Unreal Nature

April 27, 2017

Contemporary Art Emerges, Thrives, and Resists

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… Everything else is luster, hubris, or expressions of pious good taste.

This is from the introduction to Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820 by Liam Gillick (2016):

… art in its current forms is the product of a complex of events, constructed personas, and critical tendencies. It is fragmentary and increasingly subjective. Contemporary art is a repository for various recognitions and desires; at the same time, it may be defined by its self-conscious stand for and against other art. Contemporary art is a record of material facts derived from art intentions, and it often remains just out of reach of the artist and viewers while at the same time remaining lucid, simple, and easy to read.

[line break added] This is the heart of contemporary art’s challenge: a louche combination of clarity, resistance, reference, and subjectivity. And at the heart of contemporary art is the … combination of industry and intelligence … Neither industry nor intelligence implies or suggests anything about quality or aesthetics; these are philosophical concerns. Industry and intelligence can result in a conscious or unaffected clumsiness yet result in an intellectually complex web of references.

[line break added] From Andy Warhol to Andrea Fraser to Hito Steyerl, from Jackson Pollock to Felix Gonzalez-Torres to R.H. Quaytman, the one thread connecting these artists is their industry and intelligence in the face of what eludes representation and remains just out of reach. Industry and intelligence are not synonyms for hard work and skill — they are conditions of production under which contemporary art emerges, thrives, and resists.

Contemporary art endures. It survives because it is neither the product of a true academy nor an artist-critic-generated description of choice but rather a term that has for some time been a tolerable description for an increasingly wide range of art and artlike activity that cannot be completely captured by modernist or postmodernist accounts of visual art. Contemporary art is a leaky container that can accommodate many contradictory structures and desires.

[ … ]

… Art resides in power relations, speech acts, points of view, and extremely complicated semiotic games. Everything else is luster, hubris, or expressions of pious good taste.

-Julie

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