Public Lecture by Claire Bishop

21/06/ 2021

Claire Bishop – Interventions: The Art of Political Timing


This lecture offers a historical and theoretical analysis of the “intervention” as an artistic strategy, defining it as a self-initiated and disruptive gesture in the public sphere (understood as both the streets and online). Central to the intervention is political timing, an idea that I theorize as a form of conjunctural analysis (Gramsci/ Hall), and media circulation. The first appearances of this work are in Latin America in the late 1970s, when a weakening of the dictatorships made it possible for artists to exploit public space and the media at a moment of political uncertainty. Since 2010, however, there has been a resurgence of interventions in physical space, in response to the resurgence of right-wing nationalism and in tandem with new forms of political activism and dissent (Russia, Cuba, United States). Ultimately, however, raise questions about (1) the ability of interventions to withstand the distortions of social media, (2) the inherent value of disruption and transgression now that it has been co-opted by the alt-right, and (3) the model of the artist that is privileged by interventionist art.

Claire Bishop, professor of art history, is widely considered to be an original thinker and creative interpreter of contemporary art. She holds a 2002 Ph.D. from the University of Essex. Her dissertation was published as Installation Art: A Critical History and quickly became an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the subject, and her edited volume, Participation, is also highly regarded. Her book Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (2012) was one of two sole winners of the College Art Association’s 2013 Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism. Bishop is also the author of two influential essays, “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics” (October, 2004) and “The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents” (Artforum, 2006). Her books and articles have been translated into twenty languages, and she is a Contributing Editor to Artforum.


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