fifth year: 2001/2002 series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers

course for curators of contemporary art: course participants / study excursions / program collaborators / exhibition / course participant's texts


Viktor Misiano
Strategies of Exhibiting from Modernisation towards De-Modernisation

The contemporary line of thought has established that the modern period which defined our century has become exhausted. We have been living in a different social context already for the past decade, i.e. in a reality that we do not attempt to describe with modernistic categories, but which exists within the frame of different laws and procedures. This is also no longer a post-modern phase that mainly defined itself through the polemical denial of the modernistic project and was thus its logical conclusive phase. Today, we mainly discuss the phase of de-modernisation.

And what does this change represent for the artistic practice and its strategies of exhibiting? The purpose of this text is to offer the starting points and, at least for the time being, a response to this question.


The art system and the cult of contemporaneity

As a historic and artistic phenomenon contemporary art emerged when contemporaneity became the main social value. The cult of contemporaneity is a constituent part of the 20th Century modernisation processes, and throughout the entire century contemporary art has consistently endeavoured to become a tool of modernisation.
As the successor of the enlightenment project the ideology of the modern period started from the idea that social harmony has to be constructed on a balance between a legal state and ethical individualism, with the mediators being the structures of rationality. Thus, the state did not interfere in the individual freedom with its modernisation thrusts. The subject is guarantied his freedom by the rationalised law, while the individuality in its self-confirmation acts in accordance to the conventional ethics which preserve the subject within the safety of social norms. The state and the institutions acreated by it performed their functions according to the rational and transparent procedures, while the subject incorporated the structures of rationality into the education system: it has been proven that the world in which we live is appropriate for the social organisation. Institutionalisation and socialisation are mechanisms that ensure a balanced relation between the subject and society. In this case the institutionalisation was a tool of socialisation.

In the field of artificial production this social model has been reproduced within the 'system of contemporary art' - a closed circle of social institutions, which monopolise the production, use, discourse and description of the artistic practice. While the rational structures within the society placed the relations between the subject and the social into a state of co-dependency, the system of contemporary art introduced a strict balance between the artist and the audience. Thus, the artist has conducted an artistic move that in its exceptionality opposes the existing aesthetic norms. However, to the extent that this move is oriented towards the system it already a priori adopts (usurps and identifies with) its norms as given. At the same time the art system, which is monitored by its functionaries - the experts - forces the non-artistic world to adopt the norms of contemporary art while at the same time protecting the artist from the vulgar social orders. Within the art system the artistic language represents the base of the structures of rationality. The artists are striving for the development of this language, the mechanisms of which are described by the critic-interpreter and the distribution of which is taken care by the exhibition and marketing machinery. Thus, the system of contemporary art socialises the innovative achievements of the artist and institutionalises the results of his work.

However, the fact that the system of contemporary art is internally balanced does not mean that it is static. As a result of the modernisation process it had a predetermined motivation, i.e. to contradict everything that was adopted as a dogma and rationalise everything that does not appear to be sufficient. This is where the strategies (implemented by curators and interpreters) to generalise the material of current art into aspirations and orientations, and define them with a new 'ism' originate. All of this holds true for contemporary exhibitions - from Jack of Diamonds* and the Armory Show to the Trans Avant-garde and Documenta 9.

To the same extent as the emergence of modernisation was adopted as a progressive process, there was also a unified version of the emergence of the system of contemporary art. This is the starting point of the one-sidedness of museum exhibitions: from the New York MOMA and the Paris Pompidou Centre to the most provincial western museum they are all repeating a single generally accepted version of the history of contemporary art. This is the starting point of the typological unification of exhibitions of new artists, organised within the frame of the art system. They were all set up as a potential new installation within a museum exhibition, i.e. as a new phase in the development of the general paradigm.

