All together now
In this issue Artreview takes a look at the social economies of the artworld.
J. J. Charlesworth examines the sometimes-controversial work of Renzo Martens and the Dutch artist’s treatment of the exploitation of suering in relation to Africa and Europe, and the relationship of extraction between Western media systems and their subjects (it’s for you to judge, of course, whether or not Artreview falls into that – it tries not to, of course, but as a great writer once said, trying is lying). Martens’s broader project is to place the economics of the artworld in the context of the economics of the ‘real’ world, or cultural consumption in the context of primary commodity consumption. It’s a critical take on the operations of critical art, cultural capital and the wealth that funds the two.
A dierent take on similar issues of economics in both the art and wider worlds occurs in Rosa Aiello’s videos and installations. Chris Fite-wassilak traces works that explore the worlds of freelance and precarious work, so prevalent in the artworld, and the eects that they have on workers’ ideas of self and wellbeing. If that is very much an issue of the present, then Ren Scateni introduces the ways in which the much-overlooked pioneering documentary filmmaker Haneda Sumiko tackled issues of gender stereotyping and the not so gradual erosion of rural life in postwar Japan, subtly inserting these wider issues into works ostensibly focused on recording more mundane and quotidian activities, in times gone by.
Elsewhere, Jo Applin catches up with Lynda Benglis, whose work, the artist asserts, is always about transformation and an attempt to give abstract ideas form. As is the case with Martens’s work, some of Benglis’s early productions (famously a 1974 spread for Artforum featuring the artist naked, oiled and clutching a dildo) split opinion, with critics unable, in this case, to tell if the work was feminist or attention-seeking in its purpose. The erotics of Benglis’s output, Applin concludes, are just as present in her work today. If a little more subtle: a flirtation between thought and feeling, between abstract concepts and the handmade. But what happens when your own identity becomes something of an abstract concept? It’s a question Fi Churchman explores while talking to American-iranian artist Shirin Neshat about her latest body of work. And yes, one of the answers might well be to set out and create a new body of art.
Meanwhile, Catherine Balston takes a look at an intertwining of art and psychiatry in a former asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro; artist Aaron Angell explores two examples of design and cosmology in a pair of London houses (and comes up with a new design movement while he’s at it); and Martin Herbert wonders why we encourage so many young artists to become tribute acts.
It’s all, in the end, an exploration of our interconnectedness and more importantly of how our actions impact on others. Artreview
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