2. Moscow Biennale of Contempoary Art, Nicolas Bourriaud: Stock Zero, Or The Icy Water Of Egoistical Calculation | Moscow-City, Federation Tower | 1.3.–1.4.2007
with Michael Sailstorfer, Johannes Wohnseifer, Jordan Wolfson
Nothing but Footnotes?
Nothing but Footnotes?
Art in the Epoch of Social Darwinism
event site and dates Moscow-City, Federation Tower 2 march 2007 — 1 april 2007
Artworks included in this section of the Main Project are to promote the awareness of the situation art is facing today. Contemporary art and the humanitarian culture as a whole are losing what may be called their “legitimizing function”. This is precisely why today we speak of Footnotes, notes that art can leave on the margins of macroeconomic battles, of the crucial importance of the artist’s comment on statements made in the language of the Capital and Big Politics.
The very theme of Footnotes refers to the issue of what place contemporary art is trying to occupy in the contemporary world, and the significance of contemporary art as a universal comment on everything that happens in the surrounding reality.
Today this problem may be formulated in the following way: what survival struggle is going on in the epoch of globalization, and could one say that the fight for survival has become more severe compared to the preceding historical periods? Does contemporary art have the chance to survive in its “struggle for life” among transnational institutions of the culture industry?
In this respect we should try to define again the peculiarity of the epoch that arrived after the fall of the Berlin wall (1989) and the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991).
There are real grounds to believe that these events concluded a huge historical epoch, the epoch of the New Time when art and culture as a whole formed a crucial part of social ideology. This also determined a privileged position of art and of the artist. Yet, even in the ideological era of Modernity, the role and the position of the artist had substantial differences in liberal regimes, on the one hand, and totalitarian regimes, on the other hand. In both cases, the period of Modernism and Avant-Garde, covering the whole 20th century, and especially pictorial art, claiming an elite place in society, provide specific proof of that. In this sense Modernism concludes the tradition of the Age of Enlightenment.
The neo-liberal reality challenges the artist and forces him or her to develop new survival strategies. One of these strategies is in the creation of artworks fighting against the dominating pop culture and exploiting it in their specific purposes.
The survival of art as an institution in the environment of the globalized market economy proved to be a more complicated task than its survival under the conditions imposed by totalitarian regimes, when art formed a most important part of the dominating ideology. As a matter of fact, the artist, being an ideologist in the ideological society, becomes the basic, fundamental figure explaining and justifying this society.
The authorities are forced to use the language of art and speak in the language of art.
Contemporary pictorial art existed as a form of reflecting its own self, of its subject and history, especially during the ideological period of its development, and the gestures and the objective expression of art were radicalized, visual signs were created to start radical polemics with the “plasticity values” adopted at the given moment up to their radical renunciation or no less radical deconstruction.
The participants of the Nothing but Footnotes? Art in the Epoch of Social Darwinism project are the artists who work with the abovementioned issues and who are aware of their relation to the artistic strategies of survival and to the situation of art survival and the preservation of the artist as an important subject of political and social criticism. One could say that the participants of this project accept Adorno’s statement who claimed that “culture, in fact, does not just adapt to human existence, but it always protests against the situation of stagnation in which the human being exists and praises the human being with it”.