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Night School, Public Seminar 4. Contemporary Models of Agency. A seminar with Maria Lind, Carey Young, Tirdad Zolghadr, and others

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Public Programs

Night School, Public Seminar 4. Contemporary Models of Agency. A seminar with Maria Lind, Carey Young, Tirdad Zolghadr, and others

April 24 – 26 2008

Thursday, April 24: Contemporary Models of Agency, part 1: A lecture by Maria Lind Friday, April 25: Contemporary Models of Agency, part 2: A lecture by Tirdad Zolghadr Saturday, April 26: Whose Image? – An artist talk by Carey Young

To speak of “agency” in the visual arts is currently the most polite way to raise the hairiest of questions, namely, does art have anything to do with a world beyond its own professional rituals and priorities, and, if so, could and should it strive to shape that world somehow. To raise the question of agency is to address matters of activism, realpolitik, the aesthetics of politics and the politics of aesthetics, but in a hope of discreetly dodging the dialectics of heroism and surrender, resistance and complicity that have plagued these things for so long. In our seminar, we wish to revisit these uncertain dialectics, to closely analyze the notion of agency in itself and to trace a number of models predominating today. But also, to sketch out some key features of today’s context, including various forms of instrumentalization, that determine our choices and possibilities.

What are We Doing—Artistic Agency and the Collaborative Turn The seminar will begin with Maria Lind’s discussion of collective activities throughout the art world. This is a new wave, following the one that helped shape conceptual art in the 1960s and was arguably crucial in the transition from modernism to postmodernism. For some, this offers an alternative to the individualism that dominates the art world, for others, a way of questioning both artistic identity and authorship through self-organization. For others yet, it is a pragmatic choice, a possibility of shared resources, equipment, and experience.

Thoughts on Turns Less Collaborative The seminar will then move on to Tirdad Zolghadr’s examples of agency within the arts that are less tangible as such. From tactical retreats, to the growing influence of Italian operaismo, to unapologetic business entrepreneurship, to strategic essentialisms, what are the working premises of these methods of procedure, and what, if any, is their common ground by way of zeitgeist and ideological self-perception. On this count, the lecture will attempt to specify precarious or “post-Fordist” working conditions that have been developing internationally over recent decades. How does artistic agency play into these developments? To what degree can the above strategies claim agency, and what kind of instrumentalization is affecting this mode of cultural production? How can artistic agency be reformulated under the current neo-liberalized working conditions?