Insolent Dialogues

31/Aug/06 — 02/Sep/06, Teatro de los Insurgentes
Director: Ivo Mesquita

The fifth edition of SITAC approches the ways in which the nature of certain current artistic practices are changing the role of institutionalized art spaces, while they create interdisciplinary territories where both community members and public charge starring roles to be involved in collaborations with creators and producers in diverse areas such as mass media, sociology and anthropology, literature and music, science and technology. As a result, artists attempt to redefine the role of the museum, gallery, exhibition space, stressing the boundaries between public and private, questioning the system of the culture economy entertainment and rethinking the links between ethics and aesthetics.


1. Insolent Dialogues


Ivo Mesquita

Under globalization—the long process of developing and perfecting capitalism which began in the late fifteenth century with the voyages of discovery and the arrival of the Portuguese fleet in Japan—art, its professionals and its institutions have apparently ceased to be an autonomous field as envisioned by Modernity, and become a powerful economic and symbolic sector in the negotiations and agencies that seek to mitigate and render more just this irreversible and overwhelming process with all its modes of operation and production.

Today, the expanded and overpopulated territory of art is a broad field where the traditional protagonists coexist with and confront new creative, collaborative and observing agents which—possessing financial investments unlike any before seen in this circle—finally gave rise to a kind of planned Babel where all differences had been smoothed over. Nevertheless, someone with more experience in navigating this terrain is left with the sense of having passed through a kind of endless entropy, some kind of saturation or weariness of current affairs: culture as spectacle, the creation of cultural policies and the privatization of cultural economy, the industry of tourism and leisure, the monotony of art fairs and biennials, the market’s power over any circle… But at the same time, something new or renewed can be sensed in certain institutional proposals or art practices that insert diversity and vitality into a process of provocation and confrontation, giving it a breath of fresh and productive air.

One might think that a globalized art serves the globalized economy—mitigating or disguising the most urgent issues facing the world today, caused by this same economy: inequality, migration, exile, the degradation of work and the environment, the growing numbers of dispossessed and marginal populations. Never before has art—and surprisingly, contemporary art—been so popular! Exhibitions became fundamental strategies for cultural policy, whether at a private or a public level, in its quest to present creative practices, expressions and voices from all over the planet. Art and culture, associated with notions of identity and representativity, are among the most visible signs in public spaces today.

There is also a renewed interest in collective work, in collaboration, involving multiple creators. Collaborations of all types have emerged as an alternative to the predominant focus on solo work. If we view these movements positively, they may turn out to provide new possibilities for the transformation of the circuit, able to displace the strategies used by art as a mode of social inclusion within what Nicholas Borriaud calls “relational aesthetics.”

Impertinent Dialogues represents an attempt to map out the contemporary art scene, taking into account the many possibilities it presents, the different voices that are heard, in order to analyze certain themes in which issues currently under debate seem to converge.

I) Artistic Practices

Frequently, discussions in the artistic milieu seem to be displaying a shift, a transition, from the notion of artwork as artistic production to that of the art practice. What kind of reconstruction does this new definition of the function of art point to? The fact is, in order to realize their work, many artists are establishing interdisciplinary territories where the members of different communities as well as the public at large are given leading roles, and which involve the collaboration of other creators and producers in fields such as the mass media, sociology and anthropology, music and literature, science and technology. As a result, these artists are redefining the role of traditional institutions and programs, opening up new spaces and exploiting new possibilities for the intervention and inscription of the work. In this manner, they set in motion a criticism of the system, the economy of art and the spectacle of culture, while at the same time reorganizing the links between ethics and aesthetics, knowledge and citizenship. How is the collaboration between artists and other creators and professionals (scientists, writers, filmmakers) changing the traditional notion of the artist and art’s mode of production? What form do working relationships in this interdisciplinary field take? How is the funding for these projects administrated? Is this new form of production transforming the structure of museums and exhibitions, or have the same models promoting strategies for the marketing and commercialization of the cultural industry persisted?

The artist has become the organizer of a project that occurs outside the traditional studio—where he used to work alone—with new relationships and work conditions that problematize the nature and system of art: production, market, institutions. With long-term programs and projects, designed as a process of researching and producing possibilities for the experience of art, these practices are creating new narrative forms and new records and documentation based on a critical examination and analysis of the status of art and the contemporary artist in the face of new social, political and institutional demands.

II) Dislocated Spaces

Taking this as its theme, the Fifth International Symposium on Contemporary Art Theory proposes to discuss how art institutions today reflect art’s changing status. Indeed, there is a keen sense of a certain dysfunctionality in the system. Perhaps cultural organizations and their programs have lost or veered away from the ideals that instituted them. Today, collaborations, interdisciplinarity, site-specific work, works in progress and interventions seem to be the privileged strategies of art practice. To what point did these practices trigger the avant-garde proposals of the 1960s and 1970s, like Fluxus and the situationists? What models are possible for art institutions today, taking into account the demands of producing a work—capital, equipment, technology— as well as the available media in spaces considered to be alternative?

