Etikettarkiv: Art Criticism

Black Swan Theory as a Means To Reinvigorate Art Criticism

Is art a Black Swan?

In my new article in Expressen I make the case for connecting the cultural criticism of late with the almost seamless expansion of science and other knowledge systems of today. I use Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan Theory in order to argue for a greater diversity in analysis and interpretation within the field of art criticism, but without a doubt this is a reasoning that should infiltrate all cultural, philosophical and political criticism.

Art rascal Lars Vilks comments and briefly dismisses my points as ”already been tried” and misses his own point that art today must gather its raison d’être from without the art field. Thus, to best analyze the expanding field of art, critics should at least try to develop their limited and one-sighted experience and knowledge. Art really creates black swans all the time, I can just mention some recent examples in Marcel Duchamp, Warhol and Cindy Sherman. The entire field of art has been forced to re-examine its paradigm because these individuals found new ways of looking. So today, I predict that science, economics or ethnology will strong allies in the next game change.

Nassim Nicholas Talebs recently wrote this beautiful piece about the human and natural economic worlds. Read it!

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Crisis in Criticism – It’s Back and Already Over

After all the commotion of the deafened voice of the grand cultural critic, apparently criticism is back in style. Both swedish magazine 00-tal and Paletten is recently discussing how and why the very act of criticism is important. Two new book s are also in this vicinity of how, why and for whom criticism is ushered: Andreas Åberg’s book Den vältempererade kritiken and Thomas Anderberg’s Alla är vi kritiker.

My take on this is the obvious proliferation of the act of writing (blogs, communities, magazines, etc) combined with the new economy of attention. The more information we have, the more we would like to make sense of how to value it. blogs are great tool for this but the obvious question has already permeated the debate or long: how to trust the bloggers out there. Let’s hope for a new debate and some results shortly.

More on the topic here and here and an article onhttp://www.svd.se/kulturnoje/nyheter/stefan-eklund-kritiken-som-slutade-lyssna_4173271.svd.

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New Interview with artist Bo Christian Larsson

Larsson_Welcome_to_the_jungleAs I reported in a previous post, The Hayward Gallery in London recently opened a summer show on the aesthetic brain called Walking in my mind. I caught up with the only Swedish participant in the show, Bo Christian Larsson, for a brief interview through the web. In the interview I ask him about his work, the theme of the exhibition and what he reckons of the critic as a neurologist.

Jump to the text to find out what he answered.

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Swedish Artworld – Sex, Lies and Gender Inequality

img018The Swedish Artworld is a patriachy, and much work needs to be made before we reach equality between the sexes. This sentiment comes from journalist and feminist Vanja Hermele who just published the book Konsten – Så Funkar Det (Inte). the book has been funded and comissioned by KRO, the Swedish National artist organization and containes some 30 interviews with power people of the Swedish Artworld. The book is a vrilliant run down of the flawed reasoning of many of the important figures of the art world.

In Konstnären, connected to KRO, a round table is made with yours truly as some kind of expert panelist. Some interesting point are also brought up there and this, one of the most important debates in contaporary society, will continue.

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Anna Odell and Her Artwork – The H is O

The heat is on: the loooooooongly anticipated artwork by Konstfack student Anna Odell is now in the limelight at the graduation show at Telefonplan untill the 29th May. Now we can finally review the entirity of the endeavor that in Sweden has been labelled "Anna Odell-skandalen". The work is nicly placed in the most shurky room at the school (the exclusivity and soft power of her work seems to be without precedence, at this point!). It consists of four videos, three black cubes and one discussion piece. Swedish Public Radio did a swift and interesting live review of the work with Martin Agaard and Mårten Arndtzén. They both criticized the work for not fulfilling its main stated goal of showing the cracks and inertia of the Swedish mental care, all she proved was that it actually works!, they both echoed. And yes sure, they have a point, but if and only if they take her loosly stated goal of the project as a arithmetic postulate of the artwork, from which it logically must not deviate.

87260I do not think you can reduce the work just to be fulfilling that initial goal, that in itself has been modified in certain ways. And, yes, this work CAN be compared to journalism or a scientific investigation, but that is not saying it cannot be somthing else as well. And asking a journalist/artist to be scientifically acute while using the commonplace rhetoric like "investigating" is failing to see what is really going on.

There are problems with the piece, but it is well executed and almost a Swedish classic by now. Her main work is for me the part of contacting organisations around Sweden to find out the legality of the (then) forthcoming execution of the piece. It puts into play what it means to be an art student, creating a work that questions boundaries between law and morality, grounded in her own personal history. Almost a perfekt school example, so to speak. This part of her work is very well made, don’t miss it!

