contemporary en What is Autonomy? <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">What is Autonomy?</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Rop</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/11/2019 - 13:54</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-text field--type-text-with-summary field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden">Text</div> <div class="field__item"><p> </p> <h2>From art to Brexit to Tesla cars</h2> <p> </p> <p><em>Autonomy is a position under attack, a question rather than an answer, an idea that is constantly in a process of being redefined and reinvented. This essay attempts to survey and decipher the multitude of meanings, dimensions and issues of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> that are relevant to artistic practices.</em></p> <p> ‘Autonomy’ is a semantic rabbit hole. When discussing the term from the perspective of the arts, speakers of different languages may believe they mean the same thing while they are actually talking past each other. In the Netherlands and Flanders, for example, ‘autonome beeldende kunst’ (literally: ‘autonomous visual art’) corresponds to what is called ‘fine art’ in English-speaking countries, and ‘free art’ (‘freie Kunst’, ‘arts libres’) in German- and French-speaking countries. In the German philosophical tradition, the notion of ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ is intrinsically linked to aesthetic theory rather than artistic practice, while in Italy and the English-speaking world, it is chiefly associated with <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> activism.</p> <p> To take Flanders once more as an example: the region’s main civic conflict is related to its possible <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> within, or from, the nation-state of Belgium. In other countries, issues of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> are reported by news media on a daily basis: Brexit, for example, is often seen as a plea for the UK’s <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> from the EU (in a country which, unlike continental Europe, otherwise lacks the <a href="/subject/historical" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">historical</a> experience of giving up parts of its <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> to larger <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> entities). Brexit in turn may end up triggering Scotland’s national independence or increased <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is an <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> campaign for an Islamist caliphate. In the USA, Donald Trump’s <a href="/subject/politics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">politics</a> of ‘America first’ can be read as yet another campaign for national <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>; at the same time, as a conservative, Trump is against liberal abortion rights – which have been a major issue of individual <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> for feminists, as they directly address the <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of women to decide about their own bodies.</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Your body is a battleground" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="281" src="" width="427" /> <figcaption>Your body is a battleground</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p>In America, Google, Tesla and Uber are conducting field tests for computer-driven cars which, since they no longer require human drivers, are known as autonomous cars. Such developments are part of a broader narrative of autonomous systems in engineering and systems theory, which are potentially connected to the arts in ways that are not only technical, but also philosophical.<br /> All of the above examples illustrate that <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is a term from both the past and the present, with a <a href="/subject/politics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">politics</a> that is anything but clear-cut, and with different definitions of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> existing in different fields of knowledge.</p> <h2>Crisis</h2> <p>The <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of art has arguably never been as contested as it is today, whether in the field of art theory, artistic practice, or cultural <a href="/subject/politics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">politics</a>. In the Netherlands, the much-vaunted <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of the arts proved to be extremely fragile when the Dutch <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> mood changed in 2011 and radical funding cuts shook the foundations of the country’s <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art system.<sup>1</sup> The debates of 2011 tended to reduce the issue to one of humanism vs. free-market capitalism; however, as far as <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art and the concept of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> are concerned, this was already an outdated discussion. Ultimately, the whole affair exposed the arts as being economically not autonomous at all. This affected not only fine art, but also Dutch design and the ‘<a href="/subject/creative-industries" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">creative industries</a>’ in general, which were also largely dependent on cultural funding systems – since many designers and architects relied on <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art institutions as their clients for their more experimental projects. These projects were thus simultaneously ‘autonomous’ (in the Dutch sense of non-applied, free-spirited art) and institutionally dependent (in the economic sense).</p> <p> Conversely, the ‘<a href="/subject/creative-industries" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">creative industries</a>’ that were introduced as a new paradigm for the Dutch creative sector after 2011 were not industries in any literal sense, since they relied on public funding systems of their own. Thus, when citing the Netherlands as an example, one should bear in mind that there is neither any true ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’, nor many real ‘industries’ in the arts. This leads to the more fundamental question of whether such a thing as <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> exists at all, or whether – considering the interdependence of things and beings within any system – ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ isn’t in fact just another outdated romanticist concept.</p> <h2>Politics</h2> <p>At its root, the term ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ is <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> in nature. The Greek word ‘nomos’ means ‘law’ or ‘norm’, while ‘auto’ means ‘self’. ‘Auto-nomos’ thus refers to anything that follows its own law. Since laws in most cases aren’t individual, but are written by some government or statehood, radical claims for <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> will, by definition, clash with higher legal authorities. However, <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> does not need to be understood as absolute. There is, for example, relative <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> wherever the law provides no regulations of its own and leaves room for individual or community policies. Common examples are house rules in bars, shops and schools (including those rules that are typical of squatted ‘autonomous’ spaces, such as a ban on sexist and racist language, which otherwise would still be protected by freedom of speech).</p> <p> All of these examples imply potential conflicts over <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, such as the question of whether school systems should be public, or whether home schooling can be permitted. The very definition of democratic (as opposed to totalitarian) <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> systems addresses the degrees of relative <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> citizens are granted – which is further complicated by the fact that such <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> can be abused for anti-democratic purposes.