“A Note on Socially Engaged Art Criticism.”


“If relational aesthetics and socially engaged art are the two most important practices within politicized contemporary art, we also have to mention institutional critique and tactical media. Institutional critique was, of course, a continuation of a previous generation of conceptual art, a continuation of conceptual art’s ‘internal’ exposition and critique of the conventions and rules of the art institution on the basis of the idea that it is not possible to find a position outside the institution. Post-conceptual artists such as Andrea Fraser, Christian Phillip Müller, and Fareed Armaly took on the role of self-critical sociologist, subscribing neither to a modernist idea of an autonomous artwork nor to the avant-garde’s anti-aesthetic exit from the institution highlighting the art institution’s structural constraints. If the avant-garde was transgressive and subscribed to an idea of the realisation and Aufhebung of art, institutional critique opts for an immanent approach and engages in a kind of ‘complicit critique,’ continuing conceptual art’s self-critical investigation of the inevitable recuperation and commodification of art. These investigations are undertaken without the pathos-ridden rhetoric of the avant-garde and without any hope of transcending the institution, without an idea of a revolutionary break. If institutional critique is, thus, ‘realistic’ and tries to use the autonomy of art instead of attacking it and doing away with it—there’s no outside, we cannot exit the institution but we can expose its workings—tactical media is characterized by a playful do-it-yourself approach in which artists use new media in a kind of semiotic guerrilla war against multinational companies and nation-states. Instead of focusing on the institution, tactical media intervenes in the remains of various national bourgeois public spheres.”