What We Talk About When We Talk About Art. Discourses of Art, Discourses of the World

17/Jan/19 — 19/Jan/19, Museo Nacional de Antropología
Director: João Fernandes

The more we talk about art, the more its manifestations proliferate on the planet; the more a significant economy develops and is present in numerous moments of contemporary social life, the less place seems to exist for a specific discourse of art and about art. Critical discourses appear today in crisis; many artists and other protagonists of the artistic context seem to renounce what is specific in art as experience and transformation of life, while absorbing discourses originated by other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, anthropology or political studies, for example. It has become necessary and urgent to interrogate the reasons and circumstances behind the disappearance of what exists as particular and unique in the experience of art. It is not about claiming an autonomy of art, to return to Greenberg or the romantic paradigm of art for art, but to understand what the possibilities that making art, or constructing a critical discourse about it, can add to the experience of the contemporary world: to the subversion of its stereotypes, to the extension of the perception of its realities, to the invention of other realities, to possible alternatives to the dominant political and cultural models.


1. Philosophy and History in Contemporary Critical Discourse

Today, questioning the evidence and rationale behind the crisis in critical discourse is a necessary discussion. Art discourse has always incorporated the different approaches that intersect it and confront its specificity and its ability to adapt. Philosophy and history are matrices in relation to which art positions and redefines itself. It is important to reflect on how this occurs in our own time, associating new and old possibilities for its expression and concepts.

2. Museums and Social Anesthesia

Today’s contemporary art museums are also forums for critical discussion as well as social and political activism in which artworks, exhibitions and the activities they present take on a central role. How effective is that role when they open up to these dimensions? Are art institutions organizations that construct a social identity and platforms for action that provide results in society? Or do they function as new spaces of anesthesia for tensions and the conflicts driven by the real-world powers that finance them and determine the course of their existence?

3. Referents and references 1: Is All Art a Form of Literature? Or is It Anthropology?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Fernando Pessoa wrote that all art is a form of literature. Since then, a great deal has changed in the relationship between art and literature. How can we revisit that question today vis-à-vis practices of writing and contemporary artistic creation? In a world that is decolonializing and re-colonializing in very strange ways, how do we redefine these creations within the context of an anthropology of the present?

4. Referents and references 2: Do the Arts Cross-contaminate?

Cross-contamination among different forms of artistic expression has always been a part of their respective histories. How do we articulate the relationship between space and time, as well as between different supports and languages, in light of new, redefining horizons in the visual arts, cinema, music or dance? How do they confront one another, using the pressures of new reception contexts, in a society increasingly beholden to spectacle and globalized mass entertainment?