</p> <p> The issue of ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ is closely linked to free will, implemented either in the form of laws, or of community rules and policies that are accepted within the broader rule of law. For example, house rules formulated for a school may allow the school to expel students who violate these rules. However, if the rules are shown to be in conflict with the law, these students may then go to court and sue their way back into the institution – if necessary, backed by the state monopoly on violence in the form of a police escort. This happened in United States in the 1960s, when black students needed to be escorted to campuses by the police. A similar legal conflict involved the civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who refused to accept the laws and regulations according to which public transportation companies would assign different bus seating areas to black and white people.</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Rosa Parks on the bus" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="" /> <figcaption>Rosa Parks on the bus</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p><sup><em><span>By <a href=""></a>, Fair use, <a href=""></a></span></em></sup></p> <p>Prior to Parks’ intervention, a number of civil rights lawsuits against racial segregation in public transportation had led to conflicting legislations on federal, interstate and state levels, enforced through the internal regulations of transportation companies. In other words, different social actors – including racist state governments and bus companies, as well as anti-racist civil rights activists – were locked in a struggle for their <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> to make or break rules. The civil rights movement made this conflict visible by translating it from an abstract legal realm into a personal conflict. Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience thus became a piece of activist performance art that articulated a <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> issue into visual culture through the iconic, staged photograph of Parks sitting in the ‘wrong’ bus seat; a textbook example of the power of image-making. The famous photograph of Rosa Parks was taken the day after a United States Supreme Court decision finally resolved these legal conflicts by declaring racial segregation unconstitutional.<br /> Contemporary debates address issues of whom (relative) <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> should be granted to: to all human beings? To citizens but not immigrants? To citizens of different classes, races, abilities? Patients, prisoners? To non-humans such as animals, plants, and things?</p> <p> For the Renaissance humanist philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> marked the difference between people and animals, since, according to his reasoning, humans possess <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> while animals don’t. At first glance, the rise of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> as a concept within the arts in the 18th and 19th centuries was a consequence of humanist thinking; but it also coincided with the rise in Europe of the cultural concept of the nation-state, which emphasised the <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of a collective body. This logic has been reversed by artists who, instead of catering to the cultural construction of the nation-state they belong to, have created micro-nations of their own, such as Atelier van Lieshout’s free state AVL-Ville in the harbour area of Rotterdam in 2001, ‘a utopian village, where people could live and work in an ecological, autarkic way.’ <sup>2</sup> Older examples include the Otto Muehl commune (which grew out of the Viennese actionism art movement), beginning as an experimental living and free-love community in the early 1970s and ending as a dystopian dictatorship in the 1980s. The commune was dissolved by the police after it was discovered that children growing up in the commune were systematically abused. Both AVL-Ville and the Muehl commune merged artistic <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, following a logic according to which radical self-governance within one’s art ultimately requires one’s own statehood;<sup>3</sup> the main difference is that AVL-Ville was always intended as a light-hearted, ludic experiment.</p> <p> Since the early 1990s, the Slovenian artist collective Irwin/Neue Slovenische Kunst (NSK) and the band Laibach have been issuing passports for their own transnational NSK State, as a piece of ironic conceptual art commenting on the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. The passports ended up being purchased in large numbers by Nigerians who were convinced that these would allow them to travel and immigrate to Europe. When members of Irwin travelled to Nigeria to explain the project, they were interrupted by people – likely those who were re-selling the passports – insisting that the NSK State was an actual country. Declarations of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> thus do not necessarily result in control: while the artists had control over designing and issuing the passport, they could neither control its interpretation, nor the resulting performance (a phenomenon that has often repeated itself in internet meme culture).</p> <h2>Autonomy as ideology</h2> <p>Leaving aside for now the (complex) differentiation between <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, sovereignty and hegemony, arguably one of the most influential <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> theories and practices of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> originated in the Italian radical left of the 1970s under the name ‘autonomia operaia’ (‘workers’ <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’). Breaking with Communist Party central committees and trade unionism, the movement evolved around decentralised self-organisation and manifested itself through various platforms including experimental pirate radio stations (such as Radio Alice) and squatted ‘social centres’. The Italian autonomist movement spilled over to other countries including Germany and the Netherlands where it is still known as ‘Autonomen’, operating at the fringes of the radical communist and anarchist left.</p> <p> In the 1990s, some of these autonomist concepts were absorbed by the American countercultural writer Hakim Bey (a.k.a. Peter Lamborn Wilson) in his concept of ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’. As the name implies, the inhabitants of these zones no longer claim territories on a permanent basis, but instead act ‘like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen before the State can crush it.’ <sup>4</sup> This concept went on to influence illegal rave subculture and early internet activism and art. However, the <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> tactics it proposes exist on the <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> right as much as on the left: for example, in the militia movement in the U.S., in the ‘nationally liberated zones’ created by Neo-Nazis in Eastern Germany, in neo-fascist squats such as Casa Pound in Rome (named after the writer Ezra Pound) and in the German and Dutch Neo-Nazi movement of the ‘Autonomous Nationalists’ which copies the tactics and visual culture of the left-wing ‘Autonomen’.</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="The_Internetional Witte_de_With.