In these renovation dynamics the modernisation endeavours of the art system were in concordance with the will of the market: the art system stimulated innovation in total synchronisation with the logic of materialistic fetishism. In fact the market represented a very important part of the system. However, as much as the system preserved the balance between the audience and the artist it also monitored the balance between the commercial and non-commercial: by monitoring the artistic language the experts could precisely define what belongs in the field of contemporary art and what does not. Due to the demands of the non-enlightened individuals a certain art object could thus reach the highest possible commercial value. However, if it did not realise itself in the cult of contemporaneity, if it did not represent a reflection of the avant-garde tradition, it was not accepted by the art system, thus it was not worthwhile investing into it. This is the base for the efforts invested by the gallery owners in order to draw their practice as close as possible to the curatorial work, so that the gallery would not be a store, but and exhibition hall with an exhibition programme, catalogues, etc. The market thus entered the competitive fight for the historisation of contemporary art, for the future of investments depended on this harmonisation of the avant-garde with the tradition. At this the art system also had a watchful eye on the commercial disinterest of the curator and the critic at their formation of their verdict. The professional ethics of the non-profit oriented intellectual held back the domination of the market interests over the inner development of the system and its artistic language. Thus, the inner mechanisms of the art system are appropriate for the inner organisation of the modern society in which the political dominated and monitored the economy and market exchange.

At the end it is also important that the system of contemporary art has managed to establish a special and even privileged position in the modernisation of the social process. Art has named itself the avant-garde or modernism and offered itself as a proving ground for testing the models of contemporaneity. It has convinced the society as regards its exceptional operation, thus it is in the territory of art that the modernisation models appear first and in a pure laboratory form: social practice is by definition more rigid and less operative.

The models developed by the art practice have an additional advantage: in comparison to the results of abstract thought the artistic models are much more obvious. This is also the origin of the tolerance of the society towards the elitism of contemporary art. If this elitism is destined to be the avant-garde of the social search, whatever is taking place in its field today, can logically not be currently understood, however, in the future it will be generally accepted and considered the norm. Or to put it in different words: the link between the spectator and the 'black square' or the 'piece of felt' did not take place through the spectator's capability to emotionally experience these hermetic experimental studies, but through the desire of the spectator to experience his participation in the progressive ideology. The use of contemporary art within society obtained a purely defined ideological or even neo-sacral role - it ritualised the appurtenance of the cult of contemporaneity. Within the system of contemporary art the submission of the institutionalisation to the tasks of socialisation was thus reproduced. This is typical for the contemporary society. The structures of rationality thus decided in advance that in art the category of catharsis will be substituted by the process of identification.


The system of contemporary art: an apology of the autonomy

The crisis of the present time has a number of symptoms. The most obvious of them all is the end of the modernistic project with all the typical ideologies - the cult of contemporaneity, the ideas of the avant-garde and the rearguard, the belief in history, etc. Amongst the symptoms we can also count the fact that with the end of the modern era it is also the end of the society as such: the previous unity is ascribed to a loss and the various fields of society start loosing their reciprocal connections. From now on the economy is no longer in concordance with the politics: the market exchange has transcended the national boarders and obtained a new characteristic - it became global. At this the division is visible also within economy - financial flows are starting to live a life that is independent from the production. The economic process that has escaped the control of society can no longer socialise subjects - they are self-organised in independent and closed communities. The rational values which used to link the society with the universal modernisation tasks and had faith in the progressive dynamics of progress, have now been limited to useful and technological tasks -the increase of the efficiency in globalised exchange - while the communities started to consolidate according to irrational criteria: according to the criteria of emotional, ethnic, sexual communities. Thus the subject, which the rational structures previously incorporated into the general modernisation process, is caught between two sides: on one side one can find the flows of information and exchange that are distanced from him, on the other are the irrational communities.

Due to these social transformations the status of contemporary art has also changed: now it is no longer the avant-garde carrier of modernisation, instead it has become a closed system. Similar to the way in which the rational structures have limited themselves to the narrow technological operations of technical exchange, the artistic language is losing its capability to offer universal models. Currently, its function is to be the guarantor of the autonomy of contemporary art. This has resulted in the fact that institutionalisation has started to dominate over socialisation, because the artist's only form of socialisation is represented by the inclusion into the work of autonomous art institutions.

This is the origin of the new post-modern strategies of representation. Because society has rejected the cult of contemporaneity and the orientation into the creation, novelty is no longer a self-sufficient and universal value within art and the society. Because conquering contemporaneity is no longer a task on the 'A' list and the artists are no longer oriented into fulfilling the new phases of the avant-garde tradition, the consolidation of the directions and tendencies is also losing on its importance. The period of avant-garde 'isms' is ceasing to exist: the current process is becoming extremely personalised. Thus nobody any longer expects that the exhibition will be included into the models of the future and offer a new chapter of avant-garde history of art. The sole notion of exhibiting contemporary art as art from the contemporary period is no longer a reason for an exhibition.