What seems to be at the core of the debate is whether the work can be said to have practical utility, or be just in a moral and legal sense. Moral philosopher Torbjörn Tännsjö does not see any principal problems with the civil disobedience part of Odell’s artwork, but  he clearly states that the only justification of civil disobedience is proving REAL incongruities within the mental care system, which we can all agree, she hasn’t. But what we see here is not only a category of civil disobedience, but also and economic exchange, where she artistically acts self therapeutic in order to publicly reveal the emotions she herself experienced 13 years ago. Now when she has gotten prosecuted, as Vilks states, it will only make her stronger and begin the discussion about the economics of breaking the law, something Tim Harford and other behavioral economists have written about. Please comment, keep bloggin!

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Totally Un-Unreadable Books – How does Amazon Know?

Amazon has some pretty handy systems of book recommendations running on their servers, but as a customer you cannot help feeling a bit controlled, moulded and steered in certain (money spending) directions. Through their system om gathering what you buy and what others buy, they keep your interest up. A braniac at Google Answers makes some good points on the behaviour of why we buy at Amazon; its is basically a simple algorithmic model combined with a large pool of data on how we spend money, but it does in return, seldom register information of what we think about certain books. amazon_download_free_books_digital_pdfAmazon has a rating system but which is still arbitrary, not compulsive to fill in. Buying a cookbook by Bill Gates, for example, would not decisively signal if you like cooking in general or just wish out find out about the richest nerd ever lived. In an interview with Steven Johnson, author of Interface Culture, he further comments this, and connects it more to how the brain registers and ignores information clusters, compared to, say, ants.

But all this aside I do want to reccomend a few no-brainers-to-buy: Last year’s most I’am-a-highbrow-Dan-Brown-hating-V.S.-Naipaul-reading-intellctual title is certainly Neuroarthistory: From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki, by John Onians. Its a must-have. Upcoming in November 2009 is Irving Massey‘s The Neural Imagination: Aesthetic and Neuroscientific Approaches to the Arts. Should be an interesting comparison within the fields of art and nueroscience. obamaArtist and former neurologist Warren Neidich‘s new book Lost Between the Extensivity / Intensivity Exchange with essays by Sven-Olov Wallenstein, among others should be great. Last but not least is Shepard Fairey‘s Art for Obama: Designing the Campaign for Change. I really want ot find out the deal with that one!

For a less bluntly promoted marketplace of books, check the books.google.com that is getting flak from all corners of the world for their new book scanning project. Making all books searchable is one of the greatest endeavor of humanity, I dare to say. Go Google, Go!

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The Crisis Makes for Better Art, More Blunt Talk About Morals

We now treat Le Crisis as an old bad-mannered acquaintance; we rely on it for explanations of fallacies in the present and can rightfully curb our optimism and striving for a better future because of it. As I wrote in January the artworld is by and large avoiding addressing the crisis both since the artwolrd reacts with a certain time gap toward economic and political change and because individual artistic prosperity is never dependant on the larger turnings of the economy. We know Christes and Sothebys have done bad lately, but that does not affect artists and curators as much as it affects collectors and art advisers. Artistic value is at most times created as a reaction to an outside world which one cannot protect, change or revolutionize (Although, these three sets of values seem to be the most sought after by artists during the last decade).

keycrisiscover1929The great economist Amartya Sen writes the most affecting of all the analyses of the present economic turmoil in the New York Book review. He has focused much of his economic outlook in from the writings of economist Adam Smith, who also happened to be Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. Sen has written about this part of economic history in the brilliant On Ethics and Economics from 1991 (Read it!).

In his article he goes back to the moral philosopher once more:

While he [Adam Smith] wrote that ”prudence” was ”of all the virtues that which is most useful to the individual,” Adam Smith went on to argue that ”humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit, are the qualities most useful to others.” Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere, but first, they required support from other institutions—including public services such as schools—and values other than pure profit seeking, and second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions—e.g., well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor—for preventing instability, inequity, and injustice.

Some pretty interesting points made during the 1700!

We can now observe that historically, capitalism did not emerge until new systems of law and economic practice started to protect property rights and created an economy based on ownership. We can now outline a capitalism that is built of institutional values, as long as these value do not deviate too much from the Real World (The Pirate Bay convictions yesterday is a good example of institutional property right far behind existing technologies and desires of the industrialized world.)

An interesting point of observation is made in the latest issue of KRO’s Konstnären Magazine by journalist Anders Mildner about the production of art in times of crisis. Stockholm gallery owner Magnus Karlsson asserts that the recession brings out more focus on the creative process instead of large-scale glossy art. Lars Vilks agrees when he states that commercially viable art by default is put of the meat wagon and the focus changes from the status of the object to the introspection of structures within the (art)world. Somehow this is commonplace knowledge but still important to explicate in order to tear down the wall of artistic autonomy being built up by the art market, and the fact that Magnus Karlsson comment on this is a good sign.

It is still really bad though, that Mildner finishes the article by muttering over the many answers he got from artists thet wanted to stay anonymous. This lack of openness and lucidity over the means and ends of art production makes me really sick and we should start campaining to get these issues more present in today’s art education all over the world. Because despite all leaps of faith that thousands of art students make each year before entering the market, Damien Hirsts f***** up proclamation during his 2 billion dollars auction in September 2008 says it all about the lack of history and transparency of the artworld: “The future looks great for everyone”.

