Nechama Golan (b 1947), is one of the best-known Jewish Orthodox feminist artists in Israel. This article deals with the reception of her most prominent and poignant work, ‘You Shall Walk in Virtuous Ways’ (1999–2011) – a high block-heeled sandal covered with Xerox copies of a Jewish sacred text. The article expands the study of reception by showing how the study of a work’s reception within different cultural spheres can clarify the processes of meaning-making of the work. By shedding light on feminist art that addresses religious issues, the article demonstrates that art, religion, feminism and critical thinking are not as antithetical as some have claimed.
Beginning with a brief analysis of what is broadly considered to be the ‘canon’ of institutional critique, this article asks: is there anything ‘contemporary’ about institutional critique? Following the work of Terry Smith and Peter Osborne, by ‘contemporary’ I mainly refer to the experience of ‘con-tempus’, of being with others in time, within increasingly globalised art institutions where the demand of registering disjunctive subject positions – between subjects of the global North and South – is increasingly apparent. While analysing a range of projects, I mainly bring to the fore one work, ‘The Silent University’, initiated by Ahmet Ögüt in 2012 and aligned with what has recently been termed the ‘fourth wave’ of institutional critique, or ‘instituent practice’. To my mind, ‘The Silent University’ offers a productive example of the nexus of contemporaneity, particularly correlative concepts of co-presence and institutional critique. It is an instituent practice founded to contest the individualism of neoliberalism and the divisive effects of globalisation/border politics through explicitly experimental collaborative practices galvanised by the promise of the contemporary ‘we’. It is an instituent practice that attempts to forge an infrastructure to sustain radical contemporaneity. In this article, I seek to trace both the potentialities and limitations of the speculative and empirical dimensions of instituent practice, and how it may catalyse the spirit of contemporaneity – being and working together in time against the teleology of global capital – in the context of failing public institutions (the UNHCR, national governments) and the lack of spaces for critical forms of collectivity.
Can we interpret fascist buildings beyond the circumstances of their creation, addressing their multiple afterlives while acknowledging their shameful origin? Federico Baronello’s photographic project ‘EUR_Libya’ (2011–2013) offers an answer. He photographed iconic fascist buildings in Rome but digitally altered them to include Libyan flags, and logos of the Libyan National Bank and of Italian corporations enmeshed in the economy of Italian former colonies. I address Baronello’s aesthetic choices as a questioning of notions of centre-periphery in the narrative on Italian fascism. Baronello’s project gives visual form to the fascist dream of the Mediterranean as ‘Mare Nostrum’ or ‘Our Sea’, while showing its post-war legacy in the economic relations between Libya and Italy. I also analyse how ‘EUR_Libya’ challenges architectural photography and its pretences to documentary truth, as well as photomontage, a medium with a loaded history as an avant-garde tool also commonly used in Italian fascist propaganda.
‘Stealing Beauty’ is a video performance by Guy Ben-Ner, where he films himself and his family surreptitiously in IKEA's Berlin, New York and Netanya (Israel) showrooms. ‘Stealing Beauty’ uses American family sitcom conventions to criticise global consumer culture and its related fantasies. Focusing on ‘Stealing Beauty’’s secret process of production, I argue that it employs anarchist-like strategies that hijacked the space of consumer culture and evoked Guy Debord’s and Hakim Bey’s anti-consumerist writings. Although this work circulates in international fine arts arenas and self-references itself as an art commodity, ‘Stealing Beauty’’s use of hoax and critical engagements are further analysed as sharing elements with cultural-jamming practices by being subversive in public spaces and media arenas. Also addressed in this article are the gendered ramifications of Ben-Ner’s performance as an artist and as a father and how he employs his family as a subversive collectivity.
This article unpacks the portrayal of digital or screen-based trauma and the gamification of war within contemporary video art. A riff on Harun Farocki's eponymous multi-channel video installation ‘Serious Games’ (2010), the article questions if the screen has the power to transmit violence and thus affect trauma, or if this focus heightens what Judith Butler termed ‘precarious life’. Conversely, for those who experience PTSD, as noted by Freud, the gamification or dreaming following traumatic events brings one to an entirely different game. This repetition, re-play, as I note, is for premonition, mastery or sight, while war in the age of simulation is characterised by a lack of human optics. As information bombs and pop monuments to atrocity flood the public imagination, what other experiences are also covered over? What lies behind the schism between the virtual and the lived?
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group