What is Contemporary Art? 3

I continued with my exploration of definitions of contemporary art by reading Now and Elsewhere (Raqs Media Collective, 2010).

Contemporary art is:

  • equivocal as a label both an assertion and reticence to name ones place in time p41 or history

“the problem of determining the question of contemporaneity hinges on how we orient ourselves in relation to a cluster of occasionally cascading, sometimes, overlapping, party concentric and often conflictual temporal parameters” (Raqs Media Collective, 2010)

Specific times can look distant or close depending on our perspective and reference points – eg moon landings, cold war can look recent or old

So contemporaneity should(?) not become one of periodising but used to offer a sense of how some things are more “now” than others and promotes a sense of presentness with our time

This experience is linked to memory, time passing p49 and disappearance.

I enjoyed this discussion of the term. It seemed to me that the authors were arguing that to approach the issue from a point of view that is time dependent misses the point. Periods in time can look either near of far depending on ones reference point. It would be better to use and understand the term as a way of seeing how some work evokes or promotes a sense of now and being contemporaneous.

I think that’s right and so something labelled contemporary now may not be either by others now or by the same people who originally labelled it after some time. So maybe the term is a poor one?

I also read this blog entry and found the content very interesting – particularly this schematic. Of course Stéphanie Dh is talking about and making distinctions between Modern and Post Modern artistic labels, but for me the difference is one very relevant to the Contemporary term. Would it be better to categorise art in terms of form rather than conceptuality?

If you look at some of my work such as this image below would you class it is contemporary, post modern formalist or what?

Project 2 V3 finals (7 of 8)

The concept of contemporary as used in art seems inappropriate here as there is little in the image that speaks of “presentness” and now. Moreover the photo will become dated very quickly by the technology within the frame. In addition the image offers a strong formal arrangement of elements within the frame and does not offer a commentary on representation and so, to me, is not post modern but rather modern in terms of categorisation. Would you agree?


Raqs Media Collective. Now and Elsewhere (2010) in What is Contemporary Art?, Published by Sternberg Press


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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