Artists Space

On the Necessity of Art's Exit from Contemporary Art:
3. A History of Negations

May 31, 2013, 8pm

Suhail Malik, with responses from Diann Bauer

  1. A history of negations
    In which the exit from contemporary art is shown to not be art’s negation.

Artists Space presents the third in a series of talks and discussions led by writer and cultural theorist Suhail Malik, based on his research and writing on the conditions and shortcomings of contemporary art. Continuing over a six-week period, the format provides scope for sustained dialogue and responses to Malik's propositions. Each session will involve the participation of guest artists and writers as respondents.

A screenshot of the google images search results page for the query "a history of negations."
[A screenshot of the google images search results page for the query "a history of negations."]

In this week's session, Malik argues that the horizon of contemporary art identified in the first two presentations – that contemporary art is an art of indeterminacy – is a direct result of a logic of historical negation shaping art since modernism. The exit from contemporary art that is the principal thesis of this series is distinct to such a history of negation: in acknowledging art's artificiality, it advances an absolute negation of idealism and, simultaneously, a certain negation of the real.

Malik's series of talks proposes that for art to have substantial and credible traction on anything beyond or larger than itself it is necessary to exit contemporary art. An exit that requires the revocation of contemporary art’s logic of escape. If the demand here has an appeal and deserves attention—and it need not since the current constitution of contemporary art serves very well the aesthetic, intellectual, and sociological forms that sustain prevalent power in and through the art field, including all prevalent forms of critique—then this demand must be placed not just on the art itself but also on the ideas it invokes, as well as the social structures and ethos sustaining this configuration. The question then is what this art other to contemporary art’s paradigm of escape can be? What other kind of social structure and distribution of power than that prevalent in contemporary art would support it? What should an art that is not contemporary art do? Of what would its traction consist and amount to?

Suhail Malik writes on political economy, theory, and the axioms of contemporary art. Malik holds a Readership in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths, London, where he is Programme Co-Director of the MFA Fine Art. For 2012-13, Malik is Visiting Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York.

Recent publications include: "The Politics of Neutrality: Towards a Global Civility" in The Human Snapshot (2013), “Tainted Love: Art’s Ethos and Capitalization” (with Andrea Phillips) in Art and Its Commercial Markets (2012), “Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Participate Again—Communism, Its Recurring Nightmare” in Waking Up From the Nightmare of Participation (2011), “Why Art? The Primacy of Audience” Global Art Forum, Dubai (2011); “The Wrong of Contemporary Art: Aesthetics and Political Indeterminacy” (with Andrea Phillips) in Reading Rancière (2011); “Educations Sentimental and Unsentimental: Repositioning the Politics of Art and Education” in Redhook Journal (2011); “Screw (Down) The Debt: Neoliberalism and the Politics of Austerity” in Mute, 2010; “You Are Here” for Manifesta 8 (2010).

Suhail Malik: A History of Negations. Talk documentation, May 31, 2013, Artists Space. [A man and a woman in conversation with a PowerPoint presentation projected on a screen behind them.]