Saturday, March 31, 2012

The art museum as a site of critical discourse

In Art Power, Boris Groys writes that “art institutions are places of historical comparison between the past and present, between the original promise and the realization of this promise and, thus, they possess the means and ability to be sites of critical discourse – because every such discourse needs a comparison, needs a framework and a technique of comparison.”


My essay on a similar topic.

Building a state of the arts in Indonesia



My latest published essay:

Building a state of the arts in Indonesia,” the Pocket Arts Guide 30 (April 2012): 22-5.

See here.

Image by Erika Ernawan.

An earlier and shorter version of this essay was presented during a talk at Studio Bibliothèque, Singapore, 13 March 2012; I thank the organizer, Michael Lee, and discussion participants for valuable input.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Art objects

Jeanette Winterson writes: “Art, all art, […] is a foreign city, and we deceive ourselves when we think it familiar. […] We have to recognise that the language of art, all art, is not our mother-tongue. […] I really believe that human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and the privileged moment exists for all of us, if we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. […] We hear a lot about the arrogance of the artist but nothing about the arrogance of the audience. [… And] ‘Do I like this?’ will have to be the opening question and not the final judgement (Jeanette Winterson, “Art Objects,” in Art Objects, Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (quoted by Yeung Yang; Winterson uses ‘objects’ as a verb and not as a noun): p.4, p.6 and p.14).”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ethics of Wonder & A Plea for Exhibitions

Lee Weng Choy argues “that wonder is […] foundational to the process of critical enquiry. Too much contemporary writing about art […] suffers from want of rigour and forcefulness of critique.” And, he suggests “that the most lasting art criticism has as its central object the experience of wonder (Lee Weng Choy, “The Ethics of Wonder: Art and Natural History,” in Who Cares? 16 Essays on Curating in Asia, eds. Alvaro Rodriquez Fominaya and Michael Lee, pp.83-4).” And Jens Hoffmann claims in the same book that “with the academisation of curatorial practice and the growth of discourse-oriented artistic practices, theory has become a key aspect not only of the eloquent argument of the premise of the exhibition, but also of the analysis of culture and politics at large, with or without any obvious relationship to actual artistic production (Jens Hoffmann, “A Plea for Exhibitions,” p.116).”

care for art

Yeung Yang writes: “To take care of the [art]works is also to take care of their public life. […] The public life of works of art always already intersects with the public lives of other things, processes, people, and events, as well as ideas, dreams, fears and hopes (Yeung Yang, “To curate is to take care of,” in Who Cares? 16 Essays on Curating in Asia, eds. Alvaro Rodriquez Fominaya and Michael Lee, p.13).” Magnus Renfrew writes in the same book: “An important role of the contemporary art curator today is to draw attention to what is important to preserve for tomorrow (“What is the new in curating today,” p142).” And, in conclusion, June Yap, writes in this book: “Curating for the future is necessarily a framing of the present […] (“Zero Gravity – Nothings Seems to Have Changed, But Everything is Different,” p.154).”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

meaning of art


Asking what art means, in general, is a preposterous question. However, it is also sensible to postpone the question what a particular artwork means, for example Erika Ernawan’s work above (Lebensform nr.3, 2010). Look and look and look again. And by the time you realize you cannot stop looking, you actually experience that particular artwork as meaningful.

Friday, March 2, 2012

kick the curator


The only way artists can criticize curators in public is by making artworks. In 2009, for example, Yogyakarta-based artist Agus Suwage made an installation in which six life-size sculptures of curators, collectors and gallery owners were put behind iron bars. And Bandung-based artist Tommy Aditama Putra made a kick the curator series. In the image above we can see Bandung-based curator Agung Hujatnikajennong bruised image in ‘Kick Hujatnikajennong’ by Tommy Aditama Putra (one of five panels, graphite on canvas, 180x120cm, 2010). But curators can take the proverbial punch. Curators often deny that they have the power to make and break artistic careers, but they do as they can be seen as gatekeepers.