Lecture

16 December 2006

Artists as (Public) Intellectuals

Artists as (Public) Intellectuals considers how the definition of the term “intellectual” in a broader sense might be expanded by thinking of artists as “knowledge producers” and thus as a type of intellectual, and discusses the ethical, political, and social implications of defining artists in this way.

If we see artists as “knowledge producers” can they also be defined as “intellectuals?” What new concept of the intellectual might be necessary to encompass the kind of non-totalizing and diverse art practices that create knowledge? What implications would this have on the entrenched division between thinking and making or thinking and doing? In opposition to the classic definition of a “universal intellectual,” who is “authorized” to dispense truths, Michel Foucault suggested the term “specific intellectual.” As Gary Hall explains (quoting Foucault), this individual is a “‘savant or expert’ with a ‘direct and localized relation’ to knowledge… The specific intellectual thus represents a ‘new mode of the connection between theory and practice’.” Alternatively, we could speak of the “public intellectual” whose approach to knowledge could be seen as more accessible and inclusive. To paraphrase curator Charles Esche, perhaps the role of the artist today might be to be a generalist in a time of specialization.

Defining artists as intellectuals also has a number of implications for artists and their artistic practices. First, we ask whether this label implicitly devalues creative work or takes focus away from the formal or aesthetic qualities of art. Is the function of an intellectual one that artists are willing or interested in taking on? What could this mean for how artists position themselves in the cultural, social, and political realm? In what kind of public sphere do artists operate, and what strategies do they employ to seek out and address various publics? As Simon Sheikh wrote in Representation, Contestation and Power: The Artist as Public Intellectual: “We must therefore begin to think of artists and intellectuals as not only engaged in the public, but as producing a public through the mode of address and the establishment of platforms or counter publics… in opposition to the reigning cultural and political hegemony of the specific society.” Are there “modes of address” that are unique to contemporary art and if so, how can they retain their autonomy and oppositional character?

Suggestions from the archive

Education Program

29 June–16 July 2020

Course: Art as Politics [Rerun on Request]

Due to popular demand, BAK Public Studies offers a rerun of the online course Art as Politics, taking place on the following dates: 29 June & 2, 6, 9, 13, and 16 July 2020.
This digital extension of BAK Public Studies, taught by Maria Hlavajova, is prompted by the urgency to continue collective thinking through, learning about, and imagining critical, politically-informed artistic practices that grasp—and intervene into—the present. Please note: this Open Call is now closed.

Education Program

8-26 June 2020

Course: Art as Politics [Open Call closed]

BAK Public Studies offers the new online course Art as Politics. This digital extension of BAK Public Studies is prompted by the urgency to continue collective thinking through, learning about, and imagining critical, politically-informed artistic practices that grasp—and intervene into—the present.

Dates: Mondays and Thursdays on 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, and 25 June 2020, 19–21 hrs CET. [Please note: Open Call now closed].

13 March, 19.30–14 March, 22.00 2020

European Forum for Advanced Practices (EFAP) at BAK [NOT TAKING PLACE]

Including two public programs with Paul Goodwin, Ima-Abasi Okon, Abbas Zahedi, Jihan El-Tahri, Irit Rogoff, Florian Schneider, and Maria Hlavajova

[WILL NOT TAKE PLACE | Update 12/3: unfortunately these EFAP presentations will not take place.]

Come to BAK on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March for two public programs as part of the European Forum for Advanced Practices (EFAP), a self-organized, international gathering of practitioners, scholars, and organizers from transdisciplinary realms of art and education. With, on the Friday, a conversation between Paul Goodwin, Ima-Abasi Okon, and Abbas Zahedi; and on the Saturday a screening and a lecture by Jihan El-Tahri. With introductions by Irit Rogoff, Florian Schneider, and Maria Hlavajova.

Gathering

7 March 2020, 20.00-23.00

BAK, basis voor Yallah Sabaya

Special International Women's Day edition

On Saturday 7 March 2020 BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht hosts a special International Women’s Day edition of Yallah Sabaya! Yallah Sabaya (“Come ladies! Enjoy yourselves!” in Arabic) is a special evening where dance and music connect women from all over the world. All women, no matter where they are from, are welcome on […]