Art in Times of Crises: Brian Holmes and art as research

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We will focus in depth on a key position within the field of contemporary political art, through reading texts and directly engaging with the author and his research/activist program.

In 1999, in the context of the war in Kosovo, the art critic Brian Holmes wrote: "What are the powers of art in the face of organized violence? The answer can only lie in the public's encounter with the artworks, in the emotions they release, the reactions they provoke, the discussions they foster. The curator and the critic offer frames for that encounter. ... Today, if we want the artistic experience to contribute to any kind of political confrontation with the sources of violence, we have to radically change those frames. And that means measuring the depth and the historical nature of the current conflicts in the world."

Since then, Brian Holmes has embarked on an extensive research program, involving artistic collaborations, field trips and non-institutional forms of teaching, to examine the "depth and historical nature" of not just of on-going armed conflicts, but of the many interlocking social, economic and ecological crises that dominate our present. One of the recurring questions concerns the possibility of art to shape and transform the way we understand (and possibly act in) the world. How can individual and networked artistic practices be developed in relation to those forces that transform our world as we live in it.

The module consists of two parts. First we will read and discuss key texts of Brian Holmes that address these questions and discuss art works that that play an important role in this research program. Second, we will do a two-day intensive course with Brian Holmes where we look both at his previous works as well as contribute on ongoing research focus on mapping as an artistic strategy.

Texts will be mostly in English. The two-day intensive course will be in English only.

Semester Program:

Di 01.03.2016

10:00–13:00 (ZT 5.G02)

Crisis Mapping and Artistic Research

Biemann, Ursula, and Brian Holmes, eds. 2006. The Maghreb Connection: Movements of Life across North Africa ; [Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, December 11, 2006 - January 13, 2007, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, February 24 - April 22, 2007...]. Barcelona: Actar. S. 6-9

Holmes, Brian. 2009. “The Affectivist Manifesto: Artistic Critique for the 21st Century.” In Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society, 12–15. Van Abbemuseum Public Research 2. Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum. S.12-15


Di 15.03.2016

10:00–13:00 (ZT 5.K07)

Three Crises

Crisis theory for complex societies

Do containers dream of electric people?

An Institutional Crisis of Capitalism

Toward a new paradigm? Live Your Models. Self-orientation and urban form – on the way to a “new spirit” of postcapitalism

-> [All four texts as .rtf files]

Di 05.04.2016

10:00–13:00 (ZT 5.K10)


Differential Geography. Research and Rhythm in Artistic Representation (2008)

Southwest Corridor, North West Passage, start with Something like a theory

Di 12.04.2016

10:00–17:00 (ZT 5.K10)

Day 1: Two-day intensive course with Brian Holmes

Activism / Schizoanalysis: The Articulation of Political Speech

Mapping the deep energy corridors

Petropolis Map

Mi 13.04.2016

10:00–17:00 (ZT 4.T33)

Day 2: two-day intensive course with Brian Holmes

Excursion: Raffinerie, Cressier Varo Energy

Train Schedule:

10:03 - 11:46 Zurich HB - Cressier

14:46 (15:11) - 16:30 (16:56) Cressier - Zurich HB

Wiki with images and links

Di 03.05.2016

10:00–13:00 (ZT 4.T08)

Die Ästhetik der Krise. Kunst in blockierten Demokratien The aesthetics of crisis. Art in arrested democracies 06.2015

Di 10.05.2016

10:00–13:00 (ZT 5.K10)

Pad für Notizen zu Abschlussarbeiten