At the conference "(De)Politicising Art History. Marxist Traditions Since 1968" (program [pdf], organized by the working group 'ende der kunstgeschichte' of the Ulmer Verein, 10-11 November at TU Berlin), our Postdoc Lukas Fuchsgruber will host a panel on day 2 with Kerstin Stakemeier and Nizan Shaked on the connections between Museum Critique and Marxist Art History
Details of the panel:
There is a history of Marxist art studies engaging with museums, from Max Raphael in the 1930s, who was analyzing their role in class relations and in proletarian education, to Carol Duncan in the 1970s, who was mapping art exhibitions as "civilizing rituals". This panel will bring together current approaches of Marxist museum critique, by Nizan Shaked, who provides a historic-materialist perspective on the economics and politics of contemporary art collections, and by Kerstin Stakemeier, who refers to the thought of early 20th century marxist-feminist publicist Lu Märten to formulate a critical perspective on safeguarding the future relevance of art.
Nizan Shaked (California State University, Long Beach): Museums After Value-Form Theory
What are the implications of applying value-form theory to the materialist analysis of museums? Until recently, Marxist methodologies for the study of museums were predominantly focused on ideological analysis. But while foundational and significant, this analysis of program and narrative only reveals one side of the museum’s relation to state policy and private capital. Approaching the museum as a model of economic organization, this talk will describe their function of endowing art with the ability to hold monetary value, and discuss the social outcomes.
Kerstin Stakemeier (Akademie der Bildenden Künste Nürnberg): Art’s Needyness / Art’s Needfulness
In the first decades of the 20th century the marxist-feminist publicist Lu Märten wrote countless texts, in numberless genres, in journalism, novels, tracts, histories, theories. They were all committed to relaying, in ways as varying as possible, that art in its sanctified modern form, as an autonomous field of civic expression, was to be understood as a mere phase, a late one, a short one, a colonial one, a parochial one, and, if compared to other forms of artistic productions, a quite repetitive one. Märten was projecting art’s re-expansion into the “general life-work of a human” (Märten), its re-attachment to communal and individual use and thereby its excessive variance. This projection remained a fantasy of decapitalization, a fantasy of what Alexander Bogdanov, a founding member of the early Russian Proletkul’t Märten sympathized with, understood as a communal “sociomorphism” of all life.
The museums we are populating today, and which are currently involved in more and more processes of rehanging and reconstruct their collections. These attempts to safeguard future relevance however do not proceed so much by exposing ‘Art’ as a phase, a phase of civic european neediness, the construction of a sentimental colonial interiority, but by implying more and more artistic productions into this phase, into this interiority, thereby not seldomly robbing them of the needfulness and communal exteriority that characterized their origination. I want to discuss what a present praxis of Märten’s fantasy of relegating ‘Art’ into “life-work” can be, what a fantasy of inverting the colonizing (and that implies but is not limited to capitalizing) inclusionism by which ‘Art’ is saved can be.