Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art Against Democracy by Anthony GardnerPolitically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art Against Democracy by Anthony Gardner

Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art Against Democracy

byAnthony Gardner

Hardcover | March 13, 2015

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Mapping contemporary artists who reject the aesthetics of democratization (and its neoliberal associations) in order to explore alternative politics and practices.

From biennials and installations to participatory practices, contemporary art has come to embrace an aesthetic of democratization. Art's capacity for democracy building now defines its contemporary relevance, part of a broader, global glorification of democracy as, it seems, the only legitimate model of politics. Yet numerous artists reject the alignment of art and democracy -- in part because democracy has been associated not only with utopian political visions but also with neoliberal incursions and military interventions. It is just this paradox of democracy that Anthony Gardner explores in Politically Unbecoming, examining work from the 1980s to the 2000s by artists who have challenged democracy as the defining political, critical, and aesthetic frame for their work. In doing so, these artists also develop alternative artistic politics and practices that can remap the transformations in art and its politics since the end of the Cold War.

The artists whose work Gardner examines all spent their formative years in Eastern or Western Europe, developing "postsocialist" practices in the wake of socialism's eclipse by neoliberalism (and inspired by nonconformist art from socialist-era Europe). All of these artists -- who include Ilya Kabakov, the art collective NSK, and Thomas Hirschhorn -- depend on participation between audience and artwork; yet for them, participation does not exemplify democratization but rather offers critical engagement with certain tropes of democracy.

These artists, Gardner argues, enact an aesthetic that is "politically unbecoming" in two senses: in its withdrawal from overdetermined political categories of contemporary art; and in its perceived indecency in defying the "propriety" of democracy.

Anthony Gardner is Associate Professor in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Oxford.
Title:Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art Against DemocracyFormat:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9 × 7 × 0.98 inPublished:March 13, 2015Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0262028530

ISBN - 13:9780262028530

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Editorial Reviews

Anthony Gardner in his impressive new book . shows how 'democracy' emerged in the years following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union as a universalising term around which politics of both radical and conservative hues coalesced and found succour.. The strength of Gardner's work lies in his ability to chart the empirical actualities of history along with the co-determining movements of theory and the effects of both on artistic production.