Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency
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One of the world’s leading art theorists dissects a quarter century of artistic practice
Bad New Days examines the evolution of art and criticism in Western Europe and North America over the last twenty-five years, exploring their dynamic relation to the general condition of emergency instilled by neoliberalism and the war on terror.
Considering the work of artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tacita Dean, and Isa Genzken, and the writing of thinkers like Jacques Rancière, Bruno Latour, and Giorgio Agamben, Hal Foster shows the ways in which art has anticipated this condition, at times resisting the collapse of the social contract or gesturing toward its repair; at other times burlesquing it.
Against the claim that art making has become so heterogeneous as to defy historical analysis, Foster argues that the critic must still articulate a clear account of the contemporary in all its complexity. To that end, he offers several paradigms for the art of recent years, which he terms “abject,” “archival,” “mimetic,” and “precarious.”
children, and soccer fans. Yet such a shift in address is necessary if an “aesthetics of resistance” is to be made relevant to an amnesiac society dominated by culture and sport industries. This is why his work, with its throwaway structures, kitschy materials, jumbled references, and fan testimonials, often suggests a grotesquerie of our immersive environment of commodities and media: such are the elements and energies that exist to be reworked and rechanneled. In short, rather than pretend that
the people Hirschhorn wanted to address with it, with ramifications that are both ethical and political. Thomas Hirschhorn, Someone Takes Care of My Work, 1992. Mixed media. The French word précaire indicates a socioeconomic insecurity that is not as evident in the English term precarious; indeed, précarité is used to describe the condition of a vast number of laborers in neoliberal capitalism for whom employment (let alone health care, insurance, or pension) is anything but guaranteed. This
false. For purposes of activation and attention give me a Piet Mondrian over a George Maciunas any day.11 7. Might it be that the critique of authorship as authority has done its job, even done it too well? When Duchamp insisted on the share of the beholder in “the creative act” and Umberto Eco argued for the radicality of “the open work” in their influential essays of 1957–8, and when Foucault questioned “the author function” and Barthes celebrated “the death of the author” in their landmark
sculpture can hardly function as a “cynosure” that focuses the relay between artwork and network when that same artwork is already deemed merely contemplative or totally reified or both.33 Why not bolster, rather than collapse, the gap that still exists between artwork and network, in the mode of formal resistance, or, alternatively, when that gap appears to be closed, why not attempt to make those “petrified social conditions” dance again, in the mode of mimetic exacerbation? 17. I started with
there—at best in a semi-neurotic plea for punishment, at worst in a semi-paranoid demand for order. And this “Icarian pose” was adopted by some artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s who were almost too eager to talk dirty in the museum, almost too ready to be chastised by neoconservative critics. On the other hand, the Bataillean ideal—to opt for the smelly shoe over the beautiful picture, to be fixed in perversion or stuck in abjection—was adopted by other artists of the time who became