Thus the practice of exhibiting which has found itself in a post-historic 'here and now' dimension is starting to search for and continue a sort of 'added value' of the exhibition event. This represents the birth of the genre of thematic exhibitions of current art. At this the central theme or problem links various artists. Even more, a more radical genre of conceptual exhibitions has emerged. This concept demands from the artist to become involved in a special creative situation. How many of these new exhibiting strategies are appropriate for the 'here and now' situation is defined with the following points:

Firstly, because the criteria of novelty has lost its efficiency, the exhibition has started to endeavour to encompass the totality of the 'here and now' dimension. Thus, at the current exhibitions one can find artists from various generations co-operating and their participation is no longer determined by their status, but by how well they fit the theme (concept) and to what extent are they 'in tune' with the remaining participants. The value of the exhibition is no longer in the concord of the artists and their desires to be contemporary, but on the contrary, in how their individual non-repeatability and mutual polarity match. To the extent to which socialisation is no longer unified by the rational structures and has disintegrated into various communities, the endeavour of the contemporary exhibition for totality is defined by the principle of representation. An exhibition is solid and well grounded if it offers the opportunity to express something to a sector of autonomous communities as broad as possible. Within itself the exhibition has to reproduce as many as possible of the various cultures that are present in the contemporary society.

Secondly, the sufficiency of the contemporary exhibition to the 'here and now' dimension and its most obvious 'added value' lead to the exhibition becoming an extremely ephemeral event. A conceptual exhibition is henceforth set up from installations, i.e. from works that are made especially for this exhibition and they cease to exist, when the exhibitions are over. The idea of a work of art as a modernisation model, which has a historic value and thus also a stationary material form is substituted by the idea of a creative move. This however merely denotes the uniqueness of the current moment.

And thirdly, the emergence of the thematic conceptual exhibition demanded a completely new instance of the exhibition and even broader, artistic process - the figure of a curator. In reality the emergence of this figure chronologically exactly matches the decline of the modern period. The curatorial social formation was concluded in the 1980's and in the 1990's it experienced total victory. In the figure of the curator the exhibition process has found a solution to a serious problem - without this figure it would risk entropy. And truthfully, because the artistic process was becoming personified and individual subjectivity was emerging as the main value, the danger that we will loose the entirety of the language of the art system and the exhibition event was realistic. That is why the curator became a creative figure, the subjectivity of whom became the mediator between the spectator and the creative subjectivity of various artists. We could add: the curator is called to play an ambivalent role - he has to mediate between the subjectivity of the artist and the global flow of information and exchange, which can not comprehend the artistic process in all of its personal detail. At this, the curator has to be an example of extreme artist's subjectivity, for only in this case can he be a mediator of information. Thus, the curator is in fact a form of social organisation of the demands of contemporary exhibition strategies in a sort of 'added value' sense. He is also the one who is called to select the participants of the exhibition; he is the one who gives the exhibition its conceptual and impressive dramaturgy. We can now experience and describe the exhibition process through the personality of the curator - through his artistic concept and style of work, through his artistic biography.


The system of contemporary art: the crisis of the exhibition

In the beginning of the 1990's the operation of the contemporary art system became the subject of serious criticism. In this period the 'crisis of the exhibition' has begun to be discussed.
The classic modernistic exhibition could be reproached for its industrial production of novelties; however, the post-modern exhibition is vulnerable elsewhere, for it is limited by the representational tasks. The contemporary mosaic society is desperate for a fragile, constantly shifting balance of relations between various subjects and communities, from which each has to endeavour for its priority rights and an autonomous voice. This is the origin of the authority of the political correctness ideology, which forces the exhibition strategies to have a representational priority: the exhibition has to take into account a predetermined correlation of representation - ethnic, regional, sexual, etc. And truly, if artists from 'less important' nations can not be found within the frame of a contemporary exhibition, this is understood as a political decision and the curator is expected to give an explanation.

