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escapology

Saturday, 01. December 2012 | 02:00 (tz: Europe/Amsterdam)

& then you disappear

dear_art

Toward the end of the 1990s, Zagreb conceptualist Mladen Stilinovic wrote an open letter to art -- not so much a love letter as some words of solace for an old friend in a pinch. The decade had been rough. Yet Stilinovic avoids the question of art's political content altogether. He commiserates about the different forms of capture to which art has increasingly fallen prey -- ideological capture, to be sure, and mercantile capture, in an attention economy where attention-getting is already emerging as the dominant form of capital accumulation. Yet to have the market pay attention at all requires submitting art to institutional capture, since to accept that art's value is merely what the market says its value is, requires accepting that art be what the institution says it is. To distinguish art from the mere real thing, as the champions of institutional theory cleverly put it, to have those objects and actions, all and sundry, appear under the auspices of art, is to submit them to a form of performative capture, through which they are performed as art. And for this reason, Stilinovic suggests, art ultimately finds itself in the grips of ontological capture -- the price exacted for it to be art at all is that it be... just art. It is not so much that art has exhausted the repertory of decoys and feints with which it has been allowed to play, as that all its ploys and sleights of hand have now been mapped out, made predictable.

 
Sunday, 21. October 2012 | 15:15 (tz: Europe/Amsterdam)

Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers

up_against_the_wall

The defining characteristic of the art-historical present is, arguably, art's impulse to escape from itself. This escapological drive has nothing to do with some flight of fancy from unpleasant realities. Quite the contrary it is motivated by the will or even need to directly confront, on the 1:1 scale, those realities -- something art has by and large proven unable, or unwilling, to do. This drive is not characterized exclusively by the desire to escape ideological capture, though that is surely part of the motivation; nor even to escape institutional capture, with its debilitating prescriptions of visibility, though that too is a key factor. As art seeks to self-extract from art itself, sundering itself from being art per se, art seems to be trying to operate without being performed as such -- escaping performative capture, giving itself space to take action without being performed as just art. One might go a step further: the current escapological moment appears to be driven by art's far more profound concern to escape ontological capture. In other words, to escape having its being in the world immediately cordoned off, and hence written off, as mere art.

 

Stephen Wright

Stephen Wright is a Paris-based art writer and teaches the practice of theory at the European School of Visual Arts (eesi.eu). His writing has focused primarily on the politics of usership, particularly in contexts of collaborative, extradisciplinary practices with variable coefficients of art. His current research seeks to understand the ongoing usological turn in art and society in terms of contemporary escapological theory and practice. In 2004, he curated The Future of the Reciprocal Readymade (Apexart, New York), in 2005 In Absentia (Passerelle, Brest), in 2006 Rumour as Media (Aksanat, Istanbul) and Dataesthetics (WHW, Zagreb), and is currently preparing, amongst other projects, Withdrawal: The Performative Document (New York) as part of a series of exhibitions examining art practices with low coefficients of artistic visibility, which raise the prospect of art without artworks, authorship or spectatorship. Born in 1963 in Vancouver, Canada, he lives and works in Paris.