Angela Dimitrakaki: Art in Total Production

25.03.2015 - 10:45 to 12:00
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"In my opinion, at the historical juncture of total production, in the conditions of no‐outside, the avant‐ garde’s role is to reveal that we have hit the big circular wall and to analyse what the wall is made of. This would not be an exercise in humility and defeat but an actively revolutionary act: to convince itself that it is disempowered, that its negotiation of content through form has achieved nothing other than giving ideas to corporations, that its efforts to radicalize the institution have led to what Chukhrov calls ‘hyper‐institutionalisation’, as (she notes) ‘it is no longer a question of bureaucracy governing creative practice, but rather of [bureaucracy self‐ instituting as] creative practice’. I believe that it is possible, and certainly necessary to get such an avant‐garde, and this is the only good news I can offer today. The ideological conditions are in place for artists to develop a self‐consciousness that addresses their own role in social reproduction, even if the material conditions in which they have to reproduce themselves keep them hostage to anyone who can give them income – and we know who these are. If as I speak, art is modern because like in the rise of Impressionism, ‘it makes it possible for humanity to watch its own destruction with enjoyment’7 – a memorable phrase of Susan Buck‐Morss from 1992 but an idea of Walter Benjamin from 1936‐, could art today become modern in the sense of uncovering the social truth of the condition of modernity at present as the first and necessary step to anything else?"

Angela Dimitrakaki is a writer and Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Edinburgh. Her books include ECONOMY: Art, Production and the Subject in the 21st Century, co-edited with K. Lloyd (Liverpool UP 2015), Gender, ArtWork and the Global Imperative: A Materialist Feminist Critique (Manchester UP 2013), Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures and Curatorial Transgressions, co-edited with L. Perry (Liverpool UP 2013) and, in her native Greek, Globalisation and Contemporary Art: From the Postmodern Sign to the Biopolitical Arena (Athens, Hestia 2013). She is Corresponding Editor of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory and, since 2015, an Editor of Third Text. Together with Kirsten Lloyd she curated the project ECONOMY in 2013 in Edinburgh and Glasgow ( She has published over 40 journal articles and book chapters on contemporary art and has lectured widely on the subject, mostly in Europe. Her literary work, including five novels and six award shortlists, is represented by Ersilia Agency (

Kunstakademiet i Trondheim
Norwegian University of Technology and Science (NTNU)
N-7491 Trondheim

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