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What’s in an event?

Published: Friday 4 November, 2011



Thinking about art events allows us to pose old questions in new ways: “what does art do for us”; “what do we expect from art”; “what do we hope for when we go to an art event”? Art institutions certainly recognise that the expectations of their audiences have changed, and a large measure of this is evident in the drive towards participation. A strange form of “democracy” has taken shape where we no longer ask what the work might demand of the viewer/participant/gallery-goer, but instead ask what it is that they require of the work. One possible response is to suggest that what is required is the identification of art with life, and particularly with the life of the community.

Art events of all kinds are key to this shift which also involves shifts in modes of subjectification. The demand for participation has a certain anthropological flavour to it, as is evident from the character of many contemporary art events and art works which often make explicit use of materials and themes that deal either with fantasies of otherness (for example, fetishes, ritual, exoticism) or with fantasises of engagement with “real life” (poverty, political comment, saving the world).

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Read the full paper in Maska Journal’s special issue on “The event as a Privileged Medium in the Contemporary Art World” (p. 85ff)

This paper was presented on 4 November 2011 at the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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