Another relation is defined in advance at a contemporary exhibition - the relation between the recognisable and unrecognisable. It is this correlation that has become of key importance for the communicational efficiency of the exhibition. In reality (as we have already stated) the crisis of the modern project carries with it the fragmentation and personification of the artistic language and thus also includes the risk of falling from the conventional field of meaning. A work that has deep roots in a context (local or personal) that is unknown to the spectator cannot be understood. Thus the new principles of constructing the exhibition organism. It becomes obligatory for a large contemporary representative exhibition to host famous artists that are known by a wide circle of people. This enables the spectator to establish a communication with the exhibition. At the same time it is not forgivable for the exhibited works to be too obvious, thus also young or regional exotic or at least less established artists have to be featured at such exhibitions. Thus, at the exhibition the classic principle of the information theory was taken into account, i.e. in order for the message to be rich as regards its contents there has to be a balance between the informational zero and informational abundance. The exhibition is defined by the dramaturgy of recognition and non-recognition: they catch the spectator with the joy he achieves when he identifies an unknown work and links it to a famous artist, they reel him in by letting him realise the process of creation of an unknown artist according to the principle of analogy with the artist, who he is close to and acquainted with and at the end he is surprised by the works of an artist he knows nothing about, at works he can not fall back on anything. Thus the spectator is forced to purchase a catalogue, reconstruct the context and the personal mythology of an unknown artist, through which they introduce him to a field that will henceforth be recognisable. If the principle of catharsis was previously substituted by the principle of identification, now identification substitutes the principle of recognition.

The victory of the recognition category presupposes a certain type of use of the artistic language, a certain way in which the audience perceives it and finally also a certain type of audience. If at some stage the work of art had a desire to be a model of contemporaneity and it had to have a clear structure and content, it is now demanded of it to adjust these characteristics to the new tasks: the understanding of the work has to function immediately, as an impulse of recognition. Apart from this, the artist is now expected to have an obvious continuity in his works, for it is thus easier for the audience to find its way around. The artist should also be faithful to a single procedure (or a series of procedures) that can easily be remembered and is visually effective. And finally, it is obvious that in the life of the contemporary art system, only a spectator with previous knowledge can co-operate, for only such a spectator can play the various games of recognition and non-recognition.

This brings forth a few other conclusions that are important for the system of contemporary art. Firstly, the fact that the identification of the spectator with the work of art has substituted the principle of recognition means that the average spectator has lost the ideology imperative, which used to encourage him to try to identify with the works that he could not comprehend in their entirety. From now on the spectator has every right to indifference, even more, (as a taxpayer) he has the right to reject these works, a right that he has used without hesitation.

Secondly, the professionalisation of the audience means that the art system in the contemporary society (which is divided into autonomous communities) has gained a status of an additional autonomous community. To the extent to which the art system lives an international life, this community has also started to live outside the national boarders. It moves from one biennial or art fair to another, like plankton, at which it circles according to the precisely specified plan of the international managers. At the same time, the professionalisation of the audience means that for it (especially for its most professional part) the use of art in the form of the game of recognition is not such an all encompassing activity - in most cases it is predictable and obvious. The viewing of an exhibition, the visual contact with it, is no longer an obligatory condition for the consumption of the exhibition. In the event that we are up to date with the creations of the majority of artists and if we can imagine the exhibition space, it is enough for one to ascertain from the press releases how the exhibition is set up in order to master the exhibition. This would not be possible if the works of contemporary art held in them the effect of catharsis; however, it is always possible to reproduce the procedure of recognition from a distance, even though it is often lost.

And thirdly, from all of this another logical conclusion can be drawn: the exhibition event has started to play a new role in the art system - it is an excuse for the meeting of the art community and this is a necessary condition for its reproduction. To put it in other words, from now on exhibitions are not organised in order for the participants of the art life to see the works, but to see each other. This situation is the most consistent fulfilment of the disappearance of art in the 'here and now' dimension, while it can at the same time also be diagnosed as an exhibition crisis.


The nineties: 'institutional criticism'

The exhibition crisis has led to a number of reactions which define the dynamics of the future development of art. In reality, all basic tendencies on the international art scene in the 1990's were a direct response to the contemporary art system crisis.

