A project curated by Whatspace, participating artists include tutor Bas van den Hurk, MFA student Maarten Spons and graduate Lorelinde Verhees.
Starting point of this exhibition series ‘The Artist as Producer’ is a text by Okwui Enwezor from 2004 titled, ‘The Artist as Producer in Times of Crisis. In this essay Enwezor responds to an early text by Walter Benjamin, which has a almost similar title, ‘The Author as Producer’. Benjamin asks in this essay the question: ‘to what degree does political awareness in a work of art becomes a tool for the deracination of the autonomy of the work and that of the author?’ In other words: what is the relation between a political awareness and the autonomy of a work of art and its producer?
Enwezor rephrases the question in a contemporary context. He puts forward that the artist as an individual with an authentic voice is a product of the capitalistic West. In times of crisis, such an individual does not accomplish anything according to him. Only if artists work together they can find an answer to dominant movements like neo-liberalism. Enwezor sees ‘new critical, artistic formations that foreground and privilege the mode of collective and collaborative production’.
How does Enwezor understand these new forms of collective production? He sees two ways. One is within collectives with permanent collaborations. The others are: ‘a flexible, non-permanent course of affiliation, privileging collaboration on project basis than on a permanent alliance’. This second type of collaborations is what Enwezor supports: a non-permanent collaboration based on projects. This type of collaborations fits the radical network based society of today much better, he says.
Whatspace thinks an analysis like this is still current. How can we and how will we make such an analysis productive? Both the text by Benjamin as well as the text by Enwezor take a very strong stand. With this exhibition Whatspace wants to test and question how formal approaches by artist today can relate to these stands. Can works that appear often light and playful also reveal relations to comradery, to sexuality, feminity, towards a political awareness even? All the artist in the show negotiate their medium and practice and that what it can imply under current circumstances. The formal approaches and ways of production open doors to how these artist relate to our time and the place of their practice in it.