Monday Night Lecture Series - Wesleyan University

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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


Democratic Looking

Democratic Looking

CLAIRE GRACE • Wesleyan University

March 6 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

In recent years, and especially since the 1990s, participatory forms in art have absorbed an increasingly explicit set of claims linking the distribution of authorial agency in works of art to the idea of participatory democracy in politics. The New York based artist collective Group Material, active between 1979 and 1996, is widely recognized as a catalyzing example. A series begun in 1982, however, critically articulates some of the limitations of this emerging genre. The series adapts a tradition of public debate pivotal in China’s democracy movement while also ironizing the form of the public opinion poll more familiar in U.S. contexts. Foregrounding effects of distance and disagreement, the ramifications of Group Material’s works in this series are twofold: they make a case for the specific faculties of art—thus articulating a position at odds, to some extent, with the avant-garde’s longstanding campaign to dissolve art into a larger field of social practice—and they theorize democracy’s foundation in principles of agonism, responding in so doing to the actual conditions of public life in the 1980s.

Photo Courtesy of Group Material

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