One of these tendencies was limited to the attempt to define the alternative existence within the art system, or to be more precise, an attempt to change the art system into a theme and problem of the artistic research. This research is currently moving in two directions, each direction being focused on one of the two components, which define the art system: on the routine exhibition process and the artistic environment, which has become an independent element of communication and for which the exhibition is merely an excuse to meet.

The first tendency was named 'institutional criticism'. The subjects of its interest are the contemporary strategies of exhibiting and their institutional basis and laws. When artists come to the museum, their exhibit is a result of a critical analysis of the institution that accepted them. The starting points of their work can be interviews with museum employees as regards the principles of their work (Maria Eichorn) or the statute and the financial documents of the museum, which reveal the economic mysteries of museum institutions (Hans Haake). Artists may also start researching the boarders of the possible and impossible in a contemporary art institution: they can exhibit stolen goods in museum halls or they might steal property from the gallery itself (M. Cattelan) or in an extreme case they might simply destroy museum artefacts (A. Brenner). As a classical example we can give the renown exhibition of the French critic and curator Gerome Sans in the Air de Paris gallery in Paris. In this exhibition the name of the gallery was to a certain extent used for the concept of the exhibition. The art was invisible, for it was hidden in those corners of the gallery that we usually do not pay any attention, even though they enable the functioning of the gallery. The artefacts were hidden in switches, door handles, lights, the fax machine and the telephone, the grate of the air conditioning, etc. Thus, from a place in which art is presented from its best side the gallery was degraded to a mere real estate. In this case the subject of the exhibition was the White cube (as we call the classic, always white painted contemporary exhibition space) itself. To put it in other words, the exhibited subjects become the result of the deconstruction of exhibition, or: the 'institutional criticism' places the death of an exhibition on show.

Art used to critically analyse the broad social and political context, now, when its horizons have been closed within the autonomous art system, the critical source of art has logically turned towards the system and ways of exhibiting. But the 'institutional criticism' as one of the most radical lines of contemporary art theory is not without contradiction: in fact it is planning a secret conspiracy with the subject of its own deconstruction. Exhibiting the death of the exhibition is at the same time also a form of preserving the current actuality of the exhibition, while deconstructing the art system presents an attempt to preserve its creative potential. 'Institutional criticism' is in fact the most refined form of the art world autonomy; it is nothing else than a self-reflection of the art system. Thus, in the dialogue with the audience the 'institutional criticism' does not let go of the principle of recognition, it only takes it to a more abstract level. Instead of recognition of the work of art the 'institutional criticism' offers the recognition of institutional mechanisms of the emergence of the work of art.


The nineties: 'aesthetics of interaction'

The second tendency, oriented into artistic conquering of mutual contacts of the art environment, obtained a different name, which has also became permanent - the 'aesthetics of interactions' . This tendency has also got a firm base: if the exhibition event is merely an excuse to meet, why would the meeting itself not be transformed into an artistic event? In other words, if the institutionalisation within the art system completely predetermines socialisation, and is at this robbed of its inner contents, the interest for the social dynamics as the only live and rich in content form in the world of institutions becomes sensible. Thus, the co-operation at a group exhibition can be compared with the artists living in a gallery, lying around on soft mattresses around a refrigerator full of food. This is how the French artists Pierre Joseph, Philippe Paranno and Frank Perraine used the invitation offered to them by the Air de Paris gallery. Handing over the work for an exhibition is thus changed in handing over the artist himself. The artist is prepared to sit in the exhibition hall during the entire exhibition and communicate with the visitors (Joseph Grigli). The exhibited object can obtain the form of a long term (entire year) intellectual seminar at which artists and philosophers co-operate (Visual anthropology workshop ), or a journey of a group of artists from one coast of the United States of America to the other (Transnacionala ). At the end, the example of the 'aesthetics of the interaction' could also be represented by the recent project by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who used the sponsor funds that he received to set up a new initiative (Haiti biennial) for the holidays of his friends (leading contemporary artists) in a Haitian resort.

