Case study: A Crime Against Art (Madrid trial)

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[1] Borrowing the form of mock trail from Andre Breton, A Crime Against Art (Madrid trial)[2] stages an Institutional Critique-esque discussion in occasion of 2007 ARCOmadrid. The project, launched by curator Tirdad Zolghadr and artist Anton Vidokle, starts with their invitations to other critics and curators by accusing themselves of being in ‘collusion with the bourgeoisie’ as well as other issues rotate around the instrumentalization of art. Such juxtaposition of lecture performance and court context raises multiple questions for research-based art practice as well as the nature of art in the age of immaterial production. For one thing, by way of self-accusation—something akin to what art intellectuals would refer as self-reflexivity—the whole discourse in the courtroom suddenly becomes counter-intuitive and to some extent creative. For example, there are moments in which prosecutors (Vasif Kortun from Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul and Chus Martinez from Frankfurter Kunstverein) negate the self-negative charge uttered previously by two defendants. The debates then rotate around the topic whether Zolghadr and Vodokle shrink the space of art practice not because of them colluding with bourgeoisie but because of over-simplification of the notion of bourgeois. However, in contrast with the real critique (which hurts), all of the critical accusations in a daylong staging are embedded within semi-juridical performances. The task here, therefore, turns into keeping the ball bounces between the prosecutions and the defenses. The notion of judgment then concerns less about truth, but more about rhythm, flow and aesthetics. The collective performance did come up with the notion of the impasse in which critical accusation can no longer be as effective as it once was, therefore justifying the nature of the Madrid Trial in which criticality becomes merely emblem and self-reflexivity being a verbal rhetoric and retains no agency to endanger oneself. In its essence, however uncritical one might think it may be, the court performance did pointed out an intellectual dead end in which artistic criticality can no longer functions as it once was, and therefore there’s a cognitive divorce between criticality and creativity in the sense that they no longer necessarily intersects each other in one artistic production.

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  1. This is a case study page created for the research: From criticality to creativity: a Neoliberal word snake.
  2. A Crime Against Art. Dir. Hila Peleg. Unitednationsplazastudios, 2007.