Jean Fisher September 2011

Professor Jean Fisher 30 September 2011.

Tricksters, Troubadours – and Bartleby:  On Art from a State of Emergency

Debates on the relationship of artistic practice to the sociopolitical sphere are familiar enough in the history of Western modernism, although the global state of emergency in which we all seem to find ourselves gives them a new frisson of urgency. My interest in this issue stems from a long engagement with artists emerging from a political history of colonial violence and cultural dispossession, whose work may be described as responses to betrayal by the languages of dominance. A constellation of questions presents itself, among them: Can art be a means of reclaiming a sense of political agency for both producer and receiver? How might one characterise the tropes employed by these practices and how do they differ from ‘social activism’? The tropes offered for consideration are those associated with the Hermetic, or hermeneutic play of the ‘trickster’ and the ‘troubadour’: encountering, trespassing, vectoring and opportunism.

Jean Fisher studied Zoology and Fine Art, later becoming a freelance writer on contemporary art and the post/colonial. She is the former editor of Third Text, and editor of the anthologies, Global Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts (1994), Re-verberations: Tactics of Resistance, Forms of Agency (2000) and with Gerardo Mosquera, Over Here: International Perspectives on Art and Culture (2004). A selection of her essays, Vampire in the Text, was published in 2003. She is a Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art, London, and Professor of Fine Art and Transcultural Studies at Middlesex University.

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