To the extent, to which the 'aesthetics of interaction' is fulfilled in the regime of direct communication amongst people, it is already outside the system of contemporary art and the mechanisms of its operation. In reality the sole fact that the artistic operation is seen as a form of communication means a denouncement of the artistic language, which is today the guarantor for the professional status of art. The next necessary step becomes the denouncement of the professional forms of work on an artistic project, forms that are presupposed by the art system: 'aesthetics of interaction' does not allow for a curator or a representative to select the participants or the conceptual themes. In these projects the human and personal dominate over professionalism, which is also founded in their entitling 'confidential projects' and speaks about the fact that they are not called into life by the production routine, but through their friendship bonds. And truly, is a curator necessary for a group of friends to hang out together? In this case it is appropriate to predetermine the participants according to the principle of a balance between the representatives of ethnic and sex groups? Can a gathering of friends be dedicated to the discussion of a previously decided theoretical problem?

When the 'aesthetics of interaction' crossed the boarder of artistic autonomy and denounced the production of objects it ceased to operate according to the principle of recognition in its dialogue with the potential audience. Even more, with an enlightened audience one cannot toy with the exhibition text simply also because in this case the participants of the project and the audience are the same people. Thus the 'aesthetics of interaction' with its endeavours to become separated from the institutions and join the social dynamics, unexpectedly actualised the avant-garde principle of identification. Only that this time it is not the identification of society with the model of contemporaneity, which is offered by the artist - for there is no longer a society, nor a cult of contemporaneity - but the identification of one artist with another.

However, we can expect that the experience gained from the 'aesthetics of interaction' will be of interest also for others, for the attempt to form autonomous communities, is the broadest attempt made by the post-contemporary period. The uniqueness of the community created by the 'aesthetics of interaction' can be found in the fact that they are not a result of blind forces. Instead, they are a result of experimental project endeavours, thus they are richer in content and constructively clear, i.e. they have all of those characteristics that are typical for an avant-garde work of art. This gives the artistic communities the characteristics of the model and thus the attempt is the subject of a broader interest. The only thing that is essential is that this time the identification with the artistic experience is nor ideological, nor normative as it used to be; for now there are no more structures of rationality which have merged the society and the living world of the subject.

Finally, in order to fulfil justice, we have to admit that the 'aesthetics of interaction' system does not loose the connection with art by overstepping the boarders of it: it can also represent merely a supplement to the routine exhibition process. Even the expansion of the attempt to create an anti-exhibition by the art communities still takes place through the art system channels. Thus, the 'aesthetics of interaction' uses the sources of the system in the same way as a parasite would, not only in the economic, but also in the symbolic sense. For the artist to exhibit himself or his communication with the audience instead of exhibiting an object, and for this to have an artistic value is possible only because the art system preserves the added status of art.


The nineties: art of the reflective subject

As we have already mentioned the period of demodernisation is not denoted merely by self-organised communities, but also by the phenomenon of the new subject. We have already stated that today the subject exists between two poles - on one side are the information and exchange flows, which are alienated from the subject and on the other are irrational communities. It is also important that this is a subject that is free of the ideological single dimension and unification, which was previously forced upon it by the modernisation process. Today the world is free of rational structures, thus the subject faces also the endless world of its own subjectivity - ethnical belonging, personal memories, traumas, etc. The subject constructs his own non-replicable identity on the game of these realities of the contemporary world. On one hand he 'constructs himself', for which he uses the sources of his personal experience. On the other hand the subject, if he does not wish to get lost in the hidden labyrinths of his own personality, is forced to socialise through the dialogue with various inter-tangled communities and by joining the flows of global exchange. Thus we can define him as the reflective subject.

However, considering that the life substance of a contemporary subject is represented by the search for his own identity and that this process has a creative character, why would we not define it not merely as the source, but also the subject of creation? Why would we not consider the practice of 'constructing oneself' as an artistic practice and would not acknowledge it as the artist's predestination?

On this route the artistic subject - in the same way as the artistic communities - tries to cross the boarders of the art system, for the practice of 'constructing oneself' does not fit into the routine exhibition process. The system does not demand an individual identity from the artist, i.e. a representational identity, even less does it demand an identity at all. It merely demands the outside signs of an identity, an easily grasped procedure and obvious signs of belonging to an ethnic or some other community. Apart from this, because the world of the subject is from now on free of rational structures, the artistic practice of 'constructing oneself' can no longer use the artistic language, but has to fulfil itself directly within the social environment. This means that it denounces the established forms of exhibiting.

