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Subjectivity and the Obliteration of Meaning: Contemporary Art, Activism, Social Movement Politics

Flynn, A; (2016) Subjectivity and the Obliteration of Meaning: Contemporary Art, Activism, Social Movement Politics. Cadernos de Arte e Antropologia , 5 (1) pp. 59-77. 10.4000/cadernosaa.1035. Green open access

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Abstract

In this article I analyse the notion that social movement politics and contemporary art interventions increasingly traverse a porous boundary, be it in terms of practices, relations, or institutions. Premised on Nicolas Bourriaud’s seminal reading of 1990s art, I contend that the theory of “relational aesthetics” (2002) offers a synthetic platform from which we can understand how artistic interventions with activist connotations are increasingly moving away from the utopian and prescriptive, and thus echoing the “subjective turn” of social movement politics more widely. Based on fieldwork with contemporary artists and social movement actors in Brazil, the chapter mobilises relational aesthetics as a criteria to differentiate various forms of contemporary art intervention. Through conversation with ethnographies of radical politics, I argue that an analysis that foregrounds ephemerality, the “absolute centrality of diversity”, and different forms of dissonance, allows us to productively theorise how subjectivity is elaborated and meaning created. If art really is the locus of “imminence”, then understanding how these processes are contested is to grasp how prefigurative politics can have consequences for the immediate future.

Type: Article
Title: Subjectivity and the Obliteration of Meaning: Contemporary Art, Activism, Social Movement Politics
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.4000/cadernosaa.1035
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.4000/cadernosaa.1035
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: micro-utopia, subjectivity, relational aesthetics, contemporary art, activism, social movements
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112526
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