Collectives, Art and Neoliberalism

Kim Charnley
, Open University,

Louisa Lee, Independent Researcher,

Since the 1970s, art collectives have featured prominently in critical opposition to white, patriarchal, heteronormative cultural values. Art activism continues to be closely identified with collectivist forms of social organisation and invocation of collectivity still retains the glamour of the revolutionary avant-gardes. Yet, collectivism can sometimes seem an empty rhetorical gesture now that a globalised art world encourages fluid networks and art collectives achieve mainstream recognition. 

In recent years, art collectives have been increasingly prominent in the discourse and programming of contemporary art. As recipients of art prizes and curators of biennials, art collectives inhabit a place of contradiction where they are prominent both in global art institutions and in attempts to conceive radical alternative to them. The appointment of the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa as curator of Documenta 15 exemplifies this tendency. 

This session proposes to explore the contradictory figure of the art collective within the political and economic formation of neoliberalism. What perspectives on the political and social role of art might be gleaned from the study of art collectives in the context of the global inequalities that neoliberalism has created? What is at stake in a decision to work collectively? Might a global art history of art collectives provide a new perspective on the social and political character of contemporary art? 

Papers are invited from art historians, art theorists, sociologists of art and art collectives, exploring collectivist modes of artistic production within the historical frame provided by neoliberalism, from the 1970s to the present.

Call for Papers deadline 1 November 2021. Please submit your paper proposal to the convenor.



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