Thus the artist is faced with an alternative. He can denounce the presentation, so that the attempt to 'construct himself' is completely private (i.e. not public); or he can (in his search for the presentation of his activities) turn towards the only public field, which is outside the boarders of the narrow professional art system, i.e. start a dialogue with the information flows of the mass media? The media space gives the artist new possibilities to overcome the boarders of the professional community and open to the broadest and a democratic audience by bypassing the system of contemporary art. At this point the media language is the guarantor for a language that does not merely cover the language of the art system, but also the sub-culture languages of various communities. Thus the artistic practice of 'constructing oneself' meets the media strategy of 'exposing oneself'.

There is only one way to establish a dialogue with the media - one has to create a reason for this dialogue, such as a scandal. Thus, the figure of the action artists (i.e. artists who step into interactive relations with the media culture) is finally created. The artistic attempt to 'construct oneself' is increasingly obtaining the form of an extreme, transgressive and affective attempt, in which artists such as the Moscow based Oleg Kulik and Alexander Brener, the Englishman Damien Hirst, the German Christoph Schingensiph and numerous others can be recognised.

It is obvious that because the 'construct oneself' practice (as well as the 'aesthetics of interaction' practice) is crossing the boarder of the art system and opening to the living social dynamics, that the artists is once again trying to avoid the category of recognition and is coming ever closer to the avant-garde category of identification in his dialogue with the auditorium. In reality the experience of the artistic subject is potentially interesting for any reflective subject, for the extreme experience of the artist reveals the deep existential essence of contemporary subjectivity. However, this time we are not dealing directly with the identification, but with the identification from the opposite. The experience of the artist can play the role of the model, a model not to be imitated, on the contrary, a model, a direct imitation of which is better to be avoided. The positive side of the attempt performed by the artistic subject can be found in the fact that the 'construction of oneself' does not define the direction, but the eternally escaping line from the horizon.

But on this route the artistic subject also finds contradictions that cannot be solved. In the past, when the artistic language could be recognised in the rational structures and it had a normative character within society it preserved its substance value, without loosing on universality. Today the endeavour of the subject to open up democratically is covered by the media, thus one can rightfully pose the following question: in this event are we dealing with the artistic practice or has this already switched to a media practice? The artistic product has a different time regime, a different content capacity, thus the following question is also reasonable: does an artistic product which steps into a dialogue with the flows of information and exchange preserve its unity or does it change its nature? This problem is not linked to the 'aesthetics of interaction' (even though it also steps outside the territory of the art system) because the essence of its practice can be found in the creation of its own internal symbolic exchange, which can not resist only the system but also the media coverage. When a subject crosses the boarders of the system he finds himself singled out, thus, when he comes into the context of informational flows - he, who has denounced the language of the art system - is forced to accept the language of the media. Thus the next reasonable question would be: can the practice of 'constructing oneself' be preserved also within the world of media stereotypes?

For the artist there is a single way out: he can avoid being completely engulfed by the media only by preserving his professional identity - the identity of an artist. Thus, the artistic subject is forced to preserve his place also within the art system; he is forced to continue participating in its work. The skilfulness of the search for the balance between various languages and contexts is in fact defined by the reflective subject.


The nineties: exhibiting and entertainment

The artistic subject or the artistic communities are not the only ones who are trying to overcome the boarders of the art system - today this system is trying to surpass itself. At this it is taking the same route as the subject that has left it behind - it is trying to establish a dialogue with the only field which is today outside of the sub-culture communities, i.e. with the global flows of exchange. The consequence of this is that the strategies of representation have started to enter the environment of mass media - artistic projects can be found on the pages of newspapers and magazines, artists are conquering film, television and the Internet. The institutional machinery of the art system is also making a step towards the spare time and entertainment industry. Because the rational structures have mimicked into pure technology, their artistic basis - the language of the system - has to follow this evolution. Institutions have to once more become the tools of social dynamics; they should no longer be separated from the world by defensive towers.

