Getting Rid of Yourself
Reckitt, Helena. 2013. 'Getting Rid of Yourself'. In: Socially Engaged Practice: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics or Economics?. Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, United Kingdom 2 March 2013. [Conference or Workshop Item]
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Official URL: http://economyexhibition.stills.org/events/sociall...
Abstract or Description
Getting Rid of Yourself is a paper given by Helena Reckitt at the one-day event Socially Engaged Practice: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics or Economics?, led by the renowned Vienna-based collective WochenKlausur. The event brings together artists, theorists, curators and activists to discuss one of contemporary art’s hottest and most widely debated trends: the rise of participatory art practices that seek to solve social problems – or are they economic ones?
In her talk, Helena Reckitt considered the work of contemporary artists that challenges the familiar idea that art provides a space self-expression. She explored how artists have increasingly explored the opposite course, advocating erasure, invisibility and anonymity through their work. From the Surrealists’ experiments with group creativity and unconscious states to the Situationists’ adoption of the dérive as a means towards self-forgetting, artists have sought to escape overt and oppressive self-consciousness. More recently, they have adopted avatars and surrogates, as well as collective and anonymous forms of authorship, to complicate creativity and subjectivity. Sometimes they have stopped making art and withdrawn from the art world altogether. Inspired by Herman Melville’s character of Bartleby, the Scrivener, they have responded to the demand to perform with the retort that they ‘PREFER NOT TO.’
While such projects seem to reject identity politics’ emphases on the divisions of sex, class and race, they nonetheless contain a feminist-informed critique of the limitations of marked subject positions. Peggy Phelan, for example, writing in the mid 1990s, cautioned against the dangers for subcultural identities under surveillance in her Foucault and Lacanian-inspired book 'Unmarked: The Politics of Performance'. This critique is all the more relevant in our contemporary era of Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter in which personal and professional relationships become cultural as well as economic currency. Questioning how selfhood is both marketed and marketed to, Helena Reckitt explores artworks and artistic practices that contest the commodification of social life and of subjectivity.
Organised as part of ECONOMY, a curatorial project examining the outstanding and increasing visibility of economic relations and their impact on everything that we do or, indeed, are. Since the 1990s, capitalism as a global system has been mutating into an aggressive form of economic reductionism. At this moment in the history of capitalism, rampant economic oppression and a regime of crisis are transforming livelihoods and lives, yet also bringing forth an awareness about the necessity for struggle on all fronts. As a result, a new economic subject is displacing postmodernism’s celebrated cultural subject. But how and where does this take place exactly? Can it be observed in our everyday reality? And does the emergence of an economic subject indicate a new phase in the history of contemporary art?
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