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="407" src="" width="513" /> <figcaption>By Rosa Menkman from amsterdam, Netherlands - The Internetional / Witte de With, CC BY 2.0,</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p> </p> <p>The same <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> ambiguities can be found in internet activism since the 1990s. Political <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> has always been one of internet activism’s major driving forces, from self-run community servers to Bitcoin and TOR: as a peer-to-peer currency designed to operate outside the control of central banks, Bitcoin applies the principle of decentralised self-organisation to the financial system – a project that, as reconstructed by the scholar David Golumbia, has its ideological roots in right-wing libertarianism. TOR, a decentralised service for anonymised web surfing, was made into a <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> artwork by the geographer and artist Trevor Paglen, in collaboration with the (controversial) internet activist and former WikiLeaks spokesman Jacob Appelbaum. Using the visual language of minimal art, Paglen and Appelbaum built a transparent "Autonomy Cube" with a running TOR server inside. The installation uses art museums as its safe space. By appearing as a piece of <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art and being placed inside an institution whose works are granted (relative) <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> under the principle of freedom of art and expression, the Autonomy Cube is less likely to be taken down by the authorities than a TOR server in some anonymous data centre. It thus tactically uses the (relative) <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of art in order to gain <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>.</p> <p> In more mainstream areas of internet culture than Paglen’s and Appelbaum’s installation, the ideology of cyberlibertarianism is influential in the <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> redefinition of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, as its projects intrinsically link ideals of <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> and economic <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> with the technology of autonomous systems, including artificial intelligence. Cyberlibertarianism can be seen as a problematic ‘homesteader’ ideology based on privilege (including the financial gains of early Bitcoin miners, who reaped the benefits of what amounts to a pyramid scheme) and involving hyper-individualist, neo-reactionary ideologies as advanced by public figures such as Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, who defends business monopolies, openly mistrusts <a href="/subject/democracy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">democracy</a> as a <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> system and pays students to drop out of college. No doubt, this is an autonomist ideology; among its intellectual founding figures is the writer Ayn Rand, whose novels glorified independent entrepreneurs revolting against the state and refusing any form of social solidarity.</p> <h2>Aesthetics</h2> <p>Ayn Rand’s libertarianism amounts to a late and popularised form of the romanticist <a href="/subject/aesthetics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">aesthetics</a> of the creative genius, which developed in parallel to the concept of ‘autonomous’ art in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. From a broad <a href="/subject/historical" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">historical</a> perspective, however, the <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of art is still a very recent concept, which is furthermore mostly limited to Western culture – as opposed to Asia and Africa, as well as medieval Europe where there was no division between the disciplines of art, design, technology and crafts (and where a concept such as ‘maker culture’ would have hardly amounted to anything new). In Western <a href="/subject/aesthetics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">aesthetics</a>, the notion of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is linked to emancipation from the dual patronage of the church and aristocratic courts which traditionally dictated the content of art. Arguably, the situation has hardly changed in an age when the role of art patronage has been taken over by public institutions and private collectors.</p> <p> In enlightenment, romanticist and modernist aesthetic philosophy, <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> meant that art followed its own rules. This was first described by the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant as ‘disinterested pleasure’: neither is there any external interest (such as that of the church or the aristocracy) commanding the arts, nor is the perception of art guided by any particular <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a>, religious, moral or social interest; a point which romanticism later radicalised to l’art pour l’art. Art for art’s sake is, by definition, a claim for <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>. It meant that art was not only independent from external forces, but was also in a process of liberating itself from the rules of depiction and representation. Abstract art was the logical consequence of this <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>. The critic Clement Greenberg thus identified ‘[m]odernism with the intensification, almost the exacerbation, of this self-critical tendency that began with the philosopher Kant.’ <sup>5</sup></p> <p> While in the Netherlands, ‘autonomous art’ is generally understood as the opposite of applied art, this definition is entirely different from the notions of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> within art theory and aesthetic philosophy. In the latter, the ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> of art’ means that art is not instrumentalised for religious or <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> purposes. Conversely, early 20th-century Marxist discussions on the <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> role of art – by Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno and György Lukács, among others – addressed the question of whether art should give up its bourgeois <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and become <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a>ly engaged (even to the point of becoming <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> propaganda), or whether it should insist, to quote Adorno, on being a ‘social antithesis to society’ and resist capitalism simply through <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and non-instrumentalisation.<sup>6</sup> To illustrate this with a <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> example: the Dutch artist Jonas Staal considers his <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a>ly engaged work an expression of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, yet Adorno would disagree with him and his statement that ‘art may become of social significance again if it dares to make the “freedom” it has gained in the 20th century serve an ideological project.’ 7 (Incidentally, Staal’s statement in itself constitutes an ontological oxymoron, since ‘freedom’ ceases to exist when it is made to ‘serve’.)</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Staal" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="" /> <figcaption>staal</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p><em>Jonas Staal, New World Summit - Rojava (2015-2018). According to the artist, "The New World Summit is an artistic and <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> organization that develops parliaments with and for stateless states, autonomist groups, and blacklisted <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> organizations."</em></p> <p>Staal in effect addresses a notion of artistic <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> that was formulated by the 19th-century Dutch liberal politician Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, who once stated during a parliamentary debate that ‘art is not the government’s business, to the extent that the government has neither any judgment, nor any saying in the area of art.’ 8 Thorbecke thus positioned the freedom of art in close relation to constitutional ‘freedom of speech’. Consequently, the Dutch concept of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> in the arts effectively conflated the two meanings of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>: as freedom of expression, and as art serving its own purpose.