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Mediating Freedom: Human Rights and Contemporary Art – Lecture by Victoria Ivanova

February 8, 2016 @ 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm



MON 8 February 2016, 2.30pm


LG02 Professor Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, SE14 6NW



Human rights and contemporary art are both inscribed into larger projects of global ordering. From producing archetypes of universal subjecthood to organising how agency, ethics and reality are conceived, both have historically functioned as image-makers for different strands of the global liberal project. This talk contends that despite all of their institutional, discursive and operational distinctiveness, both regimes rely on and reproduce the concept of a universal individuating subject. Furthermore, as sociopolitical difference and ambiguity have increasingly become the norm, the contemporary art regime has effectively stepped into the shoes of the human rights project as the dominant framework for understanding the relationship between subjecthood and reality. The talk assesses the functions and limitations of both systems’ mediating powers, and considers their relevance in dealing with the leading issues we face today.

Bio: Victoria Ivanova is currently Assistant Curator for Public Programmes at Tate. She has previously worked in the human rights field and co-founded a platform for contemporary culture in Donetsk, Ukraine, where she was responsible for strategy as well as setting up and curating the institution’s artist-in-residence programme. Ivanova’s publications on art include Turborealism: Neither Bow nor Arrow (co-edited with Agnieszka Pindera) and ‘Art’s Values: A Détente, a Grand Plié’ in Parse 2: The Value of Contemporary Art.



Contemporary art, as the name says, is the art of its time: it belongs to the present in which it takes place. Moreover, that present is not just a moment of time but a (now global) societal organisation that art draws from and engages with. However, this limitation of contemporary art to the present-day means that art has lost the traction on futurity that historically typified the avant-gardes of modernism. In this, contemporary art deprives the present of having any direction at all. The overall directionlessness of contemporary art today – its multifariousness – is one index of this destruction of futurity.
Yet finance capitalism, the energy sector, the military, social media, artificial intelligence and big data, bioengineering and speculative theory are all now increasingly shaping the present by operationalising a relation to the future and its uncertainties. These institutional configurations can be called post-contemporary: they are – they will be – shaping the very forms of societal organisation that contemporary art claims to work from and which it claims to address.

If contemporary art remains bound to the time of its making it misses – will miss – the changing futural dynamics of the present. The post-contemporary is happening now. In order to remain contemporary, contemporary art must then become post-contemporary. This series of lectures will examine how futurity can be deployed to that end.

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February 8, 2016
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
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LG02 Professor Stuart Hall Building
London, SE14 6NW + Google Map