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Constructing a Post-Autonomous practice

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Post-Autonomy surfaced as a term during the debate into the crisis in art from the late 1980's, and springs from targetting the basic building blocks that went towards the invention of art and going onto changing those building blocks - particularly the fundamental role of the relationship of autonomy to the invention of art, and exhibition art as the main framework in which art cohere's and is understood during this period.

A Discussion based on a text by Homeless projects -

Title: Constructing a Post-Autonomous practice


No coherent theory of Post-Autonomy exists except for a brief outline. A purpose of this project is to complete a concept of Post-Autonomy and develop a practice under the umbrella term of Post-Autonomy.

But what makes this term compelling is that it offers the promise of real solutions, an actual break, and a new beginning. Post-Autonomy signals the end of the era of Autonomy and a new era that uses different principles. A Post-Autonomous practice establishes a practice based on recognising and applying these new principles.


So what are the clues that can lead towards understanding more clearly both the thinking and practice called Post-Autonomy that allows us to establish these principles? There are a number of recognisable characteristics that it is possible to use as our point of departure - practices that address fundamental issues, practices involved in physical change, and what can be seen as an up-dated institutional critique, which differs from its prior tradition since it is based not on understanding the flow and distribution of information but on proposing physical solutions!

All references point to practices that chart how art can move from its current deadlock through reinventing a model that maps out a possible future. Here we can mention Clegg & Guttmann's endeavour to dissolve the notion of the art insititution as a middle class institution through the radical notion of the theoretical disappearance of the institution of art - if art disappeared what aspects of it would we really need if we had to reinvent it again? Michael Lingers recognises the current situation in art as a state of emergency which requires drastic action. His articles chart the failures, broken promises, the inability of art to really change, points when serious problems took hold of the development of Modern art, the necessity and practicality of making a complete break with Modern art, outlines for its reinvention.

This is combined with a renewed interest in the tradition of the open work, participatory and collaborative practices, and any other practice that allows the physical alteration and change of the physical material that contributes to the fabric of art; this goes hand in hand with an examination into new public art which address the question how and where a non-architecturally based practice takes place, which any non-gallery based practice requires to confront.

The extent of the fundamental questions that are asked range from - What is an audience, what is a work of art, what is an artist, where is the place for art, what is an exhibition, what is an art institution? These questions are pooled together in Lingers texts, and pushed to their logical conclusion which asks how do we address the problems posed by contemporary culture without making the mistake of falling back and using its obsolescent structure?


If we pull together all these issues it is possible to recognise their context within the overall scheme of the crisis in art debate - an examination of the continuous breakdown of the 19th century model contemporary practices have inherited, the need for fundamental structural changes, the need for a different or new model, but also the palpable lack of any viable model to replace the existing 19th century model. In order to be able to do this it is necessary to locate both a workable theoretical model that allows an overview of the field of art, along with the theory, language, and means that removes that whole structure and a solution that finds a new model. The capacity to do this is complicated when the language and theoretical tools to do this are not obvious. We can go further, neither a practice or language currently exist which are adequate to be able to accomplish this goal. How do we position ourselves to begin this enquiry, and on what level, as a practice or as language, or a mixture of both? What can we retrieve from the existing model and take with us to go onto construct our new model? What are the essentials required to maintain a contemporary practice, what is the essential language that we need to do this? A possible solution is provided by Lingners adoption of Luhmann's scheme that reduces all functions of contemporary practices within the two core notions of communication and participation. A problem with existing language and concepts is that it focuses exclusively on what only exists, which has the effect of fixing what is there, rather than opening up other possibilities. The use of the ambiguous term of Post-Autonomy itself is suggestive, blurring the existing form current practices take, and opening up this new territory as a possibility.

If we look at Lingner, following on from Luhmann's analysis of Modern art as a development of autonomy, he taps into the debate around issues of the evolving relationship of autonomy to contemporary practices. The relationship of the notion of autonomy to the existence of art has been in place since arts inception with the invention of autonomy 200 hundred years ago. Can the use of the notion of autonomy continue to be the prinicple to understand and determine the field of art? If not what is? Again Lingner following on from Luhmann suggests that the working through of autonomy is complete, and that we are now entering into a new phase of inquiry? The notion of Post-Autonomy signals the shift from the era of autonomy into the field and era of hetronomy. How a practice can function within this period can only be speculative since we are required to view such a practice within the territory framed by autonomy! Nevetheless the question we need to ask from now on is - How can a practice exist that is determined by Hetronomy?


Area for discussion - How useful is the term Post-Autonomy in pooling recent changes and providing a solution to these problems?

Note: Text by David Goldenberg, London

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Re: Constructing a Post-Autonomous practice

Constructing a Post-Autonomous practice - 01. March 2006 - 17:01

There is a new website now:

All aspects of Post Autonomy are discussed here.


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