The lecture titled Realism Without Authority: Contemporary Art in the Post-Truth will consider contemporary art’s reinvigoration of the aesthetics of realism. While realism, as both a style and a political imperative, has had many iterations since the 19th century, I will be mainly concerned with its appearance in the context of the post-truth era. Today’s realism emerges from a philosophical tradition of situating reality in an ontological rift with the realm of appearances, and from a mediatic condition that challenges the scientific instruments of fact production. How then is realism possible, and what terms does art bring to the complex challenges to the real, the fact, truth and representation? Through a consideration of works by Forensic Architecture, Mona Al Qadiri, Julian Charrière and Terrance Houle I will offer an account of contemporary realism that disjoins perspective from epistemology and in so doing overcomes the binary of subjectivity and objectivity in the domain of realism.
Perspective, I suggest, has fallen into the domain of media ecology. While this might position perspective itself within a succession of simulacral images that is subsumed by a capitalist lens in the manner of the “society of the spectacle,” I propose that art resituates realism as a resistance to such economic authority—particularly to the authority of the image. It therefore instantiates the question of authority in vision itself, as a critical operation of collective and multi-perspectival visualization. Despite an insistence on situating realism after truth, I nevertheless consider how realism in art is implicitly anticipatory and therefore neither belated nor a superfluous abstraction after the fact.
Amanda Boetzkes is a theorist of contemporary art and aesthetics. She is the author of Plastic Capitalism: Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste (MIT Press, 2019), The Ethics of Earth Art (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), and a forthcoming book titled Ecologicity: Vision and the Planetarity of Art. Her research focuses on the relationship between perception and representation, theories of consciousness, and ecology. She has analyzed complex human relationships with the environment through the lens of aesthetics, patterns of human waste, and the global energy economy. Her current project, At The Moraine, considers modes of visualizing environments with a special focus on Indigenous territories of the circumpolar North. She has published in the journals South Atlantic Quarterly; Afterimage; Postmodern Culture; E-flux; La Furia Umana and Stasis among others.
Amanda Boetzkes is Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Guelph. She lives in T’karonto (Toronto, Canada) which is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.
The lecture is a part of the project ‘DIS/ORDERING THE ART WORLD’. The author of this project is Tihomir Topuzovski
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