Book Hook: Occupy the Art World?

Before your eyes is the second installment of the latest supplement to the BPIGS blog, in which I, an avid reader, collector, and book browser, provide you with a suggested reading list composed of art related books found in Berlin.

Considering all of the occupations of cities that have spread worldwide, the books on this week’s list address the relationship between art and politics. Do not worry, there will be no discussion here of Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics; instead, these works are less theoretical and more tangible. As demonstrated by recent protesters, the 99% is fed up with corporate greed and the unequal distribution of wealth. Is this issue relevant to the art world? What about the 99% of artists that don’t “make it big” and possess a tiny fraction of the wealth within the art market?

Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture(2011) by Gregory Scholette uses the metaphor of ‘dark matter’ (matter that is undetectable but necessary to maintain the gravitational balance of the universe) to describe all of the marginal artists working as studio assistants, art educators, and art administrators without significant recognition who are crucial to sustain the elite, institutionalized art world. This metaphor probably hits close to home for most of us. Scholette illuminates the potential that this artistic underground has (especially with its size in numbers) to circumvent the elite and push political change. Scholette is not merely an observer and theorizer, but a politically engaged activist and co-founder of the PAD/D (Political Art Documentation and Distribution) and REPOhistory collectives. Honestly, I was always a bit skeptical about the matter of overt art activism, but reading this book quickly changed my mind! (available at b_books, Pro QM, and Bücherbogen) (http://www.darkmatterarchives.net/?page_id=376)

The title of Where Art Belongs(2011) by Chris Kraus is definitely a bit deceiving. I picked it off the shelf at ProQM because it was a beautiful orange, and I was expecting to find a possibly dry theoretical text about the function of art in the world at large. Thankfully, this was not the case! Four interlinked essays describe the plights of various art collectives including Tiny Creatures in Los Angeles and the New York City based Bernadette Corporation, the legacy of Sucknewspaper from Amsterdam in the 60’s, and the omnipresence of video art. Although many of these small artist groups were ill fated, one cannot help but be pleased by their efforts and feel the need to pick up where they left off.

How to Do Things With Art(2010) by Dorothea von Hantelmann explores art’s function in society, and although it takes a theoretical approach, she uses familiar examples to support her theories (such as the work of James Coleman, Daniel Buren, Jeff Koons, and Tino Sehgal). It is possible that this book gives the 99% something to strive against, as the discussion is based on well-established and internationally recognized artists. It is impossible not to notice the differences between the colorful cover of the German version (pictured on the left) and the English version (on the right). The different distribution of words on the covers is also of note, as “Things” gets its own line in the German Version, creating a different word emphasis. Also, why is the title not translated into German? Maybe the answers to these subtleties will only be uncovered by reading both versions very carefully…

(both versions available at ProQM)

For next week, look forward to a spooky list.

Berlin Independents Guide is an artist run communications platform. The exhibition guide comes out every two months and is distributed for free in project spaces, galleries, institutions, and bookstores. Listings are accepted from project spaces, galleries, art institutes and art related venues in Berlin.
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