Theorem 4. Aesthetic Agency and the Practices of Autonomy
Part I: Critique de l’économie politique de l’atelier d'artiste
A group exhibition with Lisa Biedlingmaier, San Keller, and Maria Pomiansky in collaboration with Vadim Levin
curated by Dimitrina Sevova and Alan Roth,
curatorial interns Miwa Negoro and Swati Prasad.
Saturday, 21 January – Sunday, 19 February 2017
Opening: Saturday, 21 January at 18:00h
Finissage: Sunday, 19 February at 17:00h
Artist talks and other accompanying events to be announced.
Wed/Fri 15:00h – 18:00h
Thu 16:00h – 19:00h
The exhibition/project will take place in two parts, of which this is the first:
Part 1: Critique de l’économie politique de l’atelier d'artiste
Part 2: Der Prozess / The Trial
Part 1: Critique de l’économie politique de l’atelier d'artiste
The focal point is on the relation between the studio, artist labor, art-work, aesthetic practices and their economic conditions. The studio might be a space where a certain degree of autonomy can be detected. The exhibition/project expresses how productivity in art depends on the relation between the artist’s liberty and the economic and social conditions of art production. The studio is part of the productive flow of relations, subjectivities, institutions, places, materials, techniques. At the same time it is in the grammar of autonomy, aesthetics and politics. There are many possible places and non-places of the studio, but it can still be put mainly in two orbits, as an independent space of a solitude where the artwork is produced, and a more open idea of the studio, where the artwork is performed by artist-labor. It is often a shared space, a space of collaboration that engages with the performative domain of the aesthetics and politics of art production and its economic and social reality.
Lacan’s statement “I replaced Freud’s energetics with political economy” goes one step further and openly engages psychoanalysis with the ‘immanent’ critique of liberal capitalist society. Following psychoanalytic practices, the project Part I: Critique de l’économie politique de l’atelier d’artiste incorporates ‘immanent’ critique in the politico-economic relations in the production of art to reflect and analyze in terms of movements and vectors the current conditions of artist-labor and art-work-life social relations.
It also adopts the critique of the political economy as a method to look at the studio space and the practices there, its social and political impact on art, on the labor and life of the artist. To what extent can the studio support the autonomy of the artist’s practices, and what is its emancipatory political potential? Giorgio Agamben attributes to the Situationists an “unavowed awareness that the genuinely political element consists precisely in this incommunicable, almost ridiculous clandestinity of private life.” The art labor and art-work are inevitably incorporated in the critique of a broad socio-economic process. At the same time, they will remain ‘ridiculously clandestine’ attitudes of free labor outside of the labor-power. In this way the project looks at how a return to critique and autonomy practices can perpetuate an emancipatory politics in art. They can be used as a model for an exit from the ‘hegemonic’ capitalist discourse and capitalist production of value. Autonomy practices, aesthetic immanent critique and politics invent new living forms and socio-economic relations outside of capital, like generic commons, undercommons, etc.
The project reflects on self-organized and self-managed aspects of the artist studio space, the conditions of the artist’s labor and the productive process of art-work there. Work is here used not necessarily to designate an art object. The working environment of the studio can be seen from many angles. At the same time, it remains a place where (un)productive forces play disalienated forms of labor in the work and life of the artists. The artist remains a free laborer who betrays the labor-power and slows down, or accelerates a virtuoso productivity.
The project inevitably asks, can the artist make a living from their art? How can they sustain their working environment relying on income from their artistic labor and art-work. Often, they inhabit the studio mostly in the time in-between several other jobs, while the studio is transformed and adapted to multitasked functions driven by project-oriented work, digitalization and internet. The productive process is automated between two applications for grants, in a diversity of institutional commands by e-mail and research work mostly based on Google searches. Being an artist is a day-to-day job of professional occupation, and at the same time a form of life that can scatter into a new sociality.
At the same time there is indeed a reality gap between the image of the autonomous artist and the actual working conditions of living artists, and how their productivity and the conditions of art production are socially evaluated and valued, between the relative ‘autonomy’ of the studio and today’s institutionally driven art, complemented by the erosion of the autonomy of art by different neoliberal dynamics and the restructuring (financialization, digitalization, gentrification) and the ideology of the free market that inevitably machinically signifies the social production and art, too. Although the artist precariat is potentially revolutionary and resistive, Hito Steyerl describes the instrumental precarization in the third stage of institutional critique that leads merely to “integration into precarity” of artist labor and working and living conditions. “What remains hidden in this – a new ‘hidden abode,’ the practicing artist remains outside of the employment.” At the same time, nowadays the art production process has been connected to digital productive flows, automated and highly professionalized by accelerated competition on a global scale, that disempowers the possibilities for collective, community forms of art, work and life.
Theorem 4. Aesthetic Agency and the Practices of Autonomy
The operations of Moral and Politics, Aesthetics and Immanent Critique, invite a re-thinking in the sense of the moral fight (Nietzsche), as Gilles Deleuze puts it in his essay about Foucault: “A man-form, then, appears only in very special and precarious conditions,” as a dissolved man. All form is a combination of all forces, a mix of human and non-human in the process of individuation. This precarious man-form is the extra-human ethical being of politics. Indeed, in Deleuze and Guattari’s words, “Politics precedes being. Practice does not come after the emplacement of the terms and their relations, but actively participates in the drawing of the lines; it confronts the same dangers and the same variations as the emplacement does.”