</p> <p> But is the concept of ‘autonomous art’ sustainable at all in a globalised world, in which 19th-century aesthetic theory has become a contested legacy? And hasn’t <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> always been a myth rather than a fact – given that, in the one way or another, artists and the languages of art have never fully governed themselves, but have always been subject to social, <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a>, economic and material forces?</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Start Wars" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="626" src="" width="403" /> <figcaption>"Star Wars", a work of autonomous art according to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p> </p> <p>In the 1980s, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu updated the concept of artistic ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ with a definition that radically breaks with the term’s past. According to Bourdieu, an artwork is autonomous whenever it has not been commissioned by an external party, but seeks its own market. ‘Heteronomous’ art, on the other hand, involves a commissioning party. While this definition may on first sight sound familiar, upon closer inspection it actually is not, since it shifts the definition of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> from <a href="/subject/aesthetics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">aesthetics</a> to economics: a Hollywood film would thus be ‘autonomous’ according to Bourdieu, while an artwork that received public project funding would not. The elegance of this definition lies in its materialist precision, as opposed to the idealism upon which the notion of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is based from the perspective of traditional aesthetic philosophy. Finally, Bourdieu’s terminology much better reflects the everyday reality of art and design work.</p> <h2>Art as institutional <a href="/subject/politics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">politics</a></h2> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="artist's" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="" /> <figcaption>agreement</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p>With Bourdieu’s definition, the opportunity for autonomous art production shrinks dramatically, because it rests on economic power. The Institutional Critique movement within <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art – from the Art Workers’ Coalition and Seth Siegelaub’s Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement of the early 1970s, to Andrea Fraser’s <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> performances – effectively drew the same conclusion, claiming ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ in a sense of worker’s rights within the art system. Institutional Critique identifies this system as a <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a>-economic scheme that merely poses as a humanist institution. The activism and interventions of these artists are trade-unionist in nature, since they intervene into the art market and the museum as factories of <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art, attempting to change their system from within.</p> <p> The alternative position corresponds to that of anti-unionist <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a> autonomists, with their squats and social centres: rather than reforming the factories, they chose instead to establish self-run spaces, cooperatives and commons outside of these factories. The history of this self-organised art goes back about as far as that of Institutional Critique and includes, for example, artist-run film co-ops (which were intended to make artist-filmmakers independent from industry facilities), artist-run ‘producer galleries’, and the various projects that have been mapped in the Rotterdam Autonomous Fabric. Within these initiatives, <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> describes a mode of organisation in which the organisational format itself becomes the art.</p> <h2>Systems and self-organisation</h2> <p>In the field of study known as general systems theory, this type of self-organisation is considered autopoetic, a term that refers to any organism, social or technological system that constructs itself and has some degree of operational independence. General systems theory began as a post-World War II school of thought that sought to bridge or transcend existing academic disciplines including biology, physics, engineering, psychology and sociology. It prominently involved the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, the child psychologist Jean Piaget, the Nobel prize-winning chemist Ilya Prigogine, as well as Isabelle Stengers, now a leading interdisciplinary philosopher of science, culture and <a href="/subject/politics" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">politics</a>. General systems theory described forms of organisation, whether found in nature or culture, in general terms, such as the degree to which these systems are ‘open’ or ‘closed’, and which forms of exchange or metabolism exist between them. Based upon this description, systems theorists also formulated the concepts of the environment and ecology.</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Hans Haacke, condensation cube" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="" /> <figcaption>Hans Haacke, condensation cube</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p>Among the first artists to use general systems theory in their work was the (later Art Workers’ Coalition member) Hans Haacke. His Condensation Cube (1963-65) is a square glass cube containing drops of water that condense as soon as the room temperature rises in response to the body heat of museum visitors. It is thus an open, context-dependent system that interacts with its environment, despite its appearance as a piece of self-contained, abstract and thus highly autonomous art. It uses a visual language associated with <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> in order to question <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, whereas Paglen’s and Appelbaum’s (visually similar) Autonomy Cube is an ostensibly open, interactive system that seeks refuge in art spaces in order to partially close itself off and prohibit physical interference.</p> <p> In the 1970s, the updated general systems theory of the biologists and philosophers Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela abandoned the older dualism of open and closed systems in favour of a model of open, living systems that still involve ‘operational closure’: life, according to Maturana and Varela, is based on self-organisation (‘autopoiesis’), from cell division to free will and the unpredictable behaviour of living beings. Autonomy, in other words, is the product of a dialectics of openness and closure. The child psychologist Jean Piaget developed systemic self-organisation into a pedagogical model, in which educators accept the child’s self-constructed world (such as a fairy-tale universe, for example) without superimposing their own worldview. The sociologist Niklas Luhmann applied the principle of autopoiesis to social organisation, in a rather bleak way: in his model of self-organisation, the true function of any institution is not to serve its stated purpose, but merely to preserve itself. If one believes Luhmann, then the purpose of the art system is only its own self-maintenance; thus it can neither be changed through Institutional Critique from within, nor externally through alternative spaces.<br /> Whether or not Luhmann’s hypothesis is true, art does not exist – from the perspective of general systems theory – as an autonomous entity, but only within numerous interdependencies with other systems, in a complex ecology. Openness and closure, <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and heteronomy, are thus no longer binary categories, but exist in complex gradations and relations (to say this is to state a truism, since any claims of ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ for art have always been abstractions and idealisations).