What is contemporary art: conclusions (?)

By the time I got to H U Obrist’s Manifestos For The Future I saw a pattern for this book. The essays were all clever explorations of what the authors wanted to say in regard of art generally wrapped up in the concept of contemporary. For example, while some such as the Raqs Media Collective appeared to genuinely want to explore the concept and showed how the term is used to deliver “cascading, sometimes, overlapping, party concentric and often conflictual temporal parameters” (Raqs Media Collective, 2010). Yet others such as Rosler used it to both define how she believed the term came into being (ie via structuralist forces – capitalism and the industrial revolution) and documentation historical trends in photographic history and make a wholly other point about seeing art in terms of economic exchange values that serves the purposes of the rich.

What all of the essayists seemed to miss – and particularly Rosler – was any consideration of the web on art and in particular definitions of contemporary art. Yet thinking about this – art made and shared over the web is more “in the now” than other art before. It can quickly cross geographical locations and class boundaries in a way unknown previously.

This is also true in terms of contemporary as cultural criticism of the status quo with groups like anonymous and image based sites like 4chan  where often the opposite of the conventional wisdom is propounded.


But is contemporary art the artistic equivalent of anonymous? Yes and no. Art is made for all sorts of reasons and clearly some art is made to challenge but all art once made can be used and appropriated for different reasons.

Maybe the very loose, but still useful description, of what contemporary art is has been made by the Institute of Contemporary Art

“The ICA supports radical art and culture. Through a vibrant programme of exhibitions, films, events, talks and debates, the ICA challenges perceived notions and stimulates debate, experimentation, creativity and exchange with visitors.” (ICA, 2014)

I think today’s photo a day will be based on this subject.

About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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