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

15 March–01 April 2021

Course: Art as Politics [rerun]

Due to popular demand, BAK Public Studies offers yet another rerun of the online course Art as Politics, taking place on the following dates: 15, 18, 22, 25, 29 March & 1 April 2021. 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.
Deadline applications: 3 March. Deadline feewaivers: 23 February.

Assembly and Public Forum

Collaboration and Open call

03 December 2020–30 January 2021

Manifesting Systemic Change through Creative Waves

A collaborative open call by Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter, The Black Archives/New Urban Collective, Black Queer & Trans Resistance NL, Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, for artists and writers to manifest the Manifesting Systemic Change Through Creative Waves manifesto.

Conversation

16 December 2020, 19.00-21.00

Practicing Tactical Solidarities II: A Roundtable on Mutual Aid, Emergency, and Continuous Care

This locally-focused second edition of Practicing Tactical Solidarities: A Roundtable on Mutual Aid, Emergency, and Continuous Care features artists, organizers, and activists working in Utrecht, many of whom are current BAK Fellows. While addressing changing needs and urgencies in the protracted pandemic reality and its overlapping and related crises, the conversation contends with tactics and lessons in creating mutual aid networks, lasting support systems, and emergency care.