Event/Exhibition: The Social Critique: 1993-2005

The Social Critique: 1993-2005
12 Sep. – 22 Nov. 2009

Kalmar Konstmuseum
Stadsparken, Sweden


Participating artists: Franz Ackermann, Maja Bajevic, Richard Billingham, Angela Bulloch, Heath Bunting, Com&Com, Stefan Constantinescu, Plamen Dejanov & Swetlana Heger, Maria Eichhorn, Sylvie Fleury, Felix Gmelin, Johan Grimonprez, Jens Haaning, Swetlana Heger, Christine Hill, Sabine Hornig, Isaac Julien, Peter Land, Zbigniew Libera, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães, Anneé Olofsson, Tanja Ostojic, Oliver Ressler, Pipilotti Rist, Annika Ström, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elin Wikström and Zhang Huan

Curator: Martin Schibli

The social critique 1993-2005 is a contemporary art historical exhibition aimed at giving an introduction and a structure to an important and eventful period in contemporary art. What is characteristic for social criticism is that it presupposes that in art there is a possibility to deal with, highlight and pose questions around social issues. To a large extent the social criticism grew out of the vacuum that the art of the early 1990’s found itself in. A consequence of the fact that Postmodernism during the 1980’s had dismantled Art from its pedestal, and won symbolic power in the world of art. Art had no longer any value in itself. At the same time the status of art was increasingly upheld by the hype that surrounded contemporary art during the economic boom of that decade. With the recession of the early 1990’s the influx of capital into the art world ceased and this in turn led to the disappearance of hype. The art world imploded. In the early 1990´s this lead to a great sense of insecurity about where the contemporary art scene stood, and what was going to happen now, when so to speak everything was possible. Art was in need of a new identity, maybe even a new reason for its existence. The question asked was “What is the purpose of art, when its value as art no longer exists?”

That something had happened became obvious in 1993, at the Venice Biennale. With his Aperto-exhibition the curator Achille Bonito Oliva formulated a number of concurrent artistic positions that together gave a structure for where the contemporary art-scene was heading and what subjects it could deal with. It was in the social field that art had its function. Within the area of art there were a number of possibilities of focusing on various aspects of the social, within the large as well as the small. A few months earlier the Whitney Biennale also had received attention for dealing with political issues. It was within the social that art regained its purpose. The artist Rirkrit Tiravanija now became internationally recognised. Tiravanija had taken as his point of departure an idea pioneered by Joseph Beuys, the idea of the social sculpture, and for a number of years he was touring the art world with his cooking pieces that are based on the social function of art. In an exhibition at a department store ICA Malmborgs, Malmoe, the artist Elin Wikström spend the whole exhibition period on a bed, sometimes sleeping.

The exhibition at Kalmar Art Museum will consist of more than 25 works. Starting from a more humoristic standpoint, social criticism became increasingly hardcore and theoretically formulated and when moving into its end phase it shifted towards an aesthetisised form. The exhibition deals with subjects such as relational aesthetics, art research and post colonial theory. It is interesting to notice that the art of social criticism in reality grew out of the vacuum created from the last economic crash of the 1980’s and that its strength diminished with the influx of capital into the art world during the last decade. Today the situation is partly the same as in the early 1990’s and there is an uncertainty/openness about what is really happening on the contemporary art scene, combined with an economic downturn.

The contribution by Elin Wikström, Hur skulled det gå om alla gjorde så?, 1993, is taking place at the department store ICA Maxi Stormarknad, Verkstadsgatan 6, Kalmar, between 8-14 of October.

For more information, please contact curator Martin Schibli. Tel. + 46 480 42 62 88, E-mail: martin.schibli@kalmarkonstmuseum.se


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One response to “Event/Exhibition: The Social Critique: 1993-2005

  1. What is the DSL collection?

    The dsl Collection was created in 2005 and focuses on contemporary Chinese art. It is a private collection currently representing 90 of the leading Chinese avant-garde artists, most of whom have a major influence on the development of contemporary art in China today. Even though it focuses on the contemporary production of works of art of all media of a specific culture, the collection is not guided by the search for an ‘otherness’. It admits basic cultural similarities and dispositions and goes beyond the simplistic approach of looking for typical cultural signs and symbols.

    The collection is not only significant on a personal level, but also on a larger scale. We start from a museum approach, which means that we are collecting a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, installation, video, and photography. Furthermore, the choice of works is not oriented on the trends of the market. To choose this kind of approach implies making the collection accessible for the public, as well as documenting the featured works.

    The major tools to achieve these goals is the use of new technologies, such as the internet and interactive programs and supports, like for example electronic books. These tools provide the means to share the experience of contemporary culture and to make it more accessible and meaningful for a broader public.

    How did we become interested in Chinese art?

    Art is the mirror of a Society.
    When my wife and I came to Shanghai for the first time in 2005, I felt that there was another logic existing here; something that speaks of a very schizophrenic attitude towards economic development. The city embodies a ceaseless pursuit of the “superhuman” that redefines traditional definitions of humanity, sustainability, scale, and speed. Somehow these feelings were very inspiring and we wanted to find art and artists that express the relationships between contemporary art production and society. We are also interested by the Chinese artists who are living outside mainland China, in Taiwan, for instance, and mainly in the Chinese Diaspora in Europe and the United States. These artists have played a decisive role in defining Chinese contemporary art to audience outside China.
    One should also not forget that apart from having a 6000 (5,000?) year-old cultural history, China is the biggest cultural space in the world.

