December 2014

Suhail Malik: Exit not Escape—On The Necessity of Art's Exit from Contemporary Art

Problematizing the Contemporary

In this series of lectures at Artists Space, Suhail Malik discusses the predominant polemics on the conditions of contemporary art and its critical uncertainties. The argument is presented around the axioms of contemporary art as a field of activity that not only includes artworks but also common places, idiolects, received ideas, judgments, justifications, social and administrative quasi structures, power operations, and so on. The first talk looks at what Malik calls the anarcho-realist maxim of contemporary art, which posits art as we have it as a shortcoming of what art should be. The second talk looks at what he calls the mistake that is contemporary art, noting that the problem of contemporary art is not the contemporary. The third talk offers the face off of these two arguments outlining how to exit contemporary art.

After establishing the terms of engagement, the first lecture looks at one of the main lines of critique in contemporary art, which demands an art that is more sincere, more just, more authentic, more political, more public, and not contained by institutions. Here contemporary art is criticized for its artificiality, wants something less institutional, less commercial, less narcissistic. Art seeks to escape this condition by adopting strategies of smuggling, transversality, deterritorialization, and occupying the in-between, which is also the logic of an endgame. Malik maintains that detaching art from the maxim of greater realism or even greater publicness liberates it from the logic of its failure, from its requirement of non-utility, or anti-artifice, where you can avoid the convention that art needs to be non-instrumental.

Suhail Malik writes on political economy, theory, and the axioms of contemporary art. Malik holds a Readership in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths, London, where he is Programme Co-Director of the MFA in Fine Art. For 2012–2013, Malik is Visiting Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York.

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