Resurrected ghosts, living heroes and saintly saviours on the 3rd Floor, 1987–9 4
The ‘painterly real’ of contemporaryart
The ‘painterly real’ of contemporaryart:
resurrected ghosts, living heroes and
saintly saviours on the 3rd Floor, 1987–94
The cultural vanguard of the officially sanctioned opposition
This chapter discusses the 3rd Floor – an artistic movement1 of the late Soviet
and early independence years in Armenia (1987–94) – in its complex relationship with the cultural politics of the perestroika period, the official art of the
Union of Artists of the Soviet Republic of Armenia, and the changing world
of the late Soviet years
I focus on two contemporary art installations in which Teresa Margolles employs
water used to wash corpses during autopsies. By running this water through a fog
machine or through air conditioners, these works incorporate bodily matter but
refuse to depict, identify or locate anybody (or any body) within it. Rather,
Margolles creates abstract works in which physical limits – whether of bodies or
of art works – dissolve into a state of indeterminacy. With that pervasive
distribution of corporeal matter, Margolles charts the dissolution of the
social, political and spatial borders that contain death from the public sphere.
In discussing these works, I consider Margolles’ practice in relation to the
social and aesthetic function of the morgue. Specifically, I consider how
Margolles turns the morgue inside out, opening it upon the city in order to
explore the inoperative distinctions between spaces of sociality and those of
death. In turn, I consider how Margolles places viewers in uneasy proximity to
mortality, bodily abjection and violence in order to illustrate the social,
political and aesthetic conditions by which bodies become unidentifiable. I
ultimately argue that her aesthetic strategies match her ethical aspirations to
reconsider relations to death, violence and loss within the social realm.
Shanghai, long known as mainland China’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, has recently re-emerged as a global capital. Above sea: Contemporary art, urban culture, and the fashioning of global Shanghai offers the first in-depth examination of turn of the twenty-first-century Shanghai-based art and design—from state-sponsored exhibitions to fashionable cultural complexes to cutting-edge films and installations. This book offers a counter-touristic view of one of the world’s fastest developing megacities, one that penetrates the contradictions and buried layers of specific locales and artifacts of visual culture. Informed by years of in-situ research, including interviews with artists and designers, the book looks beyond contemporary art’s global hype to reveal persistent socio-political tensions accompanying Shanghai’s explosive transitions from semi-colonial capitalism to Maoist socialism to Communist Party–sponsored capitalism. Analyses of exemplary design projects such as Xintiandi and Shanghai Tang and artworks by Liu Jianhua, Yang Fudong, Gu Wenda, and others reveal how Shanghai’s global aesthetics construct glamorizing artifices that mask historically rooted cross-cultural conflicts between vying notions of foreign-influenced modernity versus anti-colonialist nationalism, and the city’s repressed socialist past versus its consumerist present. The book focuses on Shanghai-based art and design from the 1990s–2000s, the decades of the city’s most rapid post-socialist development, while also attending to pivotal Republican and Mao-era examples. Challenging the “East-meets-West” clichés that characterize discussions of urban Shanghai and contemporary Chinese art, this book illuminates critical issues facing today’s artists, architects, and designers and provides an essential field guide for students of art, design, art history, urban studies, and Chinese culture.
The book addresses late-Soviet and post-Soviet art in Armenia in the context of turbulent social, political and cultural transformations in the late 1980s, throughout the 1990s and in early 2000s through the aesthetic figure of the ‘painterly real’ and its conceptual transformations. It explores the emergence of ‘contemporary art’ in Armenia from within and in opposition to the practices, aesthetics and institutions of Socialist Realism and National Modernism. The book presents the argument that avant-garde art best captures the historical and social contradictions of the period of the so-called ‘transition,’ especially if one considers ‘transition’ from the perspective of the former Soviet republics that have been consistently marginalized in Russian- and East European-dominated post-Socialist studies. Throughout the two decades that encompass the chronological scope of this work, contemporary art has encapsulated the difficult dilemmas of autonomy and social participation, innovation and tradition, progressive political ethos and national identification, the problematic of communication with the world outside of Armenia’s borders, dreams of subjective freedom and the imperative to find an identity in the new circumstances after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This historical study outlines the politics (liberal democracy), aesthetics (autonomous art secured by the gesture of the individual artist), and ethics (ideals of absolute freedom and radical individualism) of contemporary art in Armenia. Through the historical investigation, a theory of post-Soviet art historiography is developed, one that is based on a dialectic of rupture and continuity in relation to the Soviet past. As the first English-language study on contemporary art in Armenia, the book is of prime interest for artists, scholars, curators and critics interested in post-Soviet art and culture and in global art historiography.
