Blogs Untitled (Blog) Daniel Atkinson

Current: Associate Curator of Education and Interpretation at the Walker Art Center. Former: Director of Education and Public Programs at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Teaching experiences at Dia:Beacon, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of the Moving Image and many others.

Unsuturing the Self: On Less Than One

The 16 artists in Less Than One each enact a self that functions as a dynamic ecosystem rather than a unitary form. While it has become almost common contemporary practice to disavow artistic selfhood, often this is enacted either at the level of the individual artwork or through the exhibition. Contemporary art is full of […]

Installation view Less Than One. Photo: Gene Pittman, Walker Art Center.

The 16 artists in Less Than One each enact a self that functions as a dynamic ecosystem rather than a unitary form. While it has become almost common contemporary practice to disavow artistic selfhood, often this is enacted either at the level of the individual artwork or through the exhibition. Contemporary art is full of forms of disruption against the suturing gesture of the solo exhibition or its related practice of the retrospective. While many of the artists in the exhibition disrupt these historic forms, they also frequently investigate the wider set of practices that serve to buttress the sense of a whole, complete artistic self. These sets of related, often interpretive practices include—to name a few—artist talks, interviews, and artist writings. They are often seen as peripheral to an artist’s practice, but are fundamental to understanding several of the artists in Less Than One. For the artists in the exhibition, it is frequently through this set of interpretive practices, more particularly this hermeneutics of the self[1], which is fundamentally called into question. At issue is the artists’ responses when they are asked to perform a self[2]—that is, how they relate to those terms of engagement—and how openly they risk the possibility of being incomprehensible in that engagement.[3] (more…)

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