</p> <p> The same is true for self-organisation in technological systems. Statistical pattern recognition algorithms known as ‘neural networks’ (which form the core of today’s most commonly used artificial intelligence technology) work using a combination of openness and operational closure: openness, by absorbing data sets (such as all chess games ever played, or camera images of streets) and using these to deduce patterns; closure, by reiterating this process in countless recursions in order to improve recognition as well as subsequent operations, such as moving chess figures or driving a car.</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Selfdriving Car" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="247" src="" width="457" /> <figcaption>[Test of a self-driving (autonomous) car, 2017]<br /> By Dllu - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p>These technological developments are having a profound and rapid effect upon our everyday understanding of the term ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’: from a formerly humanist attribute describing an individual’s agency and free will, to a post-humanist concept of ‘autonomous systems’ that includes social media bots as well as unmanned drones performing ‘signature attacks’ (i.e. shooting targets that A.I. pattern recognition systems have identified as likely adversaries; a form of <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> warfare analysed, for example, by the artist and geographer Trevor Paglen).</p> <h2>Issues</h2> <p>An Autonomous Fabric of artist-run spaces, as it has been mapped for Rotterdam, remains a humanist endeavour. This begs the question of the role of any non-human actors within the network. Considering only the most obvious example, the autonomously running Bibliotecha servers: is each of these a self-organised space and node within the Autonomous Fabric?<br /> But there is a more fundamental question:<br />     • If <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and self-organisation do not exist as absolutes, but if <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is instead defined as being always relative (in the sense of operational closure within an open system), and embedded into ecologies of interdependence;<br />     • if the relation between <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and dependence is not merely dialectical, in the way that critical (aesthetic) theory suggests, but is in fact more complex and multi-layered;<br />     • if <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> has become a contested – even <a href="/subject/political" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">political</a>ly questionable, and increasingly weaponised – concept, one that concerns privilege and implies exclusion of others whose <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is denied;<br /> … then, what can then still be gained from identifying a fabric of artists’ self-organised practices as ‘autonomous’?<br /> Though there currently may be no answer to this question, it is at least worth noting that Kant’s ‘disinterested pleasures’ should not be categorically written off just yet, as these can still usefully describe autopoetic moments of indeterminacy and unpredictability, even within interdependent systems. As a common attribute of art, squats, nations and self-driving cars, ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ thus remains a highly relevant concept, and one that will continue to be the cause of many misunderstandings.<br />  </p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subject field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Subject</div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/community" hreflang="en">community</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-date-written field--type-datetime field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Date written</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2018-04-11T10:00:00Z" class="datetime">2018-04-11</time> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Author(s)</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Florian Cramer</div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-keywords field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Keywords</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/politics" hreflang="en">politics</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/contemporary" hreflang="en">contemporary</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/creative-industries" hreflang="en">creative industries</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/political" hreflang="en">political</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/democracy" hreflang="en">democracy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/autonomy" hreflang="en">autonomy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/aesthetics" hreflang="en">aesthetics</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/historical" hreflang="en">historical</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-literature field--type-text-long field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Literature &amp; Footnotes</div> <div class="field__item"><p><strong>Footnotes</strong></p> <p>1. <span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">In the same year, a number of artists, critics and curators began an ‘autonomy project’ in collaboration with several Dutch contemporary art spaces in order to critically examine the current status of autonomy in relation to art. See: <a href=""></a></span></p> <p>2. <span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">(Nolan).</span></p> <p>3. <span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">Similar projects existed in the 19</span><sup><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">th</span></sup><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">-century British Arts and Crafts movement and in Fluxus.</span></p> <p><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">4. </span><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">(Bey, 104)</span></p> <p><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">5. </span><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">(Greenberg).</span></p> <p><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">6. </span><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">This was in a time when left-wing art movements, from Russian constructivism to socialist realism, had rejected aesthetic autonomy as a bourgeois concept.</span></p> <p><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">7. </span><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">(Staal, 22).</span></p> <p><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">8. </span><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">The original Dutch: ‘De Kunst is geen regeringszaak, in zooverre de Regering geen oordeel, noch eenig gezag heeft op het gebied der kunst.’ (‘Johan Rudolph Thorbecke’). Thorbecke had a doctorate in literary studies and taught at the German university of Gießen, where he was influenced by 18</span><sup><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">th</span></sup><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">- and 19</span><sup><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">th</span></sup><span lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB">-century German philosophy.</span></p> <p><strong>References</strong></p> <p>Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Eds.), Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings (reprint edition), MIT Press, 2011.</p> <p>Hakim Bey, TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, Autonomedia, 1991.</p> <p>David Golumbia, The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism, University of Minnesota Press, 2016.</p> <p>Clement Greenberg, ‘Modernist Painting’, in: Forum Lectures, Voice of America, 1960.</p> <p>‘Johan Rudolph Thorbecke’, in: Wikipedia, March 23, 2018, <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>H. R. Maturana and F. J. Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living, D. Reidel, 1980.</p> <p>Michelle Nolan, AVL, May 6, 2008, <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>Jonas Staal, Art in Defense of Democracy, 2012, <a href="">…</a>.