The pathos of international solidarity was a key component for many a modernist movement, including Dadaism, Futurism, Fluxus, the Situationist International etc. Despite their aesthetic and practical divergences, they all accentuate the fact that we live on a common planet, where the political boundaries of nation-states do not play any role in defining the processes of the personality’s creative development. Regardless of this internationalist tradition, the system of contemporary art is far from fulfilling the proclaimed ideals of internationalism and solidarity. Many artists and art-professionals have been corrupted by “big events”, international success and trans-national competition. This dictatorial market neutralizes any and all progressive tendencies.
Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?
Historian, activist // Moscow
The future of contemporary art and its strategies and forms is connected to changing the social context. It seems to me that there are no grounds for singling out the art-system for its cynicism and corruption, even if such accusations may be just. After all, one can apply this form of interrelation to capitalism as a whole. As mass movements grow, updating international solidarity in the face of Neo-Liberalism’s onslaught, they can supply new meanings to the figure of the artist.
Artist, curator, critic// Kaliningrad
The growth and preservation of any process depends on physical differentiation. It also depends on a heightened unity of the field. This is how I would characterize the rhizomatic essence of any community’s existence, no matter whether they are artists, activists etc. Note that we are not speaking of solidarity as a constant quality – the community faces each motivation as it arises, forcing the community to change its vector of development each and every time. However, the ideology of “big events” or institutional success does not play any decisive role, in my opinion. I would characterize one of the Rhizomatic International’s attributes as the capacity for self-organized criticism. The combined effect of a multitude of small communities can break into the exclusiveness of global representation. Technological re-tribalization – the gradual reversion of communities into a tribal state, accompanied by a strong technological dominant – is our time’s most important need. Without it, any progressive idea will inevitably become a decorative idiocy, once it takes its place at a trade-fair.
Psychoanalyst, curator, critic//Petersburg
Suspicion toward solid frameworks. Mistrust of frameworks on the whole. You can spend your life trying to adjust to the extant framework, but you can also strive to create a framework of your own. When this framework becomes a set of institutional walls, you break out of their bounds. When a creative program has been depleted and is being bureaucratized, you move on. As it happens, this is also a question of a certain psychic state, close to the question of psychosis, a state of compulsive representation, to which the market production of artistic products will lead. This is the question of the incompatibility or at least the incommensurability of creativity and institutionalization. Once again, we are not talking about a comprehensive political program of some artistic International, but about a form of inner resistance. I don’t really want to talk about the democratization of art; I would rather speak of its de-hierarchizing, its de-bureaucratization, and its de-capitalization.
Artist // Moscow
The rhetorics of “democratism” and “internationalism” are characteristic of the world-wide process of globalization. Whose “internationalism”? Whose “solidarity”? It is crucial to understand all of this, because there are no abstract “communications”, “unifications”, or “brotherhoods”. The pathos of “solidarity” or of “equal opportunity” etc. are incidental to big corporations and business projects. And the way the question is formulated in its given form hardly allows for the development of any adequate solution. I don’t agree with the way it is posed. It is impossible to conquer global representation, because there will always be millions of people who lick their fingers at a spectacle in its alienated form. A simple call for “democratization” will not change anything in that matter.
The democratization of the art world is a tendency that doesn’t exist. I simply don’t agree to the fact that it plays any role at all. For this reason, I have no means of making any judgment, insofar as the “chances for the ongoing democratization of art” are concerned.
The possibilities for democratization are coded into art itself. Although art is excellent in that it calls all firm artistic or institutional conventions into question. I will take the liberty of saying that today’s artist is a private person, realizing his individual project, a project which may indeed never be shown anywhere. But if the artist is able to reflect or express the emotional dominant of his-her contemporaries in the process of his activity, if he finds a language, or more accurately, an authenticity of images, there is only the pre-semantic openness of time experienced together. At this point, he is not only being faithful to his community, but is giving his-her community the chance to emerge.
