The Uncertain Territory of Art Theory in the Age of Academic Capitalism
December 3 - 4, 2010.
It has been apparent for a long time that no single discipline can make a claim on contemporary art. Its discursive apparatus is made out of a heady mix that includes (but is not restricted to) art history, cultural studies, visual culture, psychoanalysis, feminism, postcolonial studies, economics, queer studies, politics, philosophy... often brought together under the catch-all rubric of “theory”. A radically transformed artistic practice has posed questions whose confrontation has demanded a wider set of theoretical tools, one that traverses artificially narrow disciplinary borders. No doubt this has allowed for fruitful dialogues and much overdue self-scrutiny, but has also brought added difficulties to the task of forging a common language and a critical dialogue.
Moreover, the demand for (inter/multi/cross/trans) disciplinarity has come from funding policies that privilege output-oriented and excellence-chasing cross-departmental enterprises, as well as from an increasingly competitive market in postgraduate education intent on increasing consumer (student) choice. In the last few years the integration of artistic education into university programmes across Europe (as required by the Bologna declaration) has generated a great deal of literature devoted to “artistic research”, most often understood as the kind of research that is developed in the very process of producing an artwork. But while this literature underscores the elusive status of this kind of research, it tends to treat its other, – “theory” – as a stable body. This debate will attempt to bring back to the fore its problematic nature. Some of the questions we are hoping to discuss are:
To what extent has this uncritical and often euphoric embracing of a post-disciplinary horizon brought us any closer to a proper confrontation of the set of social and political questions that served as its motor? In the face of profound university reforms that turn education into an alienable good and threaten the institutional future of several disciplines in the humanities, is “theory in general” a valid substitute? How does – or should – this theory relate to history and criticism? How can we resist a true transdisciplinarity being foreclosed by the straightforward adoption of a managerial culture based on the empty promise of “teamwork” and on the satisfaction of consumer demand? Can the role of artistic institutions go beyond that of a privileged
client for academic research entrepreneurship? Could the figure of a
flexible and “multitasking” cultural agent turn into the best alibi for
the abandonment of truly collaborative research practices? To what
extent have the dizzying pluralism and ad-hoc nature of our theoretical
tools become, in their turn, as authoritarian and unassailable as the
disciplinary rigours they sought to overcome?
This meeting will be an opportunity to confront points of view and establish an ongoing dialogue, from which a series of texts will be produced for publication by Montehermoso in 2011.
December 3 Alberto Toscano, Marina Vishmidt, Pilar Villela Mascaró, Dieter Lesage.
December 4 Gail Day, John Roberts, José Díaz Cuyás. Yaiza Hernández Velázquez.