</p> </div> </div> Thu, 11 Apr 2019 11:54:36 +0000 Rop 53833 at Autonomous Fabric <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Autonomous Fabric</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Rop</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/11/2019 - 13:38</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-text field--type-text-with-summary field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden">Text</div> <div class="field__item"><p>The (first) Autonomous Fabric symposium, organised by the Willem de Kooning Academy on February 10, 2017 at several venues across the city, presented an excellent overview of the <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> relevance of the term ‘autonomous’ as well as its problematic aspects. What exactly constitutes ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ in the context of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, and what constitutes the material of this production? The event originated from the necessity to update the map of the existing field, as well as the alignment of the curriculum of the Willem de Kooning academy with this field, and how the academy approaches this alignment as an educational institution.<br /> The initiatives that presented themselves within the various workshops ranged from the pico-scale to the semi-institutional, and from a white-cube approach to full-blown politically and socially oriented programmes and formats. The academy’s educational activities and curriculum are currently structured according to three professional profiles: autonomous, commercial (i.e. commissioned), and social. This framework reflects an overview of the history and conceptual space of western <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> thinking (art in terms of its relation to existing forms of production, specifically capitalist production, within a social context); indicating the continued relevance and centrality of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> as a concept within this configuration; but also as something from which to distinguish and separate oneself. The partitioning between the commercial dimension and its critical counterpart and commentator, the arts, can thus be recognised within this framework.</p> <p>This model of the assignment of <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> within the art world’s <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a> and infrastructure is reflected through its broader institutional <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> presentation and production platforms, which generally see exhibitions as the end products of artists, usually in the form of objects (contributing to an individual body of work within the existing economy of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production), and only rarely in the form of practices of production.<sup>1</sup><br /> Yet it is within this field of initiatives which experiment with modes of production as forms of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> expression, that most <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> notions of cultural production actually occur and are expressed. This institutional under-representation of the notion of practice as an <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object indicates a mismatch between diverging ideas of what <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production is or can be. The focus of the <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object is rarely upon recognition through institutional representation, but rather upon the quality and modality of the practice itself. Artistic production is understood here as a fundamental quality: how can it contribute to ideas of how we should organise our lives, and what are these lives to begin with? What is the <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object here?</p> <h2>Terminology</h2> <p>The history of the term ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ is fraught with issues that mirror the problem of art’s relationship to life itself, to the ideology of politics, and to the organisational powers of policy-making. On a level of terminology, ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ within the arts resonates with autonomist notions of <a href="/subject/practical" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">practical</a> <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>: a retreat from the structures of power, accompanied by the establishment of independent organisations and ways of living. These ideas can be found in the writings of well-known Autonomist-Marxist thinkers such as Antonio Negri, Paolo Virno and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, who promote the importance of self-organisation as the prime organisational quality, in opposition to the organisational models imposed by states or ideologies. This stance also entails a decisive distancing from existing institutes and structures, as well as from the immediate channels of agency and power that would have to be restructured or reimagined based upon the self-organised initiating principle – hence the continued importance and relevance of the idea of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>.<br /> Another, more complex, definition can be found in the writings of the philosopher Jacques Rancière, who developed a concept of the function of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> within our current model of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, as the <a href="/subject/interrelationship" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">interrelationship</a> between on one hand those feeling unrecognised and looking for change, and on the other hand the powers that govern. The world is organised into spheres of common understanding, spheres which are policed, and one must be able to recognise the world and the power structures through which this world is governed and organised in order to affect or possibly counter these structures – to organise a redistribution of that which is ‘sensible’.<sup>2</sup> According to Rancière, the idea of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is always, and inherently, linked to its heterogeneous quality: the exchange and engagement with the surrounding field. This discrepancy therefore becomes a matter of politics. In this case the retreat is not in itself a goal or a prerequisite; it is rather a strategic positioning, geared to modes of perception and redistribution.<br /> Whereas the first position is mainly informed by the assertion of a hegemony of capitalism over cultural production (requiring withdrawal), the second presumes a permanent space of negotiation to still exist, and to provide the remaining route for possible engagement.</p> <p>It is between these two poles that the current debate takes place, and it is here that <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> and tactical approaches are conceptualised and strategised, and shaped into practices. Between these two opposites, the structures and programmes of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> initiatives are determined by a shifting configuration of organisational forms, between independence and compliance, between <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and heterogeneity. It is within this field, which has been the subject of ongoing development over the past decades, that the issue of institutionalisation has become of prime importance: how to realise the necessary organisation in relation to, or within, existing structures of power?<br /> In this regard, it is noteworthy and important that a survey of this constellation and of the field of existing independent initiatives has been instigated by an institutional art school such as the Willem de Kooning academy.</p> <h2>Self-organisation as an institutional format</h2> <p>Rotterdam has a rich history of artists’ initiatives, originating in the period from the late 1970s to the 1980s, when a first generation of practitioners established themselves – a few of which have managed to continue until recently, or in some cases are still active. These initiatives originated from a need to better equip the individual practice of artists, but also, and more importantly, to organise as a group or as a quasi-institutional manifestation – a cooperative enterprise.