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Image: Marcel Broodthaers,Image: Marcel Broodthaers,

Benjamin Buchloh: Looking Back at Books

Lecture22 June 2016, 19:00Aula, Städelschule, Dürerstraße 10, 60596 Frankfurt am Main

Ringvorlesung Institut für Kunstkritik: 
Do it yourself. Deskilling and Reskilling in the Digital Techno Age

Benjamin Buchloh: Looking Back at Books
Mittwoch, 22. Juni 2016, 19 Uhr, Aula


Just when the cultural tendencies at large have declared the end of the print media in general - and the disappearance of the book in particular - it seems appropriate to look back once more in slight wonder and bewilderment at the euphoria with which books was celebrated at the onset of Conceptual Art in the early to the mid 1960s; celebrated as an event of a revolutionary revision of all previously existing forms of artistic production and distribution.

The lecture attempts to clarify that historical moment, its blind enthusiasm and its hypertrophic delusions resulting from a deep investment in a belief, that technological changes in book form would actually contribute inevitably to progressive forms of perception and overall processes of socio-political enlightenment.

At the same time, the lecture attempts also to invert the traditionally optimistic reading of these Conceptual books from Ed Ruscha in 1962 to Lawrence Weiner, and from Bernd and Hilla Becher to Marcel Broodthaers in 1968. And we will try to historicize the strangely antiquated utopian belief of these artists in the power of books, as a peculiar misreading. Rather than being endowed with an emerging radicality of the transformations of readerly and writerly forms of experience, the printing and photographic technologies of these books were by that time actually threatened with disappearance and extinction, as we now know.

Ringvorlesung Sommersemester 2016:

Lucy McKenzie (12. April)
Benjamin Buchloh (22. Juni)
Beatrice von Bismarck (23. Juni)
Julia Gelshorn (12. Juli)

This lecture-series (conceptualized by Isabelle Graw) revolves around the question of artistic skills in a digital world. What do they actually consist of? While it always mattered how an artist performs herself since the Modern Age, it seems that the „Auftritt des Künstlers“ (Beatrice von Bismarck), namely, her public staging of herself, has become increasingly important in a Media Society. Has the modeling of her „personality“ turned into a skill that is required from her? Or should one rather argue that artistic practices still represent other competences, attitudes and ways of life that question the ideal of an entrepreneurial self? What have traditional skills been replaced by?

It seems that the deskilling of the arts that is usually associated with the „Duchamp-effect“ and post war practices allowed for a reskilling that is currently quite popular in the artworld. Is it a historical necessity that deskilling entails reskilling? Historically speaking, „deskilling“ was a male privilege in the 1950´s and 1960´s. Many male artists opted for anti-subjective aleatory procedures that rejected skills, whereas women artists practiced another form of deskilling in the 1970´s by reintroducing formerly devaluated, „female skills“ into their work. Could one argue, at least in retrospect, that it is precisely these lower or soft skills associated with the sphere of reproduction that are have risen to the status of a valuable resource in our New Economy?

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