The notion of autonomy is investigated and reflected from various perspectives, without a model, as it takes place in the realms of aesthetics and of politics, in the social and the personal, art and practices. Autonomy is distinct from knowledge. As an intensification of power it regroups and redistributes. Despite this, the term of Autonomy has become increasingly derided in art and criticised as egotistical or even attributed to the hegemonic western ideology of the individual, as a result of the connection between the autonomy of art and the autonomy of the artist, and the equalization of both to aesthetic autonomy.
Aesthetic autonomy goes beyond the art context to embrace life as a whole. Aesthetic experience as a practice of philosophy has never been necessarily attached to the field of art and the artwork, and has mutated to the concepts of aesthetics of existence and of life as a work of art (in Foucault’s conceptualization) – “existing not as a subject but as a work of art.” The aesthetics of the ephemeral of the event of political subjectivity and of temporary autonomous zones are dispositions of time or of a brain. They draw “new cerebral pathways, new ways of thinking.” As Deleuze says: “I think subjectification, events, and brains are more or less the same thing.” What can emerge from these practices is the creative struggle that is resistance and invention. Art is resistance, too. These new subjectivities are precarious minor social formations, and to the extent that the artist is part of the precariat in the informal economy, they practice aesthetic autonomy, too. Peter Osborne writes that “aesthetic autonomy is indifferent to the art/non-art distinction,” which is close to Jacques Rancière: “To the extent that the aesthetic formula ties art to non-art from the start, it sets that life up between two vanishing points: art becoming mere life or art becoming mere art.”
Excerpt from the curatorial text by Dimitrina Sevova in collaboration with Alan Roth (in printable format as PDF, 276KB)
2014. HD video.
Lisa Biedlingmaier, undefined. 2014. Video still.
For centuries, the studio has been perceived not only in its pragmatic function as a workshop or thought laboratorium but to a much larger extent as a place in which the premises of individual artistic identity can be fathomed.
The interior, whether a home office or a study room, provides clues to the personality living or working there.
Das Atelier wurde über Jahrhunderte nicht nur in seiner pragmatischen Funktion als Werkstätte oder gedankliches Laboratorium registriert, sondern in viel grösserem Masse als ein Ort empfunden, an dem die Prämissen für die individuelle künstlerische Identität ergründet werden können.
Das Interieur, ob Privatzimmer oder Arbeitszimmer liefere Indizien über die in ihm wohnende bzw. arbeitende Persönlichkeit.
At Work (Cuckoo)
San Keller, At Work (Cuckoo). 2008â€“2011. Series of 36 photographs. Studio of Rosen/Wojnar, Berlin 28.06.2010.
In At Work (Cuckoo) lässt sich San Keller von seinen Künstlerfreunden in deren Ateliers und an deren Arbeit fotografieren.
The L-Word - No mas metales
2015. HD video, 56 min.
Der Schweizer Konzeptkünstler San Keller (1971) reist mit der Absicht nach Los Angeles, auf der Strasse einen Kunstsammler anzutreffen, der ein Werk der amerikanischen Pop-Art-Ikone Andy Warhol (1928-1987) aus seiner Sammlung gegen sämtliche Werke des politischen Zeichners und Karikaturisten Martin Disteli (1802-1844) im Besitz des Kunstmuseum Olten tauschen würde.
Auf seinen Streifzügen rund um Hollywood entfernt sich San Keller immer weiter vom ursprünglichen Ziel, einen Sammler zu finden, der einen Warhol gegen den Oltner Disteli-Nachlass tauschen würde. In den Vordergrund rückt stattdessen die Suche – die Suche an sich, oder aber die Suche nach dem Bild. The L-Word - No mas metales ist jedoch auch eine filmische Reflexion über ein mysteriöses L-Word (Los Angeles, Liebe, Langeweile, Loch oder Liberalismus?), über die Suggestionskraft von Bildern, die Macht des Geldes und vor allem über die Freiheit - die Kernthemen Distelis also.
Maria Pomiansky in collaboration with Vadim Levin
In situ studio
The artistâ€™s studio. Photo: Maria Pomiansky. Courtesy the artist.
What is the role of the painter's atelier in contemporary art practice? The archaic features are mixed with the needs of today's life. A painter 's atelier is one of the last bastions of non-computer activities. It can be interpreted as a manifestation of humanity. And it’s not by chance that technique is put back on stage and reworked through the lenses of conceptual art to produce paintings that elaborate on the reality surrounding us.
I would like to produce a painting which would change during the time of the exhibition and would be an attempt to view the atelier as a sacral symbol, a game where the human brain, the hand and the eyes play the leading roles.
Container City und Kunstverein Wagenhalle e.V., Stuttgart
Aaron Schirrmann (Architekt) und Lisa Biedlingmaier (Künstlerin und Kuratorin) berichten über den aktuellen Stand der Container City und die Arbeit des Kunstvereins Wagenhalle in Stuttgart.
