Claire Bishop - Aesthetic/Ethical - Critical Modalities


We've mentioned Claire Bishop's article "The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents" in the 2/06 issue of ArtForum in a previous post. We are revisiting it here to continue to develop our position. In the essay, she critiques the turn to ethical criticism over aesthetic judgments when writing about socially engaged work. She specifically critiques Maria Lind's essay "Actualisation of Space: The Case of Oda Projesi" in Contemporary Art: from Studio to Situation edited by Claire Doherty as an example of the focus on the ethical dimensions of work rather than on its "conceptual density" or "artistic significance."

Bishop is especially bothered by the latter, "...Lind downplays what might be interesting in Oda Projesi's work as art [emphasis hers]..." She registers the same complaint in referencing Grant Kester's book Conversation Pieces and Erik Hagoort's Good Intentions: Judging the Art of Encounter, "In each of these examples, authorial intentionality (or a humble lack thereof) is privileged over a discussion of the work's conceptual significance as a social and aesthetic [emphasis mine] form."

Bishop is pretty succinct with her position in the earlier part of her essay when she writes, "...I would argue that it is also crucial to discuss, analyze, and compare such work critically as art [her emphasis]." She proceeds to lay out two poles in a "standoff" in debates around social practices between the "nonbelievers" and the "believers." She offers (a point of which we were reminded by a comment on the earlier post):

"The former, at their most extreme, would condemn us to a world of irrelevant painting and sculpture, while the latter have a tendency to self-marginalize to the point of inadvertently reinforcing art's autonomy, thereby preventing any productive rapprochement between art and life."

Now we've really arrived at the crux of the matter for LeisureArts and we will develop our position in the post here: Maria Lind - Tactical/Agnostic - Ted Purves