Bound Together: Leather, Sex, Archives, and Contemporary Art considers historic
gay and lesbian leather communities by way of two interrelated lines of enquiry;
addressing the archives where leather histories and their attendant visual and
material objects currently reside, while also examining the projects of
contemporary artists who bring leather histories to the fore, making an implicit
argument for their potential queer political force in the present. Arguing for
an expansive, yet grounded, consideration of the vicissitudes and pleasures of
archival work, the book centers the material and visual cultures produced by
members of gay and lesbian leather communities, tracing their contextual
meanings at the time of their making, as well as their continued ability to
produce community-specific histories in archival repositories (that may or may
not be solely dedicated to leather communities). Contemporary artists such as
Dean Sameshima, Die Kränken, Monica Majoli, A. K. Burns and A. L. Steiner, and
Patrick Staff have incorporated the themes, materialities, and/or histories of
such archival holdings into their heterogeneous practices, establishing leather
history as a persistent and generative touchstone for rethinking queer life,
relationality, and sexual politics.
Within the visual arts, speculation concerning the paranormal, haunting, spiritualism, and spirit photography expanded enormously in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Focusing on people's complex relationship with technology, this book explores our culture's continued fascination with the spectral, the ghostly and the paranormal. Informed by history and the visual tradition of spiritualism and psychical research, it cites that tradition within our contemporary concerns, such as landscape and environment, and recent technological developments. The book discusses the role of vitalism in contemporary theory, reflecting on what Bergson's interest in spiritualism suggests about the historical and theoretical complexities that lie behind the current uses of vitalism. It examines the twitching gestural engagements with a variety of devices, instruments, and technologies, including the typewriter, the pianola, the slate, and the phonograph. The book highlights that spiritualist phenomena are the result of mendacity on the one side and credulous belief on the other; Dada photomontage the result of painfully keen-eyed despair and a powerful drive to experiment. Resiting spirit photography and the production of 'ectoplasm' within the theatrical tradition of melodrama, the book considers spiritualist manifestations in terms of 'performances for camera'. It pays attention to exhibitions, staged in galleries in the UK and the United States between 2003 and 2007, which paired spirit photographs with examples of contemporary art photography. Finally, the book considers various spectral emanations moving across space and time, and across different discourses the work of John Ruskin, to discuss the relations between haunting and ecological catastrophe.
Travelling images critically examines the migrations and transformations of images as they travel between different image communities. It consists of four case studies covering the period 1870–2010 and includes photocollages, window displays, fashion imagery and contemporary art projects. Through these four close-ups it seeks to reveal the mechanisms, nature and character of these migration processes, and the agents behind them, as well as the sites where they have taken place. The overall aim of this book is thus to understand the mechanisms of interfacing events in the borderlands of the art world. Two key arguments are developed in the book, reflected by its title Travelling images. First, the notion of travel and focus on movements and transformations signal an emphasis on the similarities between cultural artefacts and living beings. The book considers ‘the social biography’ and ‘ecology’ of images, but also, on a more profound level, the biography and ecology of the notion of art. In doing so, it merges perspectives from art history and image studies with media studies. Consequently, it combines a focus on the individual case, typical for art history and material culture studies with a focus on processes and systems, on continuities and ruptures, and alternate histories inspired by media archaeology and cultural historical media studies. Second, the central concept of image is in this book used to designate both visual conventions, patterns or contents and tangible visual images. Thus it simultaneously consider of content and materiality.
