Art and Politics Now

Downey, Anthony (2014) Art and Politics Now. Thames and Hudson, London and New York. ISBN 978-0-500-29147-4

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Examining over 200 artists and 250 artworks, Art and Politics Now explores some of the most controversial and ambitious art projects of our time. Throughout the volume, themed chapters explore how, since the turn of the twenty-first century, artists have addressed real-world issues such as globalization, terrorism, conflict, the environment and knowledge, often using radical approaches and techniques to communicate their ideas.

Being one of the first volumes to provide an accessible, jargon-free guide to politically engaged art of the 21st century, Art and Politics now focuses on how the increasingly political dimension of contemporary art has given rise to a number of important questions about the role it plays in society today and how it has been co-opted into discourses surrounding activism and political change. This volume examines the implications of what happens when artists engage with the politics of globalization, migration, labour, citizenship, activism, income inequality, injustice, conflict, terrorism, biopolitics, free trade, financial crisis, environmentalism and information technology, and in doing so critically explores the implications – for art and politics alike – of this development. A central feature to Art and Politics Now therefore involves a critique of the ways in which artists both address specific political issues and tactically engage with, negotiate, and examine the contested nature of politics.

In terms of its originality, Art and Politics Now is also one of the first books to evaluate the impact of neoliberalism, alongside the development of globalisation, on contemporary art practices. In doing so, the volume brings together key areas of critical interest, including the debates surrounding issues such as labour, citizenship, activism, conflict, terror, history, camps, refugees, environments, economies, and digital knowledge production. A core consideration here was to invite a thorough re-evaluation of what happens to terms such as ‘political’, 'engagement', and 'activism' when they are co-opted by cultural debates.

Item Type: Book
Additional Information: From Helen Sumpter's review in Art Review, Spring 2015. "...Anthony Downey’s illustrated, themed analysis of political artworks from the past 15 years provides an accessible snapshot of the different ways in which artists are currently engaging with and responding to socioeconomic issues. Grouped under 11 broad chapter headings, including ‘Globalisation’, ‘Labour’, ‘Terror’ and ‘Economies’, analysis is succinct (with over 200 artworks included, it’s difficult to be otherwise), but Downey’s ability to contextualise a range of artistic approaches within such a pacey format makes this both a useful reference and an enjoyable read. Examples of works featured include Ai Weiwei’s populist installation Sunflower Seeds (2010); Theaster Gates’s proactive architectural urban-regeneration project Dorchester Projects (2009) and Regina José Galindo’s bloody performance Who Can Erase the Footprints? (2003), in protest against the presidential candidacy of José Efraín Ríos Montt, the Guatemalan ruler under whose leadership during the early 1980s thousands of citizens were persecuted and killed. It’s perhaps fitting that the book closes with Trevor Paglen’s project The Last Pictures (2012), for which the artist oversaw the selection of 100 images highlighting some of the global issues to which the artists in this book are drawing attention. The images were etched onto a disk designed to last billions of years, attached to a satellite and sent into orbit. When life on earth is no more, the disk could be one of the last human-made objects in existence. Whether that’s when our sun expands into a red giant, in about five billion years’ time, or much sooner, hastened by our own actions, will be for us to decide."
31 October 2014Published
Uncontrolled Keywords: This volume examines how the formal methods and techniques employed by contemporary artists have become more diverse and heteronomous in the 21st century. These include lecture-performances, the use of documentary and archive material, artist-led workshops, social activism, collaborations, community-based projects, research-led seminars, artist-initiated political movements, artist-funded organisations and, in particular, a growing tendency to co-opt individuals and communities into the processes involved in creating a work of art. In doing so, Art and Politics Now extended debates away from more traditional media — painting, scultptrure, film, installation, and video — and more towards the processes involved in these increasingly mainstream pratices.
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-02 - sociology
CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-01 - information services
CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Anthony Downey
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2017 16:11
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:50

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