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Book about HUO’s Science Marathon Hits The Shelves

cover_dec9_2The most tenacious curator around – Hans Ulrich Obrist – moves his marathon project he started at The Sepentine a few years ago to a collaborative model with John Brockman, a New York based literary agent and publisher of Edge.org into book form. People like biologist Ricky Dawkins, cognitive scientist Stevie Pinker and genome sequencer Craigie Venter have all been present at the ”Experiment Marathon” during 2007 and later in Reykjavik Art Museum, involving Olafur Eliasson as well. Over 100 figures from the art world and science have been involved and I will defintley try to get my hand on this one asap.

Until then watch videos from the Marathon.

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(New) Institutional Theory and The Swedish Report on Culture

The theory of new institutionalism as first formulated in 1984 by political scientists James March and Johan Olsen largely as a reaction to a stale function of ‘old’ institutionalism, they proposed a rethinking of the slumbering discussion of how and why institutions shape human behavior and thoughts and political governance. They envisioned a deviation from the ongoing political analysis that focused more on values and collective choice and desire, thus likely to shake the ground of rational choice theorists who believed that institution merely are the accumulation of individual choices based on utility-maximizing preferences. New Institutionalism was formulated from within the field of political science but have had ramifications in all social sciences since, and could well be repeated whilst browsing through the report on culture, that I commented on previously. March and Olsen write:

The bureaucratic agency, the legislative committee, the appellate court are arenas for contending social forces, but they are also collections of standard operating procedures and structures that define and defend interests. They are political actors in their own right. (1984, The New Institutionalism, James March and Johan Olsen)

Reading trough the report on culture I stop to think at page 30, in the 2nd part of the report The Reneawal Program (Förnyelseprogram), where the investigation develops ideas on why it has envisioned the massive reorganisation of Swedish governmental cultural institutions; the organisations that are to be formed will be ”more stable” and easier facilitate contact with ”other organisations” and ”interests”.

Now I agree that the first real report on culture back in ’74 did envision a new cluster of state organisations for cultural policy which today have come stale and old and thus are in a need of certain transformation and radicalisation. What scares me most about the vision presented in the new report is the view of the modulence of institutions to fit and adapt to the consumer of culture (or rather the pro-sumer), in such a blunt way that we tend to forget the aspects of production modes which shape what kind of culture we cultural workers are instigating. No contrast this to the interesting vision of critic Nina Möntmann in her essay The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism – Perspectives on a Possible Future in Trasversal, where she uses some case studies to look at how western styled art institutions can radicalize and shape an interesting structure for producers and consumers alike. Her recommendations are contrary to that of the report on culture, namely to shrink and facilitate devolution of current institutions:  

”…reduce the number of structures and standards, and disengage spaces from too many codes and contexts. Here, where we have an institutionalized art field – and consequently the opportunities to participate in semi-public spaces, but also the difficulties caused by the control mechanisms of these spaces – the options are somewhat different. Here there are inherently many categories and conventions for all kinds of art spaces, and alternatives are always measured against the official system that already exists and is increasingly defined by the politics of city marketing and sponsorship.”

Möntmanns starting point is the artworld integration of New Institutionalism, seen during the first part of 2000 in Rooseum nad Kunst-Werke in Berlin, breaking down barriers between the audience and the institutions. The project displayed there was exercising critique from within the institution, as a consequence of the strong curator that internalised the institutions critique of the 60’s into a structure for production and consumption = prosumption.

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Nina Möntmann begs to disagree with the Swedish cultural report's take on institutions of the future

OCA in Oslo published the booklet New Institutionalism in 2003 and brought the term into an art context, of course without much of the observations of James March and Johan Olsen, but through the concept of ”the institution of critique”, stemming from the seminal article on instutitional critique in the by artist Andrea Fraser. Many observers including Nina Möntmann, Tone Hansen, Trude Iversen (The new administration of aesthetics, 2006) and others view this period as lost to a fast and brutal neoliberal economy exploding in our face.  Well, new times cause for new solutions and I believe that the new institutions must make use of mechanisms of the economy rather than just fighting against it. not to be compared to just following the economy, but rather opposing it through its own mechanisms of destruction and change.

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New Definition of Art by the Swedish Minister of Culture – It’s All ‘Bout Morals

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth jumps out of her closet to issue a strange critique of the institutional definition of art after seeing a video of graffiti artist NUG. The question must be if certain levels of moral crossings should be forbidden or condemned by the artworld and its institutions. Of course, as she suggests in this interview, killing someone should not be equaled as art, but how do we look upon civil disobedience or activism? There is an interesting text of art and morals in the anthology Arguing About Art, review of it here.

Watch a funny remix of the statement by Pluskvam or is it Lars Vilks:

Or the original video here

Stay tuned fo mo on this topic.

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