Notes for conversation-week 08 (Edit)

Reading for discussion:

From the Object to the Concrete Intervention from the website of the German art group, WochenKlausur.


Shelter for Drug-Addicted Women (Zurich (CH) * 1994 * Shedhalle * 8 weeks)

‘In Zurich a shelter for drug-addicted prostitutes was established. For six years, the facility provided a place to sleep for women who needed to get some rest during the day.’


‘The artist group WochenKlausur has been conducting social interventions since 1993. The concept of intervention, whose usage in art has undergone an inflationary trend in recent years, is often used for any form of change. In contrast, WochenKlausur, at the invitation of art institutions, develops and realizes proposals – small-scale but very concrete – for improving sociopolitical deficits.’

Bulletpoints for discussion:

  • “socially engaged art” vs. art producing objects, ‘venerated in specially designated spaces’
  • Function of art: ‘transformation of living conditions’; ‘questioning value standards and authority’; bringing about change of attitude’
  • Artist as activist; the social responsibility of art
  • ‘Methods of “constructing situations”‘

Important quotes:

Art should deal with reality, grapple with political circumstances, and work out proposals for improving human coexistence. Unconventional ideas, innovative spirit and energy, which for centuries were wrapped up in formal glass bead games, could thus contribute to the solution of real problems.

Art can perform many functions. For pages and pages, the various functions could be listed like a catalog of stylistic -isms: Art can represent its commissioners and producers; it can be a definer and caretaker of identity; it can affect snobby allures and satiate the bourgeois hunger for knowledge and possession. Art can fatten up the leisure time of the bored masses; it can serve as an object of financial speculation; it can transmit feelings and cause one’s heart to vibrate. Furthermore, the many functions are also enmeshed in one another. Abstract Expressionism served Cold War Americans as a political instrument of culturalization just as much as it served the spiritual need for expression of the young painters that created it.

‘One of the functions of art has always been the transformation of living conditions. Since the advent of Modernism, with its rejection of religiously founded authority, art has been an especially fertile domain for querying irrational taboos and inherited value standards and for correcting social imbalances. This function was first put into practice by the Russian Constructivists. Simultaneously with the 1917 change of regime in Russia, an art was introduced which for the first time sought to directly influence the people’s consciousness and living conditions through agitation and activism. Thus a new chapter was opened in the history of art.’

‘The avant-garde wanted to choose living localities for their creation, to stop working for eternity, and to address more than just the educated classes of the public.’

Action Art also made a significant contribution to the developments leading to Activism. Originally conceived as cathartic satisfaction of the individual’s unfulfilled drives and a liberation of the subject from the bonds of convention, Actionism soon changed its thinking and recognized the cause of many individual and psychological problems in social injustices.’

‘…visual art has developed in two directions: into an art that is defined by economic interests and bottom-line thinking, that lures the masses with spectacles and lots of horn-blowing. And conversely into an art that acts – independently of profit and populism – in possibilities, that seeks to examine and improve the conditions of coexistence.’

‘Art must devote itself to very concrete strategies of effecting change.’

‘This art’s big chance lies in its ability to offer the community something that also achieves an effect.’

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