Monday 21 October 2013

Review of Frieze Talks: Sexuality, Politics and Protest at Frieze London Art Fair 2013

Frieze London Art Fair 2013
Frieze Talks: Sexuality, Politics and Protest
Friday 18 October 2013, 13:30

Neil Bartlett (Theatre Director, Author and Performer, Brighton)
Marlene McCarty (Artist, New York)
Zanele Muholi (Photographer, Johannesburg)
Chair: Jennifer Kabat (Writer, New York)

Political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) drew a strict distinction between ‘labour’ (‘animal laborans’) – the biological processes of the human body: spontaneous growth, metabolism, and eventual decay; ‘work’ (‘homo faber’) – once you start employing implements and separating yourself from nature, creating an artificial world of things; and ‘action’ (‘vita activa’) – political acts, such as speech acts, which separate and distinguish one man from another, but which take place directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter. As such, she placed art firmly within the realm of work, not action, since, generally speaking, it creates a tangible product.

Obviously, however, things are not quite this clear cut. For starters, art, if you allow for performance art in particular, does not always leave behind a tangible trace. Moreover, however, art is very commonly employed for political purposes: to express a particular viewpoint, or to protest against the status quo. 

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