…Of course, the market attempts to capture even such “private” efforts, dividing its value into shares. This runs contrary to the “community” from which it emerged. Yet the artist also exists in a place where he resists this subjugation, this translation into the language of “big” art, even if he is exhibited everywhere, becoming a symbol for his country or his epoch. If this artist has any real format, even if they hang him on museum walls or show him in special spaces, his works will resist by confronting the compulsory context with some kind of senseless or inappropriate non sequiter.
The “art world” is a corporation just like any other. It is impossible to speak of any democratization on its territory.
Editor, curator, critic//Moscow
So the cult of “big events” is born from the democratic efforts of modern art? I beg to differ. Exclusiveness is actually how the democratic masses understand art! It would be a simplification only to draw connections to artistic phenomena such as Fluxus or the Situationist International, even if they problematize the artistic statement as a means of searching for new, more democratic forms for the circulation of art through society. There are artists – even Picasso and Warhol – who, in the process of solving completely different questions, came to embody creativity in society’s eye, transforming mass-cultural ideas on the visual per se. This too is a civic task, which is connected to democracy just as much as anything else is. During the last years, art and the art system have become immeasurably more democratic. A system of non-profit organizations has been established; intellectual debates have become the natural norm within artistic institutions; the impartial judgment of experts and expert-structures has effectively usurped the authority of the galleries etc.
The ongoing democratization of art is something that I probably fail to recognize. Instead, I tend to agree with those who observe the crisis of art’s utopia in parallel to the crisis of civil society’s utopia. The institutions make the art system function. For their part, the institutions are founded by society and perform according to the interests of that particular society. As soon as this society changes, its institutions will also change. It is not the other way around. And artists can and need to fly on the wings of desire. Someone said that capitalism is unable to cope with desire; it has a place only for interest.
Artist // Moscow
…The art world is exclusive. This question is too difficult and there is too little room here to launch upon any exploration, which would really have to address the question from a number of angles. I would just like to say that the exclusiveness of visual art is a very important factor. As paradoxical as it sounds, it is necessary to work with this factor, using it in the process of democratizing culture.
What was once an interesting question of scale in art has now become a mere question of size. Stop the supersizing of art.
Make all artworks and art criticism anonymous.
This suggestion, adapted from Foucault, counters the fact that “a name makes reading too easy.” Art will be changed as dramatically as banning inheritance would change the world.
To be honest, I don’t see such a problem here. One unified global system is replacing the more closed regional artistic contexts. This is an objective process. The state of dissatisfaction that the contemporary artist often experiences is the subject is another question. This question has little to do with democratization. Quite on the contrary, the art system is extremely effective under the conditions at hand. Thus, it is hardly surprising when the struggle for its democratization turns into a squabble for a more advantageous place within its hierarchy.
Bart de Baer
We now have an exhibition titled ‘All under heaven’, which seems to be a poetic title but is actually the base of the Chinese image of the world, an inclusive image.
The MuHKA tries to articulate its position not only within art but also within social action. In order to do this we rethink basic words that have been discarded. We are currently working around ‘reflexivity’, ‘joy’, ‘conversation’ and ‘morality’. We have also asked Rudi Laermans to write an operational text whose point of departure is Bakhtin’s idea of polyphony. We want to make our position knowable. This may be a base. We want to relate this to our activities, so that we can be approached on these grounds. Besides, we do theoretical research on the articulation of formats of art that are not validated economically.
It is high time to smash the entire international system of contemporary art completely, only to build it anew. The goal of this reconstruction cannot be the goal of Western expansion, but justice, as far as all of the world’s different cultures are concerned.
John Peter Nilsson
Over the last decades, we have witnessed the creation of a new kind of international network, involving artists and art-professionals. You don’t need to live in Paris or New York anymore to be part of the “international art world”. I think this process has opened up to, in my mind, a positive ‘glocal’ art scene today. There will still be market hierarchies and global corruptness, but what is happening is that more artists have far more possibilities to be visible than ever before.
What I am afraid of is the consumption speed of today’s artists. The globalization of the art world has created an atmosphere of discovering new talents, the more in the periphery the better. There is a tendency to show cultural-geographical realities instead of dealing with purely artistic questions. But in general, I must say that through art I learn more about similarities and differences in the world than what I do from, for example, today’s mass-media.