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Can Artistic Practices Negotiate the Demands of Cultural Institutions, Public Space, and Civil Society?

Amira Gad
2 May 2012

'The young conservatives embrace the fundamental experience of aesthetic modernity – the disclosure of a de-centered subjectivity, freed from all constraints of rational cognition and purposiveness, from all imperatives of labour and utility – and in this way break out of the modern world. They transpose the spontaneous power of imagination, the experience of the self and affectivity into the remote and the archaic; and in Manichean fashion, they counter-pose to instrumental reason a principle only accessible via "evocation": be it the will to power or sovereignty, Being or the Dionysian power of the poetic'.


Jürgen Habermas



Looking at 'institutional critique' is relevant in understanding exactly how art practices can think and reflect upon the politics of cultural institutions and how notions of civic society come into play in the art scene. Institutional critique is both a concept and a practice that describes the systematic inquiry into the workings of art institutions, galleries and museums, and is most associated with the work of artists such as Michael Asher, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Andrea Fraser, Fred Wilson, Hans Haacke, alongside many more. While institutional critique practices have been allowed to challenge and push through the boundaries of the art world, the institutional networks, and their dynamics within society, are also worth pointing out. From the 'musealisation' of the 'non-place' (a concept coined by Mark Augé in 1992), whereby ideas of the 'white cube' or the institution are conceived, to the symbolic places of transitions that temporarily house discourse, art practices act as starting points for reflections and discussions that contribute to discourses that deal with our contemporaneity, including the politics of cultural institutions, urban development, and the notion of civic society.

Amira Gad

Amira Gad (Egyptian / French) has been Exhibitions Curator at the Serpentine Galleries in London, since 2014. Prior to this, Gad was Managing Curator & Head of Publications at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, where she worked from 2009 to 2014.


Outside of the Serpentine Galleries, recent curated exhibitions include Blue Times at Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, Austria (2014-2015). She was also curator at Fogo Island Arts of the conference series that took place on Fogo and in Vienna at the MAK, while forthcoming exhibitions include Angela Bulloch | Maria Zerres at the Sharjah Art Museum (2016). At the Serpentine, curated exhibitions include: Reiner Ruthenbeck (2014); Julio Le Parc (2014); Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (2015); Jimmie Durham (2015); and Simon Denny (2015).


At Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, she co-curated the exhibition Short Big Drama, a solo exhibition of Angela Bulloch (2012); among other projects. Gad was Project Manager of Alexandre Singh's play The Humans and organized the exhibition The Temptation of AA Bronson (both in 2013); as well as I am for an art criticism that… (2012) a two-day symposium presented at Witte de With and at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. 


In addition to contributing to a number of publications and catalogues, Gad has produced and has been editor of several books including catalogues of works by Simon Denny (2015); Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (2015); Jimmie Durham (2015); as well as Character is Fate: Piet Mondrian's Horoscopes, an artist book by Willem de Rooij (2015); Rotterdam South - Home, an artist book by Erik van Lieshout (2014); The Crime Was Almost Perfect (2014); Morality in Fragments (2014); Angela Bulloch (2012); and Rotterdam-Sensitive Times (2013) by Lidwien van de Ven.



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