The works in Anti-Establishment investigate artistic practices that, in various ways, radically utilize and recommit to the notion of “the institution”, while demanding new functions and effects of them. Institutions are very often discussed via shorthand, conflated with the “establishment”—monolithic, static, and hierarchical societal systems against which avant-garde and countercultural productions can be seen. Yet, this exhibition sets the two apart, arguing for institutions as more limber sites, perpetually de- and re-constructed by those that create, inhabit, and dismantle them.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a generation of artists emerged with a self-described critical task: to engage with and reveal the power structures and ideological imperatives implicit in any given cultural situation in the belief that doing so could create viable alternatives for living and art-making alike. Since then, this model for art has only become more prevalent — and yet both its purpose and effect today are often argued to have become radically altered, even neutered. As early as the mid-1990s, art historian Isabelle Graw wrote of this development that the critique of art, its institutions, and its social contexts has become little more than “subversion for hire.” Today’s concept of artistic critique of the institution is seen more and more as the stuff of style and the status quo within the museum and gallery system.
But what models of art making are still be available to artists today wishing to generate alternatives and oppositions to conditions as they are? And how might such models function, if they buck against or retool recognized features of “institutional critique”? Anti-Establishment aims to highlight potential answers to these questions with artists who do not seek to move beyond or outside institutions so much as to integrate themselves deftly into these spheres, imagining new organizational frameworks. More specifically, these artists enter institutions — defined not only as social entities, but also as artistic practices, even those that began as alternative practices — not only to underline or reveal those sites’ underlying structures and biases, but also to suggest how the notion of the institution itself might now be a vessel to be considered anew. While these artists do not adhere to utopian impulses of previous eras, they nevertheless envision novel collective relationships and emergent models of engaged citizenship, where power is not dispensed with but instead re-routed to other ends.
June 23, 2012, 2:00 – 5:00pm
Performances by Brennan Gerard & Ryan Kelly, Chelsea Knight (with Elise Rassmussen), Sarah Pierce, and YES! Association
Location: CCS Bard Galleries
June 23, 2012, 7:00 – 9:00pm
Performances by Trajal Harrell and Tere O’Connor
Location: The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts