Recently a friend pointed me in the direction of the September 2010 issue of frieze Magazine. I'm in the process of putting together my next SALON (LONDON) show and as it's all about bringing the artistic works of different disciplines together she thought that I might find frieze's take on 'super-hybridity' of some use.
Apart from the direct relevance to the work I'm doing on the exhibition, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the point of art criticism in the contemporary art world; naturally, thinking about theory has been a big part of that process. I'm not entirely convinced by the relevance or utility of critical classification in art today - remember altermodern? exactly - but it still makes for a fascinating point of entry.
Jorg Heiser's phenomenon of super-hybridity attempts to explain the increase of artists who work across a vast spectrum of cultural contexts at an extraordinarily fast pace: it ropes in ideas of globalisation, digital technology, the Internet, and capitalism. So far, so not that interesting. There's something rather dull about trying to apply a post-rationalised, top-down framework on an existing structure of working, especially given that it tends to omit a lot of practitioners. Perhaps, though, that's what critics are for: they dream up the theories while the artists get on with making work.
Despite my own theoretical qualms, the discussion on super-hybridity is saved by its participants: Ronald Jones, Nina Power, Seth Price, Sukhdev Sandhu, Hito Steyerl, and of course Heiser.
Even though there isn't necessarily anything here that's changed my way of thinking or practising, I love the spirit of the discussion. It is so refreshing to see a genuinely interesting, relevant, and intellectually demanding piece on art theory free from obfuscating and hermetic nonsense. The fact that it appeared in a relatively mainstream art magazine gives me hope for the future of publishing.
I've pulled out some of the bits I found most interesting/intriguing/stimulating:
“Immersion, entanglement, affectivity, sudden rupture and repeated breakdown. In the realm of digital circulation it’s no longer about anybody being represented by something else - a culturally inflected image, for example - but about an embodied, dynamic continuum of bodies, sounds, images, actions, and audiovisual politics of intensity. These relations are aesthetic since they have to do with the senses, and they are political since they govern or channel feelings, perception and thus possible reactions [a nice tie in with a lot of the Dave Hickey stuff I've been reading]. The 1990s were about decoding and understanding these relations but now it’s more about how to be immersed without drowning, or to be embedded without falling asleep and happily surrendering control of your feelings to a pervasive military-entertainment complex. I wish that we could leave the discussion about hybridity behind though; it drags one back into hermeneutics and hapless discussions of origin. It's inadequate for trying to come up with perspectives." ~ Hito Steyerl
"We have arrived at a point where critical theory is being called upon to answer a basic question: what is the continuing relevance, value, and productive potential of criticality or oppositional knowledge? The art world, from my vantage, is in a rather tight spot. I'm not sure how long we should grant artists special dispensation just because what they are producing is merely worthwhile." ~ Ronald Jones
"Given our current situation, where art has had such little effect on a world facing truly wicked problems, what I am proposing departs from relativism, the ambiguities of Postmodernism and fashionable pessimism for a new post-critical perspective. Bruno Latour has recognised why criticality has run out of steam. Post-criticality means an engagement for artists and designers with proactive strategies triggering entrepreneurial - not necessarily in the business creation sense - interdisciplinary, innovative and attainable solutions to our collective challenge; discrimination, corruption and starvation to name only three..." ~ Jorg Heiser
"Nobody in this discussion seems to be opposed to or even impressed by mixing, merging, dislocating and recombining stuff. That's what people seem to be doing quite casually now. But there seems to be several opinions as to how to go about it. Engaging with the world. Sure. But is the world anywhere else? Does 'out there' mean beyond the sphere of aesthetics and the art world? As Nina said, and I agree with her, this realm is hopelessly entangled with the dynamics of financilisation. The realm of perception is heavily militarised, too, as Sukhdev noted. For me, that's real enough: a military-financial-art-world hybrid if you like. But let me take one step back and suggest the waning of opposites - such as real/representation; engaged/critical; object/subject - is an important part of the situation we are discussing. Haacke's piece [Rhinewater Purification Plant (1972)] is great. But I can't disentangle it from a gesture of criticality, just as the art world is dependent on the realities of speculation and the labour of artists as shock workers." ~ Hito Steyerl
"Critique is sexy! As is allowing things to speak for themselves. The theory-speak supplement that is implicitly demanded by exhibitions seems to create a need for neologisms and catch-all terms, regardless of whether there is any desire for them, or underlying them. Exhibitions with no signs, labelling or printed information, such as 'In-finitum', at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice in 2009, permit an immersive and truly engaging aesthetic experience, in which the thoughtfulness of the curating is properly revealed...The new is frequently dull and often turns out not so new after all. Trying to keep up with the speed of exploitation may be fun, but it doesn't eradicate the fact that the art world is frequently trying to catch-up to capitalism itself. Without critique, ethics and politics, this game is doomed to enter into an echo chamber of linguistic creative destruction in which every neologism is ultimately boringly equivalent to every other..." ~ Nina Power