POCA

DEPARTMENT OF ART

INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT

The Political Currency of Art (PoCA) Research Group investigates the condition and consequences of the claims to critique in contemporary art and elsewhere when such claims can be readily assimilated, as they now are, with the interests of more or less dominant cultural, state and financial institutions.

This research is organized under the general umbrella of PoCA as well as more specific investigating particular themes and strategies.

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MQA

MQB

Autumn/Winter 07 Campaign, www.mcq-alexandermcqueen.com


The change in the status and operation of art's criticality is to be understood in the context of the recent shifts in social, cultural and financial structures and expectations over the last 40 years or so. Rather than being organised around normative or majoritarian standards, contemporary dominant sociocultural ambitions emphasise individualism, creativity, innovation, difference and questioning. These are of course key characteristics of what we have understood to be critical in art. But they are now also the characteristics that are to be affirmed simultaneously by liberal-democracies, insofar as they herald themselves to be auto-critical societies, and by contemporary models of capitalist economic advance, insofar as: (i) alterity and counternormativity are major forces of commodification ('rebel chic'); and (ii) the demand for innovation and difference is seen as a source of market expansion.

In these conditions critical art becomes emblematic of what is highly valued in auto-critical societies such as liberal-democracies, and the institutions and ideologies that promote it. This intertwining of interests, which leads to social-institutional-financial affirmations of contemporary art and the contrary (even when art practices claim to be institutionally critical) is what is meant by 'political currency' in this research, where currency is to be understood in the two-fold sense of our contemporaneity and also as economic circulation.

The project looks to understand what happens to art, what critical art can do, how its operation is to be understood, and what critique now is, in this condition. Our ambition is not only to reflect upon and generate contributions to artpractice in the light of what is understood for it to be political, but also to advocate art as a method for the redetermination of politicality as such. We aim to do so through a combination of discussion of practice and its contemporary conditions, together with curatorial and studio-based practices.

As well as activities run under the general umbrella of PoCA, there are also specific research strands co-ordinated by members of the Research Group.