The art system, which has since eternity had an almost sacred role - it was the temple for exhibiting models of contemporaneity - is now dealing with the study of its market operation. Thus the Guggenheim museum is starting to operate according to the principle of the newest corporate strategies and is establishing franchises all across the world, and in its halls it hosts exhibitions of motorbikes and designers. State structures, such as for instance the Venice Biennial are becoming privatised, new artistic festivals are being linked to tourism or are becoming reminiscent of artistic attractions organised in an urban environment. A concrete goal is hidden behind all of this, i.e. to pull the art system from its autonomy and root the art institutions within the global social dynamics.

However, on this route the system is forced to seriously reform its expert community, for in the modern period it was the expert community that ensured the monitoring of the politics over economy in art. Or to be more precise: the experts ensured the historisation of the current art, and this was in the interests of both, art and the market. Thus, the expert took into account the set rules of professional ethics, which guaranteed the objectivity of his expert evaluation. Today taking ethics into account is no longer defined by respecting the norms, but the personal biography and the reputation arising from it. The consequence of this is that the taboo of merging market and non-commercial activities has fallen: curators have started selling, gallery owners are organising exhibitions in museums and to top it all off museums have started exhibiting motorbikes and designer products. The expert community does not protect the artist from the mass taste, on the contrary - the artist has to establish a dialogue with this taste, he has to overcome the superfluous elitism within him. It is also characteristic that because the tasks of historisation are no longer present and because the system no longer takes care of implementing its safety rituals, the gallery no longer has to imitate the work of the museum, i.e. organise exhibitions, publish catalogues, etc.

And finally, because the expert community is in this case pushed out of the game and it no longer mediates between the spectator and the work of art, we are obviously once again dealing with the return of the early modernistic principle of identification. But this time it is not an individual experience, but a collective identification with the global and mass flows of information and exchange.

However, the art system has encountered certain serious threats on this route. As we have already mentioned in the de-modernisation period the subject is no longer dealing merely with the blind forces of global exchange, but also with the endless world of its own subjectivity that it has discovered. And this is what enables the artist his unique identification; this is the most important source of creativity, which ensures that the creative practice gains the artist's initiative. However, the exchange technologies which now seem to cover the art system by definition ignores the subjective dimension, for these technologies (at least as stated by T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer) are the last form of self-sufficient and abstract instrumental reason . To put it in other words, we can ask ourselves: is the exhibition of motorbikes in the Guggenheim an art event or merely simple media promotion?


The nineties: video exhibition - the return of the catharsis

The contemporary artistic practice offers us another strategy of exhibiting. This is represented by the contemporary video, which has a special sort of operational regime. The works of video art, which have taken over numerous elements from the visual aggression of the film, have a suggestive power, which was previously not known to contemporary art. The acceptance of grandiose video projections in a spatially restricted and dark space is a truly strong emotional experience (an experience not known by the ready-mades, the object or the traditional installation). Typical for these works, but foreign to traditional exhibitions and film (which is by definition a form of mass art) is the intimacy of the contact with the work of art, for the dark box accepts only four or five people (the ideal is a single person). Thus these works strengthen the return of the aura, which contemporary art has disregarded: the box for watching video films is somewhere between a confessional box in the church and a peep-show cabin, which carries in it a spiritual effect as well as a condensation of the desire. What seemed completely torn from the regime of existence of contemporary figurativeness, i.e. contemplation, is now returning to the video box. Thus we are also realising that the Author is returning to the works, as well as the rhetoric of confessions. All that defines the other tendencies on the actual artistic scene - 'institutional criticism' and interactive games, deconstruction and irony, the individualistic effect and cynical provocation - is foreign to the world of video art.

The period of de-modernisation that has brought a crisis of rational structures into the social life, presupposes a partial return to the pre-modern forms, to a new archaism. We can also consider as a symptom of the crisis situations of the art system and exhibition practice of the new archaism the fact that the contemporary video boxes are reviving the category of catharsis.

Contemporary video brings only one very obvious contradiction: because video is a completely new (neo-archaic) type of artistic expression, it is - in opposition to the other tendencies in the contemporary arena - indifferent to the forms of its exhibiting and remains to exist in the territory of the contemporary art system, it still remains the object of traditional exhibition strategies. To state this differently: video is an artistic practice that is at the moment completely without its own strategy of exhibiting.