If, indeed, the term “institutional critique” emerged as shorthand for “the critique of institutions,” today that catchphrase has been even further reduced by restrictive interpretations of its constituent parts: “institution” and “critique.” The practice of institutional critique is generally defined by its apparent object, “the institution,” which is, in turn, taken to refer primarily to established, organized sites for the presentation of art. As the flyer for the symposium at LACMA put it, institutional critique is art that exposes “the structures and logic of museums and art galleries.” “Critique” appears even less specific than “institution,” vacillating between a rather timid “exposing,” “reflecting,” or “revealing,” on the one hand, and visions of the revolutionary overthrow of the existing museological order on the other, with the institutional critic as a guerrilla fighter engaging in acts of subversion and sabotage, breaking through walls and floors and doors, provoking censorship, bringing down the powers that be. In either case, “art” and “artist” generally figure as antagonistically opposed to an “institution” that incorporates, coopts, commodifies, and otherwise misappropriates once - radical - and uninstitutionalized - practices. These representations can admittedly be found in the texts of critics associated with institutional critique. However, the idea that institutional critique opposes art to institution, or supposes that radical artistic practices can or ever did exist outside of the institution of art before being “institutionalized” by museums, is contradicted at every turn by the writings and work of Asher, Broodthaers, Buren, and Haacke. From Broodthaers’s announcement of his first gallery exhibition in 1964 - which he begins by confiding that “the idea of inventing something insincere finally crossed my mind” and then informing us that his dealer will “take thirty percent” - the critique of the apparatus that distributes, presents, and collects art has been inseparable from a critique of artistic practice itself. As Buren put it in “The Function of the Museum” in 1970, if “the Museum makes its ‘mark,’ imposes its ‘frame’… on everything that is exhibited in it, in a deep and indelible way,” it does so easily because “everything that the Museum shows is only considered and produced in view of being set in it.” In “The Function of the Studio” from the following year, he couldn’t be more cl ear, arguing that the “analysis of the art system must inevitably be carried on” by investigating both the studio and the museum “as customs, the ossifying customs of art.”
Currently reading an essay out of Museum Highlights, Andrea Fraser’s volume of collected writings, and I was surprised to find that this piece — one of her best and most well-known, I think — is not in it. Turns out this essay was published in the same year as the book (2005) and probably narrowly missed being included.
Incidentally, I think that a good look at this piece would be in order for anybody writing about the guy who smashed that Ai Wei Wei vase.
The Strange Meeting
oil on canvas
20 x 25 in
Jacques Majorelle (French, 1886-1962), Tassa, Haut Sexaoua, Grand Atlas, Le Ras Moulay Ali, 1929. Mixed media heightened with gold and silver, 55.5 x 73.5 cm.
Albert Gleizes (French, 1881-1953), Composition, 1946. Oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm.
The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture are pleased to announce a major collaboration celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s greatest writers, Ralph Ellison. On Saturday, March 1, 2014—a century after Ellison’s birth in Oklahoma City—Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man will kick off a year of programs and initiatives celebrating the Ellison Centennial.
Thanks to support from the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust, Ellison at 100 embraces both the international influence of Ellison’s work and his love for the Harlem neighborhood, his home for nearly six decades. From 10 am to 5 pm on March 1, a wide variety of actors, writers, musicians, visual artists and community leaders will stage a collective reading of selections from Invisible Man (1952) at the Schomburg Center’s Langston Hughes auditorium, located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard and West 135th Street in Harlem. From Harlem youth to celebrated performers, diverse voices will bring highlights from Ellison’s iconic novel to life and celebrate its spirit with musical interludes.