetly dodging the dialectics of heroism and surrender, resistance and complicity that have plagued these things for so long. In our seminar, we wish to revisit these uncertain dialectics, to closely analyze the notion of agency in itself and to trace a number of models predominating today. But also to sketch out some key features of today's context, including various forms of instrumentalisation, that determine our choices
and possibilities.

What Are We Doing - Artistic Agency and the Collaborative Turn: The seminar will begin with Maria Lind's discussion of collective activities throughout the art world. This is a new wave, following the one which helped shape conceptual art in the 60s and which was arguably crucial in the transition from modernism to postmodernism. For some this offers an alternative to the individualism that dominates the art world, for others a way of questioning both artistic identity and authorship through self-organisation. For others yet, it is a pragmatic choice, a possibility of shared resources, equipment and experience.

Thoughts on Turns Less Collaborative: The seminar will then move on to Tirdad Zolghadr's examples of agency within the arts that are less tangible as such. From tactical retreats, to the growing influence of Italian operaismo, to unapologetic business entrepreneurship, to strategic essentialisms, what are the working premises of these methods of procedure, and which, if any, is their common ground by way of zeitgeist and ideological self-perception. On this count, the lecture will attempt to specify precarious or "post-fordist" working conditions which have been developing internationally over recent decades.

How does artistic agency play in with these developments? To what degree can the above strategies claim agency, and what kind of instrumentalisation is affecting this mode of cultural production? How can artistic agency be reformulated under the current neo-liberalised working conditions?

Whose Image? - An artist talk by Carey Young
Using a variety of media including video, performance and photography, London-based artist Carey Young uses found tools, language and training processes from the worlds of the multinational corporation and global law firm and alters them within an artistic context, exploring ideas of autonomy, performativity, intimacy and dissent. In her talk she will present a number of recent works, including 'Image Transfer', her ongoing project which considers the ethical issues for institutions and artists in accepting corporate sponsorship, prizes and other forms of patronage. Intended as an institutionally critical work which employs a viral form, the project trains participants in the specialist research and analytical skills needed to locate and evaluate the often-hidden 'background' information on the activities of corporate sponsors. The workshop also considers such questions as what exactly are companies 'buying' when they sponsor an artist or an exhibition, and what 'image' do artists, and the arts in general, transfer on to sponsors?


Carey Young, Maria Lind and Tirdad Zolghadr

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