<br /> Though mostly instigated out of dissatisfaction with existing institutional formats, which were seen as being insufficiently equipped to articulate <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> needs, the prime motive of these initiatives was not to retreat from contact with the public, but rather to organise and engage on one’s own terms. These initiatives were at the vanguard of producing new <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> forms that are still fully in use and recognisable today, and that have proliferated widely and deeply into the texture and infrastructure of global <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production.<br /> For example, presentation models developed here were structured not so much around the idea of an individual artists’ profile, but rather around a theme or topic that needed to be addressed. Such a topic, or a directional and curatorial approach, was mostly the result of deliberations between the artists and the network at hand, with a focus on providing an opportunity to express <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> ideas and formats.</p> <p>These presentations were often accompanied by side-events such as artist talks, symposiums and debates, where the presentation continued on a discursive basis. Publications, either as a mode of articulation or as a documentation of events taking place, constituted another important element in the development of modes of dissemination of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production.</p> <p>There was also a major effort toward viewing <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production as a form of exchange. Numerous artist-in-residence <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> were established, facilitating a global exchange among artists. This <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> residency format in turn gave rise to a practice of research, in the sense that artists coming from abroad, in order to orient themselves in their new surroundings, had to develop knowledge of where they were working. This led to a practice of a research-based mode of production that addressed local, regional and international conditions. </p> <p>Self-organisation generally provides the main impetus guiding these initiatives. This made it possible to circumvent the choices that normally would have been made by institutes, through their curatorial or institutionally thematic guidelines. This is how these initiatives differ from established institutes, which are more accountable to governmental and political production guidelines, so that these institutes remain more aligned with the existing economic order. The production of any manifestation realised under the supervision of the autonomous initiative is thus the further advancement of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, which is maintained and operationalised in the form of agency.</p> <h2>Which object? Which representation?</h2> <p>These initiatives thus established a new mode of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, ranging in scope from making connections with the ultra-local to a more generalised commentary of our social fabric. A recurring theme throughout these developments is a general critique of the notion of the cultural object as a commodity, valuated solely through the market, as the prevalent system of art valuation. The establishment of non-commercial platforms for the production and exchange of cultural objects provided a critical response to the commodity-form of the cultural object, and thus to the capitalist system of valuation. The issue of individuated authorship, symptomatic of the prevailing form of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, was also widely questioned here. The initiative was seen as a cooperative platform for <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production.</p> <p>A do-it-yourself ethos, and the question of how to run such an initiative in the first place – with the resulting financial implications – were also important elements in establishing these initiatives as political agents. Ideas of how best to organise, to house and to cooperate immediately bring up questions of an ideological nature: what needs to be produced, and how? This is an approach that has particularly shaped programmes in which issues of labour and organisation became the focus of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> inquiry. Current initiatives such as Casco in Utrecht or the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem have especially focused on the conditions of production as <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> research. In Rotterdam, Leeszaal Rotterdam West can be seen as an initiative whose activities focus on the social question of how to organise labour. The general underlying question became an issue of which objects were produced, and who these objects represented as their producer. How does the <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object function?</p> <h2>In and out of the institute</h2> <p>It is this model that has evolved into the quintessential framework of production for <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art. Sometimes the characteristics of this model are upscaled to new institutional formats, as is the case with Witte de With (Rotterdam), or they evolve from small-scale initiatives to a larger scale, as with De Appel (Amsterdam), Worm (Rotterdam) or V2 (Rotterdam). This model has also proliferated within the broader network of institutional frameworks such as biennales, educational environments such as Goldsmiths, University of London, or publication and residency platforms such as Afterall (London) or Bard (New York). This institutional scale is in constant dialogue with the smaller scale of independent initiatives and formats, in an ongoing exchange of people and <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> presentation formats.</p> <p>There is a permanent debate regarding the institutional form: how to function, and how to avoid the pitfalls of institutionalisation? Any condition of dependence, whether financial, logistical or <a href="/subject/practical" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">practical</a>, inevitably leads to concessions in the degree of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>: every transaction comes with issues of accountability, whether programmatic or pragmatic, that exert an influence on the independence of programmes and initiatives. It is this struggle that acts as a constant mirror to initiatives operating on a more established scale. Within this issue of maintaining sufficient independence, the smaller and larger scales are interlocked and part of the same fabric.</p> <p>It is this issue of institutionalisation which <a href="/text/living-organisation-that-is-self-organisation" rel="nofollow">Binna Choi </a>described, in the introduction to her workshop during the symposium, as the quintessential issue to be negotiated: how to become and remain aware of the effects of power and authority during the establishment of an organisational structure? Any organisation, through the very fact of its coming into being, generates conditions of power and authority, in which guidelines, identities and objectives are formulated that result in inclusion and exclusion. These mechanisms will inevitably occur, and must thus be recognised at every level, from the hyper-individual to the full-blown institutional. All institutional organisations must identify and deal with these mechanisms, in order to be as inclusive and non-authoritarian as possible, and also to monitor how these mechanisms are linked to the institute’s context – its work commission, as formulated through policy-making and political discourse.