I think the work done by Hans Haacke with Institutional Critique serves as a solid starting point for the wave of Social Justice art that artists like Ai Weiwei and Theaster Gates are engaged in now.
The 1975 work by Hans Haacke titled Seurat’s ‘Les Poseuses’ is a series of ownership documents that mark the transition of a painting by Georges Seurat from an art object to a monetary object of wealth. I think the work is clear and well made because it substitutes the place of an art object in a gallery with these documents that show the transmogrification of a personal art piece to a private vaulted object of wealth but… I think a critique is no longer enough for our generation.
I would like to compare this work by Hans Haacke to Bank Bonds designed by Theaster Gates for the Stony Island Arts Bank. The Stony Island Arts Bank was originally a dilapidated bank given to Theaster Gates who turned it into a public gallery, media archive, library, and community center. During the restoration of the building, Theaster helped finance the project by creating “Bank Bonds” by engraving pieces of marble pulled from the bank itself and sold at Art Basel. I think this inspiring use of materials and the institution of banking serves as both a critique of art objects as wealth and an Art Activists subversion of the institution.
I would like to argue that the work done by Hans Haacke was a wonderful start to thinking and critiquing about institutions but the work performed by artists today takes this one step further by interacting with these institutions through Art Activism. I think another great example is the Sunflower Seeds project by Ai Weiwei. Working on this project Ai Weiwei employed nearly an entire town of 1,700 people to make 100 million seeds to honor the skilled craftspeople working with ceramic for over a thousand years, talk about the hardships of the Cultural Revolution, and the 1.3 billion people that make up the Chinese population. The Art Activist action of working and paying living wages in the Jingdezhen goes beyond a critique of ideas and institutions but acts on a project that produces change
Reading Response Week 03
Read Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics – Jacques Ranciere
Read The Third Citizen: On Models of Criticality in Contemporary Artistic Practices by Vered Maimon