III) Public and Private

Certain contemporary art practices have nourished populist and tutelary cultural policies on the part of the State and, frequently, on the part of transnational corporate cultural marketing. In the public sector, there has been a clear transfer of responsibilities over to the capital of large international corporations which now fund museums and exhibitions, as fewer public resources are being allocated to organizations working in the field of art. At the same time, art and culture have been transformed into more visible elements in the public space and the media, or into a hub of attraction with different political aims: public education, philanthropy, social participation, etc. The fact is that today, public and private sectors exert a much stronger influence over the control of established resources in that sector. What is the impact of this process on artistic production and institutional programs, and what are its consequences? What will happen to art’s freedom of investigation and speculation when it becomes dependent on private sponsorship? In this model, is there a greater risk that censorship will be used?

Alongside these three general themes, another issue is raised by the Fifth International Symposium on Contemporary Art Theory, something that pervades the contemporary art scene: Art History, museums’ raison d’être. Currently, there is a tendency to historicize recent artistic production, in the sense of inscribing it in the great Western tradition of art history, especially that of the avant-garde movements after Modernity. At the same time, postmodern criticism, multiculturalism and globalization attempt to provide some legitimacy and a context, a history, in order to reveal the diversity of cultures from which non-mainstream artists hail. Despite the mistakes that are often committed in the name of different disciplines, this need to create a connected narrative now seems to be inherent to institutions’ work with art. As Hans Belting points out, “Every new narrative of art or art history needs its own context to legitimize itself. It is only legible within a context that it itself produces.” What is history today? What kind of narrative can be constructed based on contemporary art practices, dislocated spaces and interdisciplinary territories? What kinds of documents constitute those militant productions that are committed to a politico-ideological role? And what constitutes the other art histories, produced from the periphery, from the perspective of the minorities, of blended cultures?

Maybe these questions are not very original, and maybe this isn’t the first time they have been posed. But faced with a reality in which the ablest and most committed agents have little power to intervene and make changes, all that remains is to continue with the conversations and the analysis. They may not come up with any answers, but they cannot remain silent. They have to keep asking and talking, forever.

To conclude, I would like to draw your attention to the Latin American tenor of this symposium, given that most of the panelists are from this continent. But it isn’t nationality or community that we mean to reaffirm here. Our intention is to work and to analyze our presence in the art world today, our original and timely contribution, and see what impertinences we can contribute to this globalized art and cultural scene. I hope you enjoy it.

2. Artistic Practices

In recent years, there has been an increase in the interest for collective or collaborative production, transposing the more traditional focus of individual work or the art object, in favor of a collaborative activity with the community and other social stratum. Thus, the artist becomes an articulator of his collaborators, in a realm outside of the traditional studio formula, with new exchanges and working conditions that put a halt on the nature and the system of art -its production, its market, its institutions- as well as its long-range programs for research and production of knowledge. The outcome aims towards the examination of the contemporary artist's status above and beyond the latest political, social and institutional demands.

3. Inter / Discipline

This encounter concentrates on the diversity of collaboration forms between the artist and other authors and professionals (scientists, writers, film-makers, etc.) in the creation of an interdisciplinary space for artistic practice.

How does this perception engage the traditional artist's position and his production of art? How do these relationships work? How are these projects financed? Is the emerging production of artists the element of transformation for museums and exhibitions? Or is it the result of market tactics and strategies in complicity with cultural industries and tourism?

4. History

Today there is a tendency to historicize the diversity of art production modes by inserting them into the greater tradition of Western Art History. Be it the history of the Avant-garde or other cases such as Post-Modernity, multiculturalism and globalization, or even the diversity of cultures pertaining to artists working outside the mainstream circuits. In spite of the many mistakes, which are often made in the name of discipline, this need for a continuous narrative would seem to be the result of institutional involvement in art practice. In the words of Hans Belting: "Each new art narrative or art history needs to legitimate its own framework. It is only legible within the framework it produces for itself". What is History today? What kind of narratives can be constructed as of Contemporary Art practices, dislocated spaces and "exhibitions"? Which are the documents belonging to this politically militant production? What about the other art histories being produced by the peripheries, from the perspective of minorities and mixed cultures?

5. Dislocated Spaces

This panel panel discusses the ways in which today's art institutions reflect the changes in the status of art production: strategies such as interdisciplinary and collaborative work, interventions, site-specific work and work in progress, which are so common to art practice. How have they been the source of the Avant-guards of the sixties like Fluxus, Conceptualism and Situationism? Where are the new models for public institutions, considering current requisites, such as capital, equipment and technology, as well as the available means in so-called alternative institutions?

6. Public / Private

So far, certain contemporary art practices, because of certain twists in the system, have created a populist cultural dependency vs. the State. Today, there si a clear turnover of this responsibility on the part of Public Institutions, which are now seeking corporate support to finance their museums and exhibition programs, in the face of a decrease in public funding for art projects. At the same time, art and culture are becoming more visible items in the public sphere and the media, and are now a centre of attraction for many political agendas: education, philanthropy, social participation, etc. The fact is that there is a greater desire -both in the public and the private- to control the resources of this particular area of influence. What are the consequences and the impact of this process in art production within institutional programs? What happens with free speculation and research when they become dependant on private funding? Could this be a source of censorship?

7. Lista de obra