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

Exhibitionary

Screening

15 July 2021, 18.30-20.00

Fragments of Repair/Gathering VI: Invisible Bridges

A public program realized in the framework of the multi-part project Fragments of Repair

Taking place on Thursday 15 July 2021, the sixth gathering of Fragments of Repair/Gatherings, consists of a screening of artist Kader Attia’s Reason’s Oxymorons (2015) and a conversation between Kader Attia (Berlin) and Stefania Pandolfo (medical anthropologist, Berkeley, CA).

Screening

24 June 2021, 17.30-20.00

Fragments of Repair/Gathering V: The Object’s Interlacing

A public program realized in the framework of the multi-part project Fragments of Repair

Taking place on Thursday 24 June 2021, the fifth gathering of Fragments of Repair/Gatherings, consists of a screening of artist Kader Attia’s The Object’s Interlacing (2020), followed by a conversation between Souleymane Bachir Diagne (philosopher New York/Dakar) and Wayne Modest (material culture curator and researcher, Amsterdam/Rotterdam).

Education Program

21 June, 19.00–7 July, 21.00 2021

Course: Art as Politics

An Online Extension of BAK Public Studies

A new edition of the online course Art as Politics, taking place on the following dates: 21, 23, 28 and 30 June & 5 and 7 July 2021. The course, taught by BAK’s Maria Hlavajova, brings those involved and/or interested in art, theory, and social action into collective conversation.