Enlightenment and modernity provided us with the ideas, morals and practices of a rationalist science and a democratic politics, and thus also with the idea that a scientist or a politician can take up an enlightened and modern ‘mandate’ towards society. In our complex world of today however, in dealing with humanitary crisises, ecological threats and economic decadences, the credibility of the scientist and politician becomes more and more under pressure. Their defence, very often, results in strategic framings and populist simplifications of scientific and political argumentations, leading to polarisations that tend to serve a maintenance of the own comfort zone rather than a conciliation in the interest of reaching consensus.
This project reflects on what artistic social agency in the form of research or political activism can still mean today. It does however not have the ambition to ‘compare’ the agency of the scientist and the politician with that of the artist, and this for the simple reason that ‘credibility’ is not a relevant concept for the artist’s functioning in society: the contemporary artist is not elected, does not need to be objective and has nothing to prove. However, a (self)reflection on contemporary artistic research or activism practices may not only be interesting for the art world as such but essentially also for those scientists and politicians who find themselves confronted with the impossibility to reduce arguments on complex socio-political issues to simple ratios that would primarily serve their own legitimacies constructed around (their) truths and identities. In doing this self-reflection in the form of an art practice, art can thus keep up a ‘critical mirror’ in front of science and politics; a mirror that shows the ambivalence of their positions and unveils the problematic character of their eventual strategic misuse of this ambivalence…
Read full text + images here: A Topology of Agency – Feb 2012
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