On October 13, 2007, Southern Methodist University will host the symposium Collecting & Collectivity. Professors Noah Simblist and Charissa Terranova will mediate talks by and round-table discussion between the theorist WJT Mitchell, curator Michelle White, and two artists, Mel Ziegler and K8 Hardy. Collecting & Collectivity will investigate the unique qualities and circumstances of the contemporary avant-garde. Upon first blush, the two words seem quite at odds. From art to bilia, “collecting” is rooted in the free market. People collect art for investment purposes or because of desire coupled with disposable income. By contrast, “collectivity” is community formed on the basis of shared ideology. Historically, it has been rooted in socialist and communist political movements. The historical avant-garde in the early twentieth-century was marked by the formation of a series of artistically and ideologically driven groupuscules – de Stijl, Constructivism, dada, Surrealism, et. al. Though each group bore a unique set of formal concerns within their art, all criticized capitalism and pledged allegiance to class revolution. In general, the historical avant-garde viewed “art” as praxis – making in the name of the social transformation of everyday life.
Most artists who make cutting-edge art today are complicit, to use a word of Johanna Drucker’s. They knowingly make art that goes with the market: their art bears no form of “resistance” to capitalism. Success means high value in the market and celebrity in a global network of art. In spite, sometimes because of, the triadic collusion between artist, artwork, and the market, art communities of varying scales and types continue to take form through published discourse, the university, galleries, museums, and an international circuit of biennials and art fairs.
The question begs: Do these communities qualify as “collectivities”? Do they show to us a new paradigm of “collectivity” in the twenty-first century? The symposium Collecting & Collectivity seeks to answer these questions.
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