Claire Doherty - Studio to Situation - Finn Smith

At Mute Magazine, Finn Smith reviews Contemporary Art from Studio to Situation - Claire Doherty ed.

The book merits some consideration and has been on the LeisureArts "do something with this" list for a few weeks. For now, we'll just focus on the Smith/Doherty exchange. What I find so interesting about the review mentioned above is that Doherty responds to it in the comments section. She makes an articulate and well targeted defense of her work. She is especially good at taking Smith to task for tired complaints of "name dropping" and accusations of scenesterism. In response to another charge about cultivating the "cult of the individual," Doherty rightfully responds:

"On the contrary, I would argue that this book moves beyond an internationally sanctioned list of 'usual suspects' to offer readers a combination of views and opinions on the ways in which artists respond to a variety of contexts through strategic, collective, collaborative and direct action. Is Smith really arguing that the combination of Charlie Gere and Rod Dickinson on Crop Circles, Catherine David and Irit Rogoff on Contemporary Arab Representations and Becky Shaw's project with an Alzheimer's patient is a simply a process of art-world list making?"

Smith deserves credit for tackling a complex book and devoting a good deal of energy in laying out a critical framework for engaging the book, but the review doesn't really ask any interesting questions. Instead we're mired down in pointless requests for definitions that are beyond the scope of the book or would needlessly fill it with addenda. For instance:

"Where is the evidence that this leads to increased opportunities for long-term engagement and what is actually meant by ‘engagement’ and ‘long-term’? Why should ‘long-term’ be positive?"

To this sort of thing we might well ask: what is meant by 'evidence?' what are 'opportunities?' and how do we know if they're 'increasing?' You get the picture.

Doherty's summary is a pretty accurate description of the book:

"This book is just one contribution to a broad and contested field of enquiry. It considers situation as a term which releases us from the scripted meanings of 'public art' and 'contextual art', which provides us with a terminology for appraising and exploring artworks which increasingly emerge from intersections of social interactions and encourages an interdisciplinary consideration of contemporary art in context."

We hope to come back to this book, not to review it in its totality, but to address Maria Lind's Essay on Oda Projesi (a LeisureArts Final Four participant). The essay ties into the ideas being sketched out in this post.