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Art is Over, if you want it

Page history last edited by Nick Stewart 12 years ago

I've had this poster (below) kicking around for a while now but wasn't quite sure what it was saying. It's not intended as an anti-art provocation. More of a spur to debate about possible futures for art. Obviously it's quoting the original John Lennon one which stated, WAR IS OVER, if you want itSo the idea is to mount an advertising campaign with this poster - in magazines, with cards etc - to promote a conference/event that would focus on what happens to art in a world being transformed by fiscal and environmental crises, global warming, resource shortages, et al. In other words a world where the market for art is no longer a viable option for most artists and where the idea of art as an exclusive spectator sport is no longer adequate. The conference/event would invite speculation about possible art futures in such a transformed world beyond the current moribund status quo of art stars, mega-museums and bloated biennales. 


It's interesting to me that the period when post-war art was at its most vital and radical was precisely that time of greatest economic crises during the early 1970s. Art as idea and the incorporation of the whole self in the work became the radical paradigm for art then. Mostly this was still within the remit of the art world but there was also a strand of art activity that shunned the attentions of the mainstream. In fact, some artists simply gave up on the art world and merged their work seamlessly with everyday life, playing with social forms/norms, bringing a new perspective to the everyday world of work. Arguably the art, visible or invisible, from this time presaged the social media innovations now being spun off networked communications.


Now we have entered another period of social and economic upheaval, one that will perhaps make that of the 1970's look like a picnic by comparison. And now, once again we are witnessing a burgeoning of radical thinking, and action, about how people might organise to maintain life in the face of this ongoing collapse. This time the impetus for this is not coming from the art world. Since the 1970s art has lost its radical agenda and mostly surrendered to the lure of the market through the gigantic global network of biennales, museums and galleries. Art is more a freaky corner of the global entertainments business than anything else these days. Of course, there are still excellent artists and fantastic works to be experienced but these tend to be individuals or organisations that operate in spite of the art world rather than because of it. Art has lost it's way for the most part and today's social innovation and thinking about how we might live anew are springing from more diverse sources across a spectrum of social contexts, sharing knowledge and experience through increasingly fluid social media and largely unconcerned about the art world and its machinations. More artists need to get involved with this change. They need to apply their ideas in more grounded contexts beyond the gallery and museum and beyond the interests of reviewers and curators eager for a slice of the latest "hot" new art work. 


Art is Over ... aims to provide a forum to engage this discussion in more depth. 


Proposal 1.

A day of presentations and discussions, at the University Project Hub Space, around the idea of what art becomes in a post globalised-capitalist, post peak-oil, post climate changed world. 


Proposal 2.

As above but on a day-long boat trip up the Thames from North Sea to Westminster, filmed for a documentary.


The day might include:

- The post-war avant-garde: legacy and loss.

- A review of some radical, historical, art and education, institutional experiments.

- A review of some radical, historical, art and education, artists' work.

- Contemporary art: experiments with life.

- Art beyond the art world: post globalism, post capitalism.

- Other cultural perspectives: 




I welcome input ... Nick Stewart,


Email: stew.artt@btinternet.com

Twitter: @nickstew_art












Comments (2)

Dougald Hine said

at 12:55 am on Sep 19, 2011

Hi Nick - really glad you posted this. The phrase has been going round in my head since you sent me the poster, and I was talking to Alastair McIntosh about it when I was in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. For me it relates to the paradox that art provided a refugium for certain deep human promises during modernity/the industrial era/capitalism (delete as applicable) - but at the cost of a recurring tendency to run things off the battery of the ego which most societies have run off the metaphysical mains. Also that the work which has inspired me in recent years comes from people renouncing the safety/authority of the professional identity of the artist.

I'd been going to propose a Dark Mountain event on this theme - and doing it under the banner of the University Project makes total sense to me.

Nick Stewart said

at 4:56 pm on Sep 21, 2011

“Art has been the means of keeping alive the sense of purposes that outrun evidence and of meanings that transcend indurated habit”, wrote John Dewey back in 1932. But if the concept of art is to have any purchase on the future it must abandon the closed loop of institutional control. Everyday life as a site of personal and social transformation must become the new locus of art.

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