Seit einer Woche laufen die Renovierungsarbeiten an der Wagenhalle, die in 2 Jahren wiedereröffnet werden soll.
Ein Ort an dem seit 2004, über 80 verschiedene Ateliers, Werkstätte, Proberäume und der Ausstellungsraum Kunstverein Wagenhalle ihr temporäres Zuhause hatten.
Der Kunstverein hat jetzt ein Interimsquartier auf dem Gelände vor der Halle aufgebaut. Die meisten Künstler und Kulturschaffenden sind vor Ort geblieben und arbeiten weiter in den ca. 140 Containern und einigen Sonderbauten.
images: Aida Nejad
photography: Ferdinando Iannone
This event is part of the exhibition project Theorem 4. Aesthetic Agency and the Practices of Autonomy. Part I: Critique de l’économie politique de l’atelier d'artiste.
Curatorial Reading Group
The Curatorial Reading Group is a monthly reading session, aimed at enhancing our creativities in curatorial approaches through a continuous series of discussions. Under the theme of ‘Art and the Notion of Time,’ each session focuses on a selected text from theory to artistic practice.
For the first session on 30 January 2017, we will read and discuss the inspiring book It Had Something to Do with the Telling of Time. Spaces in fiction – Constructs of Reality by Annee Grøtte Viken.
If you are interested in our reading session please contact us! We will write you back with a copy of the book, and warmly recommend you to read it before the session.
Contact: Miwa Negoro (Corner College), miwa.negoro (at) gmail (dot) com
Curatorial Reading Group
The Curatorial Reading Group is a monthly reading session, a platform for contextualizing curatorial approaches and discourse through a continuous series of readings and discussions. Under the theme of ‘Curating, the Curatorial, and the Notion of Time,’ each session of the first season focuses on a selected text from theory to artistic practice.
This upcoming second session we will read the essay Time and Matter by Jean-François Lyotard, which was part of his input into his philosophical seminar following his landmark exhibition at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1985, Les Immatériaux, and reflects on the philosophical ideas behind that exhibition. The exhibition inspired an entire generation of relational aesthetics, both curators and artists, from Nicolas Bourriaud to Jens Hoffmann, from Philippe Parreno to Pierre Huyghe, as well as the post-digital discourse and new media art context, with theoreticians and curators like Andreas Boeckmann and Yuk Hui.
You can download the text from here. If you are interested in joining our reading session, it is recommended that you to read it before.
As additional reading further contextualizing Lyotard's text, we recommend the short essay by John Rajchman, Les Immatériaux or How to Construct the History of Exhibitions, Tate Papers No.12 (Landmark Exhibitions Issue)
From John Rajchman's text:
“Les Immatériaux was a ‘presentation of ideas’ in the specific sense of ‘presentation’ and ‘idea’ which Lyotard was trying to articulate at the time. It thus linked to another striking aspect of Lyotard’s curatorial experiment – the role and nature of accompanying research, or the role of ‘ideas’ and their ‘address’ in the style of philosophical teaching then current in Paris. With Les Immatériaux, the philosophical seminar would enter into the context of museum research, creating new relations which Lyotard would later evoke in his account of the experience. In the ‘open’ seminar, he would present ideas put forward in a suggestive philosophical text called Time and Matter, later published in a collection of essays entitled The Inhuman. The essay makes interesting reading today, in light of the current interest in exhibitions: in it, Lyotard sets out the larger philosophical ‘idea’ he hoped to ‘present’ through Les Immatériaux. What becomes clear is that Lyotard’s title concept of ‘immateriality’ was different from that of the ‘dematerialisation of art’ associated with the presentation of ideas in what came to be called ‘conceptual art’, and, in particular, ‘institutional critique’. The question thus arises of how this idea and this exhibition are related to that earlier ‘conceptual’ moment in the ‘dramatisation of information’, when the whole idea of the exhibition (or ‘presentation’) was rethought in a manner often opposed to a certain kind of Kantian aestheticism.”
An interview with the philosopher by Bernard Blistène published in Flash Art on the occasion of the exhibition in 1985 provides further background to the thinking behind the exhibition.
And Yuk Hui talks about the updated context of Les immatériaux in the post-digital discourse:
For the March session we propose to collectively select a text, possibly from the book 30 years after Les Immatériaux by Yuk Hui and Andreas Broeckmann.
This book features a previously unpublished report by Jean-François Lyotard on the conception of Les Immatériaux and its relation to postmodernity. Reviewing the historical significance of the exhibition, his text is accompanied by twelve contemporary meditations. The philosophers, art historians, and artists analyse this important moment in the history of media and theory, and reflect on the new material conditions brought about by digital technologies in the last 30 years.
Texts by Daniel Birnbaum, Jean-Louis Boissier, Andreas Broeckmann, Thierry Dufrêne, Francesca Gallo, Charlie Gere, Antony Hudek, Yuk Hui, Jean-François Lyotard, Robin Mackay, Anne Elisabeth Sejten, Bernard Stiegler, and Sven-Olov Wallenstein.