Magazine article Canadian Dimension

It's the Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

It's the Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory

Article excerpt

It's the Political Economy, Stupid

The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory

Edited by Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler, Pluto Press (2013)

EXHIBITION CATALOGUES RARELY SERVE as more than an archive, but here the difference is by design. Envisioned as a series of intersecting projects, It's the Political Economy, Stupid exists independently of--and parallel to--four site-responsive exhibitions (with more stops to come) and various public programming. The texts selected by the curators/ editors suitably address the complex situation of art, art-making, and artists within the realities of contemporary global capitalism. Although previous consideration of the socio-cultural value of art beyond its capacity to decorate, entertain, or convey individual emotion is helpful to unpack the ideas presented, it is not mandatory. Brian Holmes's "Art After Capitalism" provides a great summary of contemporary art forms and ponders their transformative potential. Beyond that, there are many topics that readers reasonably wary of art due to its predominantly complicit position in relation to capitalism will find interesting, such as Julia Bryan-Wilson's "Occupational Realism," which discusses whether an artist can be considered a worker.

As a curator of socially and politically motivated practices in contemporary art, I found it surprising that writers in an otherwise radical publication seemed concerned about maintaining distinctions between art and life (e.g. Bryan-Wilson's suggestion that losing the capacity to name something definitely as art serves neoliberalism's obsession with constant productivity), or that aesthetic originality matters ("Derivative Days" by Melanie Gilligan), but these are only two of many threads offered for contemplation, and I was ultimately moved to think about ways art is helped or hindered by institutional structures, including public galleries and the market. …

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