    How is our collection different than other collections?

    We never compare our collection with others because every collection is by nature unique. However, we follow strict personal guide lines in building our collection.

    About Collecting, how do you approach it?
    “Collecting,” is not “accumulating.” and it is not “investing.” It is acquiring objects that have some relation to each other and putting those objects into the kind of order that reflects the collector’s response to them. Each true collection achieves a personality beyond and apart from the sum of the objects. I feel also that diversity is one of the main strengths of a collection.
    What role does the Collector play?

    The Collector should not take centre stage himself and should let the art itself be at the centre of the collection. Artists should be given the maximum spotlight. My role, my real power is to make that happened (My role and my aim is to make this happen. Its what the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist calls “the fundamental invisibility.”
    What is the the dsl Collection viewpoints?
    – A museum approach
    At first we looked at Chinese art according to our personal tastes, but we very soon realized that very few people were systematically collecting Chinese contemporary art, either in China or outside — neither institutions, nor individuals had a museum approach and even less so a university museum approach.
    And why this kind of approach?
    University museums are unlike other museums. They are not intended to have a powerhouse of masterworks on display, though some have their share of these. They are, before all else, teaching instruments intended for students and scholars to use in a hands-on way. As such, they often house objects that are considered of second- and third-tier value at auction but that fill out a deep and detailed account of cultural history. Intellectual adventure is privileged over box-office appeal.
    – Education and entertainment
    Entertainment and education have quite different intents, but they can be integrated to achieve both aims. Certainly the demand from younger people has shifted strongly to only paying attention if content is truly entertaining. Beyond that, Art is fundamentally about providing experiences. People today seek engaging and powerful experiences.
    In such a large country, how do you choose your artists?
    We try at the same time to acquire new works from emerging artists and maintaining interest in the works of China’s more established big names. We are always keen to find individuals who are interested to see where the prevailing boundaries lie, either in terms of content, of materials, of disciplines and how they can push these open; I respond most to art that has powerful links to both the times and the context in which it was created.
    We think also that chinese contemporary art at the moment is in the process of breaking away from the Western art canon, which has sort of hit a dead end.

    What is our focus?

    In this New Age, a private collection is also about inspiring people.
    Dsl collection would like to become a platform that is accessible to everybody from everywhere. A place where people can have exciting experiences, build their knowledge and actively participate. With the help of curators and critics we try to get the audience engaged and, consequently, move ideas forward and extend interest in Chinese contemporary art. We see the dsl collection as a place that provides experiences with content and also enables participatory experiences–with other people, both visitors and experts.
    Consequently, apart from building the collection, dsl is carrying two strategies aimed at increasing and deepening participation and developing education.

    Why is the internet platform interesting in our collection?

    Having chosen a museum approach, we felt an obligation to make the works available to the public. The challenge of attracting audiences is hardly new.
    We have to admit that many brick and mortar museums for the most part are kind of hidden jewels .They do not have great foot traffic and often they are unable to exhibit many of their important works at the same time.
    That is why, as for showing the works we have decided upon, to primarily use technology by creating a website: dslcollection.org. Nevertheless, nothing will ever replace a direct contact between the audience and an artwork.
    dsl collection has also adopted many of the internet tools to increase the audience. This is done by creating interactive and participatory forms of engagement and altering the traditional relationship between art and its audience. The online technology allows this flexibility. Our daughter Karen is more and more involved in the collection is focussing in particular on social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook and Second Life.
    These latest online services are creating new, more interactive and participatory forms of engagement and altering the traditional relationship between art and its audience.

    Does the internet platform play a larger role in China than in the West , and why?

    The internet is important because It renders possible an ” EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME” experience!
    This choice is even more important in the case of China where you currently have 300 million people connected and 100 million personal blogs.

    Will there be a space to eventually view the collection?

    We are working on the concept of a nomad collection that could go from China to Europe and the United States. Meanwhile many works are on loan to museums or biennales. We are of the principle that whenever an artist wants to have his work exhibited, it should always be made available. We would like to have the first exhibition of the collection in a museum in the United States

    How will the collection evolve?

    The collection is limited to a specific number of art works – about 150 pieces – that, as an entity, is open to constant redefinition. Openness, movement and communication are basic qualities we want to promote. Another important point: When we collect a work of art, you are essentially acquiring not just one work of art but a part in the artist’s entire body of work which is known as an oeuvre. It means that if this oeuvre evolves in a direction that is not the good one for us we decease the work.
    We shall focus more and more on education by being ever more present in China in particular. In 2010 dsl collection will be in charge of an Art Management course at the Shanghai University.

    Why is art important? What inspires us?

    Art is a way to make our life better. It is not about inanimate objects, but about connecting to people. Thanks to this collection we discovered a great country with great people and a great culture

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