September 2020

Barry Schwabsky: What is a Medium?

Care, Caring, and Repair in Cognitive Capitalism

The circulation of the concept of “medium” in art is a distinctly twentieth-century phenomenon and nearly synonymous with modernism. However, even within modernism, there are currents of thought that run counter to orthodoxies about “medium specificity,” and following them may help us get a better grip on the recurrent conundrum of the relation between art and everyday life—or, as Stephane Mallarmé perhaps more aptly phrased it, “between Aesthetics and Political Economy.”

Barry Schwabsky is codirector of Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art. He is art critic for The Nation and coeditor of international reviews for Artforum. His recent books include The Observer Effect: On Contemporary Painting (Sternberg Press, 2020), Heretics of Language (Black Square, 2018), and The Perpetual Guest: Art in the Unfinished Present (Verso, 2016). A new collection of his poetry is forthcoming in 2021.

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