On the Specific in Contemporary Art and Curatorial Practice

Doussan, Jenny. 2008. 'On the Specific in Contemporary Art and Curatorial Practice'. In: 'Art:Relations. Revisiting Crucial Concepts', European Doctoral Seminar in Culture, Criticism and Creativity. Freie Universität Berlin, Germany 30 October - 1 November 2008. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

In his 1982 survey of the place of negativity in Western metaphysics Language and Death, Giorgio Agamben elaborates on the schism between indication, showing, and signification, saying, upon which the meaning of being is situated, which he defines as the taking-place of language—an object-less purely self-referential being that precedes every thing. However, nearly ten years later in The Coming Community, Agamben introduced a revised model of the taking-place based on the Platonic Idea that recuperates the object as that which being must necessarily accompany. This reconstruction reflects Agamben’s attempt to overcome the enduring presence of the metaphysical tradition, often replicated by discourses that attempt to work outside of it.

In contemporary art and curatorial practice, this may be said of the increasing emphasis on participation, which displaces the object in the attempt to move away from antiquated notions of transcendence of the work of art. In its minimal pure object-less being, the concept of participation echoes Agamben’s initial definition of the taking-place. An adverse affect of this trend as curatorial method can be a groundless and imperious demand upon the viewer to actively create meaning, a burden that excludes the possibility of indifference that should be every viewer’s right—a right to not participate.

Following the shift in Agamben’s logic regarding the taking-place, is it possible to restore the object to the discourse of contemporary art without regressing to older art historical models founded on authorship and connoisseurship? Based on Agamben’s reading of Plato, this paper intends to explore the possibility of reconceiving the role of specificity in the object in considering artistic practice, but as an unqualified specificity—a place of meaning, itself empty, but delineated by and inextricable from the work itself.

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Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Visual Cultures


31 October 2008Completed

Event Location:

Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Date range:

30 October - 1 November 2008

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Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2024 12:01

Last Modified:

19 Jun 2024 12:01



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