<br /> Problems of accountability arise precisely in the exchanges between different levels: policy-making imposes its own ideas of outcome and productivity upon the initiatives, for example upon an educational institute. Following this rationale, the issue of organisation is something that needs to be addressed and accounted for in all transitions occurring within the field, including policy-making and educational structures. In their co-authored article The Wrong of Contemporary Art: Aesthetics and Political Indeterminacy,<sup>3</sup> Suhail Malik and Andrea Phillips describe the difficulty of this task, and how every new understanding – and therefore every articulation – between different <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> risks becoming the new normative principle. Any new arrangement needs to be permanently open, fundamentally non-hierarchical and welcome to change. Malik and Phillips emphasise how Rancière’s emancipatory principle of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ lies precisely in the realisation that a true consensus, or a definitive arrangement between parties, can never be reached; permanent dialogue and exchange are thus required.</p> <h2>Practice as life / articulation</h2> <p>The importance of this autonomous field as a structural counterpart to the official field cannot be overstated. It is all of these issues bound together that demonstrate the central role of the autonomous field, and demonstrate it to be the most sustainable within art production as a whole. It is here that the closeness between art and experimental life is given shape through different practices. The autonomous initiatives Conversas and Upominki, for example, show that art is not about producing art objects, but is rather about developing an <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> practice, as a practice of dialogue, communication and hospitability – a practice of the possibilities of life as art.<br /> Within initiatives such as these, the aforementioned three-way partitioning of professional practices into commercial (or commissioned), social, and autonomous – which provides the basic framework for the WdKA’s curriculum – is short-circuited: instead, the work commission is formulated through an exchange between the participants in the conversation, as a social practice on its own (autonomous – or perhaps it would be better to say: sovereign) terms. Here the value of the ‘autonomous’ would not be understood as the leading principle, but rather as the means for aligning production according to a more natural and reciprocal approach, thus bridging the distances and the alienation between producer, audience and object of transaction.<br /> Both Conversas and Upominki thus wish to maintain as much as possible their independence, while minimising the perceived negative effects of any inevitable dependence. Yet they remain in dialogue with the field, and constitute a continuous presence and influence within this field. It is here that the alternation between the institutional and the autonomous fields provides its function of heterogeneous agency. This demonstrates how foundational values of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production continue to find their way through the filters of the institutional, where they otherwise risk becoming diluted, rephrased and misrepresented. In their article Peripheral Proposals,<sup>4</sup> Mark Fisher and Nina Möntmann observed and analysed the potential of such small-scale <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a> for the entire cultural ecosystem, but also warned of the risks of being rendered powerless by the absorbing powers of capitalism. It is here that the possible integration into an academic context becomes of paramount interest: how should one articulate the desired characteristics and modalities within an institutional context? As an inescapable manifestation of the institutional, this represents the engaged position of the institute within the debate. How can an art institute such as the WdKA articulate such qualities and needs on an institutional level?<sup>5</sup></p> <p>The value of mapping this field for the first time, and of having it recognised as the most persistent, basic and durable form of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, can hardly be overstated. Recognition by an educational institute expands the dialogue by which the potential of this field can be channelled and increased to a more structural level, and its agency amplified.<br /> The urgency for such a dialogue-based model was perfectly worded by Geert Lovink during the introduction to his Network workshop. Here he highlighted the urgency of formulating a restructuring of our world in a spirit of cooperation, in order to counter the all-encompassing ecological and political catastrophes of our times, resulting from the unchecked expansion and destruction of the liberal order. Such a task can only stand a glimmer of a chance in the context of a dialogue, never in a continuation of the system as it is.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subject field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Subject</div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/education" hreflang="en">education</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-date-written field--type-datetime field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Date written</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2018-02-05T11:00:00Z" class="datetime">2018-02-05</time> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Author(s)</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Jack Segbars</div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-keywords field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Keywords</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/positions" hreflang="en">positions</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/institutions" hreflang="en">institutions</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/contemporary" hreflang="en">contemporary</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/artistic" hreflang="en">artistic</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/autonomy" hreflang="en">autonomy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/practical" hreflang="en">practical</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/interrelationship" hreflang="en">interrelationship</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/intersubjective" hreflang="en">intersubjective</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-literature field--type-text-long field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Literature &amp; Footnotes</div> <div class="field__item"><p><em><span>1. Despite major efforts to develop modes of presentation that emphasise the notion of artistic practice as determining the outcome being exhibited, it is very difficult to capture a full understanding of the time investments or the day-to-day living aspects involved with these efforts. Institutional formats that wish to address this mode of production, usually struggle to represent these within their prevailing mode of operation.</span></em></p> <p><em><span>2. Rancière’s notion of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ has become an important and popular philosophical framework for discussing the political dimension within artistic production in our age, and was first proposed in Rancière’s books Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, Continuum, 2010, and Le partage du sensible: Esthétique et politique, La Fabrique Éditions, 2000.</span></em></p> <p><em><span>3. In this article, Malik and Phillips chose to translate Rancière’s original French ‘partage du sensible’ as ‘partition of the sensible’ rather than the usual ‘distribution of the sensible’, in order to stress the dual meaning of the French term ‘partage’, indicating the communality as well as the division of the aesthetic. Aesthetics is thus a matter of an ongoing agreement to disagree, the recognition of the plural as well as the singular, of the autonomous as well as the heterogeneous.</span></em></p> <p><em><span>4. Mark Fisher and Nina Möntmann, ‘Peripheral Proposals’, in: Binna Choi, Maria Lind, Emily Pethick, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez (eds.), Cluster: Dialectionary, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2014.</span></em></p> <p><em>5.<span> Following up on the idea of reciprocity and dialogue, the educational institute should ask itself: Who is being educated? Who is being ‘produced’? What kind of artists are being produced? And how can the institute know the answers to these questions? It can only know by opening up to the field and engaging in dialogue with its students. </span></em></p> </div> </div> Thu, 11 Apr 2019 11:38:52 +0000 Rop 53832 at