Migration, understood as the movement of people and cultures, gives impetus to globalisation and the transculturation processes that the interaction between people and cultures entails. This book addresses migration as a profoundly transforming force that has remodelled artistic and art institutional practices across the world. It explores contemporary art's critical engagement with migration and globalisation as a key source for improving our understanding of how these processes transform identities, cultures, institutions and geopolitics. The book also explores three interwoven issues of enduring interest: identity and belonging, institutional visibility and recognition of migrant artists, and the interrelations between aesthetics and politics, and its representations of forced migration. Transculturality indicates a certain quality (of an idea, an object, a self-perception or way of living) which joins a variety of elements indistinguishable as separate sources. The topic of migration is permeated not only with political but also with ethical urgencies. The most telling sign of how profoundly the mobility turn has affected the visual arts is perhaps the spread of the term global art in the discourses on art, where it is often used as a synonym for internationally circulating contemporary art. The book examines interventions by three artists who take a critical de- and postcolonial approach to the institutional structures and spaces of Western museums. The book also looks at the politics of representation, and particularly the question of how aesthetics, politics and ethics can be triangulated and balanced when artists seek to make visible the conditions of irregular migration.
Staging art and Chineseness is about the politics of borders ascribed to Chinese
contemporary art and the identification of artists by locations and exhibitions.
The paradoxical subject of Chineseness is central to this inquiry, which begins
with the question, what does the term Chinese Art mean in the aftermath of the
globalized shift in art? Through an exploration of embodied and performative
representations (including eco-feminist performances) by artists from China and
diasporic locations, the case studies in this book put to the test the very
premise of the genealogical inscription for cultural objects attributed to the
residency, homeland, or citizenship of the Chinese artist. Acknowledging the
orientalist assumptions and appropriations that Chineseness also signifies, this
study connects the artistic performance to the greater historical scope of
‘geographical consciousness’ envisioned by past and present global expositions.
The emergence of China’s shiyan meishu experimental art movement in the
1980s–1990s has largely been the defining focus for ‘global art’ during the
period when artfairs, biennials, and triennials also came into prominence as the
new globalized art institution (exemplified by China’s first biennial in
Guangzhou). The political aim is to recognize the multiple contradictions and
repetitions of history engendered by art, nationalism, and capital in the legacy
of Althusserian/Maoist interpellations – the reifications of global capitalist
illusions in the twenty-first century are conveyed in this book by performative
artistic expressions and the temporal space of the exposition.
This book examines the impact of Civil Rights, Black Power, the student, feminist and sexual-liberty movements on conceptualism and its legacies in the United States between the late 1960s and the 1990s. It focuses on the turn to political reference in practices originally concerned with abstract ideas. The book traces key strategies in contemporary art to the reciprocal influences of conceptualism and identity politics. The central concept is a reversal of the qualitative assessment made by artist and theorist Joseph Kosuth in 1969. The book overviews the 1960s-1970s shift from disciplinary-based Conceptual Art to an interdisciplinary conceptualism, crediting the influence of contemporaneous politics dominated by identity and issue-based politics. It offers a survey of Adrian Piper's early work, her analytic conceptual investigations, and her transition to a synthetic mode of working with explicit political reference. The book explores how Conceptual Art is political art, analysing several works by synthetic proposition artists. It then surveys several key 1980s events and exhibitions before taking in depth the 1993 Whitney Biennial as its central case study for understanding the debates of the 1980s and the 1990s. Examining the ways in which Hans Haacke's work referenced political subject matter, simultaneously changing the conception of the processes and roles of art-making and art, the book argues against critics who regarded his work to be "about" politics. It also looks at the works of Charles Gaines, David Hammons, Renée Green, Mary Kelly, Martha Rosler, Silvia Kolbowski, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Lorna Simpson, and Andrea Fraser.