Interventions: The Art of Political Timing
This lecture offers a historical and theoretical analysis of the term “intervention” as a way to describe a way of making art that triangulates public gesture, political timing, and media circulation. The first uses of the term “intervention” are found in Latin America during the 1970s, when a weakening of the dictatorships made it possible for artists to exploit and mobilize public space and the media at a moment of political uncertainty. Although the term undergoes a dilution of meaning in the 1990s (devolving into site-specific projects commissioned for biennials and museums), the intervention’s qualities of self-initiated transgression persist in the digital realm of tactical media. Since 2010 there has been a resurgence of interventions in tandem with new forms of political activism and dissent (Russia, Cuba, United States). I connect political timing to the idea of conjunctural analysis (Gramsci/ Hall), but ultimately raise questions about (1) the ability of this method to work with (rather than against) the attention span of social media, and (2) the inherent value of disruption and transgression now that it has been co-opted by the alt-right.
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Claire Bishop is a critic and professor in the PhD Program in Art History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her books include Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (Verso, 2012), and Radical Museology, or, What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? (Walther König, 2013). She is a Contributing Editor of Artforum, and her essays and books have been translated into twenty languages. She is currently working on two books: a short publication about Merce Cunningham’s Events, and a collection of essays about contemporary art and attention. Her most recent publication is a book of conversations with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera (Cisneros, 2020).