Lecture | What is Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? Claire Bishop

Lecture: What is Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art?

Claire Bishop, The City University of New York

Attempts to define the contemporary are suddenly everywhere – in museums, in art history, in theory. But what would be an appropriately ‘contemporary’ reading of contemporaneity? This paper discusses the contemporary as a discursive category, and two models emerge. The first, which is the dominant usage of ‘contemporary’ in art today, concerns a resigned inability to grasp the contemporary moment, and an acceptance of this sublimity as a constitutive condition of the present historical era. (In refusing to define the contemporary, however, other values enter the equation – primarily, the invisible hand of the market.) The second model, which I develop here, takes its lead from three European museum institutions that seek to assert the specificity of the contemporary as a project distinct to that of the modern and the post-modern. One of the consequences of their thinking is a revaluation of the museum itself, not as the container of the discipline of art history, nor as a gentrifying economic force, but as a radical and transdisciplinary space of experimentation for the social and aesthetic imagination.

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Claire Bishop is a Professor of Contemporary Art, Theory and Exhibition History at The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center in New York. One of the most prominent and provocative critics and art historians working today, she is the author of seminal essays and publications including Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics (2004), Installation Art: A Critical History(2005), and the editor of Participation (2006) from the Documents of Contemporary Art series. Her most recent book is Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (Verso, 2012).

Presented in partnership with the School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne

Date: Wednesday 19th Dec, 5.30 for 6pm

Venue:  Clemenger BBDO Auditorium, Ground Level, National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road (enter North Entrance via Arts Centre forecourt)

Cost: Free