Seminar 1: Boris Groys: After the Red Square

October 30 through November 10, 2006

The contemporary, post-communist situation is mostly understood as a time after the full and final victory of the market over all the attempts to put this rule into question. Accordingly, art is equated to the art market and an individual artwork is seen primarily as a commodity. Under this regime the only way for art to become “serious” is to become “critical”, which means that it tries to reflect explicitly on its own character-as- commodity. It is telling that the art of the former Communist or Socialist countries is regarded from this perspective as non-serious because it is non-critical by definition; this art could not reflect on itself as a commodity because it was not a commodity. (It was not a commodity because there was no market, and certainly no art market under Socialism.)

But the equation between art and art market, be it critical or not, not only brings about the erasure of a substantial part of the art heritage of the 20th Century; it also – and this is the more important point – ignores the non- market dimensions of contemporary art that functions not only as commodity but also as propaganda (for example: Islamist videos), as a means to organize a new type of communal space and a new type of community itself. The goal of the seminar is to investigate precisely these non-market aspects of contemporary art in its relationship to the long tradition of non-market uses of art, related initially to the Socialist-Communist tradition.

Suggested readings:
Boris Groys, The Total Art of Stalinism, Princeton, 1995
Boris Groys, Ilya Kabakov. A man who flew into the cosmic space. Afterall/MIT, 2006.
Boris Groys (ed.), Dream Factory Communism, Schirn, Frankfurt a.M., 2004.
Jacques Derrida, Marx' Gespenster, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a.M., 2003
Giorgio Agamben, Die kommende Gemeinschaft, Merve, 2003.


Boris Groys and Joseph Cohen

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