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The Escapologist. Rasheed Araeen and the transformative potential of art beyond art


Rasheed Araeen's Art Beyond Art belongs to that select category of artists' writings that includes Allan Kaprow's Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, Martha Rosler's Decoys and Disruptions, Robert Smithson's Collected Writings, or Jimmie Durham's A Certain Lack of Coherence, which at once stake out irreversible art-historical positions and exemplify the full heuristic power of theory when pursued as a full-fledged practice. The practice of theory, of course, has never been a sideline pursuit for Araeen, the founding editor of Third Text -- a journal whose purpose and accomplishment it was to eke out a space of possibility for practices that actually existed but had no oversight on their conditions of visibility. Third Text's controlled coefficient of specific visibility as a collective, conceptual artwork situated it in the "art-beyond-art" category -- that is, of practices whose self-understanding is as art, but which manage to avoid being performed as art, somehow foiling the powerful apparatus of performative capture within what Araeen calls "the legitimising prisonhouse" of bourgeois aesthetics. Though Third Text, as we know, has since been captured by those very forces it had set out to challenge, Rasheed Araeen, we can be sure, eludes capture.