Towards interdependent curating: beneath the tip of the artistic iceberg
In his lecture relating to feminist economies of contemporary art and recent examples of artistic activism, Kuba Szreder will argue that the critique of political economy of art is intimately related to a revision of its social ontology. In less academic terms, what art is depends on how, where, and by whom it is made, owned, distributed and used.
The art world of skyrocketing auction prices, art trophies, corporate museums, large biennales, and even larger artistic egos, is only a tip of the iceberg. It is an art world of the one percent, made in its image, and arranged for its benefit. But this playground for the rich is also an artistic factory, manned by throngs of precarious art workers. This art world of fluid assembly lines is operated by supposedly independent curators, individualistic artists and mobile freelancers. To stay in circulation they have to turn into entrepreneurs of themselves, becoming their own capitals, investments and means of production. Their cherished independence and youthful enthusiasm is underpinned by precarity, anxiety, and looming poverty.
The visibility of this ultra-competitive network can be misleading, as it overshadows a rich ecosystem of emergent art worlds. Beneath the tip of the artistic iceberg, art can be many things – a demonstration of painting, a drinks enterprise, a community garden, a toppled monument, a barricade made from mirrors, a trojan horse or a wind turbine. And this art is made by many –collectives of art workers and consortia of postartistic activists. Sometimes they aim at liberating existing institutions, pushing museums to become truly public rather than nominally so. At other occasions, out of need or want, they self-institute. Instead of expecting return of their current precarity, they shift from independence to interdependence, envisioning and enacting new collective modes of making, curating, and enjoying art.
Kuba Szreder PhD is a lecturer at the department of art theory at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Graduate of sociology at the Jagiellonian University (Krakow), he received PhD from the Loughborough University School of the Arts. He combines practice-based research with curating interdisciplinary projects and political engagement. He has worked with many artistic institutions and collectives in Europe. In 2009 he co-initiated Free / Slow University of Warsaw, with which he completed several inquiries into the political economy of contemporary artistic production, such as Joy Forever. Political Economy of Social Creativity (2011) and Art Factory. Division of labor and distribution of resources in the field of contemporary art in Poland (2014). In 2010 he started to cooperate with Critical Practice, a London-based research cluster, with which he conducted several research projects about the modes of being in public (2010-2011), and the social process of evaluation (2012-2016). Since 2012 he has worked with the Citizens Forum for Contemporary Art in Poland, with which he has campaigned for the betterment of conditions of work in the sector of contemporary art. In 2018 together with Kathrin Böhm he co-initiated the Centre for Plausible Economies, a research cluster devoted to reimagining economy by using artistic means. In 2020 he co-established the Office for Postartistic Services, the aim of which is to employ artistic competences in support of progressive social movements. He is editor and author of several catalogues, books, readers, chapters, essays and articles, devoted to social, economic, and theoretical aspects of the contemporary art. Current research interests include interdependent curating, new models of artistic institutions, postartistic theory and practice. His book The ABC of the Projectariat will be published in 2021 by the Manchester University Press.