Monday, September 28, 2009

Postscript To Institutional Critique

In the 35 years since the introduction of the term "institutional critique" the inner workings of the art world have been examined and exploited to the point of redundancy. While this popular practice has not necessarily led to more transparent dealings it certainly represents a critical shift in the theoretical discourse that brought art history into the new millenia. But as evident by the waining proclivity towards that kind of introspective interrogation, the institutions governing art are no longer of interest as theoretical fodder for artists.

Though interest in the mechanisms of the art world has largely dissipated, the system of critical inquiry employed by so call "institutional critics" is still very much alive in this generation of artists and activists. However, the institutions of interest to artists working today are fundamentally different both in scope and application.

Largely indebted to activist (and hacktivist) art movements of the last 30 years, the new generation of artists working under the guise of institutional critique seek not, as there predecessors, to merely expose their oppressors but to engage in a dialogue with them; to subvert in a way that is not purely symbolic (and in this sense they fall in closer with neo-dadaist and situationist traditions of detournment) to use the logic of the system against itself.

Artists like Jill Magid (who tap into closed circuit television systems) and activist groups like The Center for Applied Autonomy (who create cellphone applications for mob communication) work not simply to inform but to defeat oppressive institutions.

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