ABSTRACT

Like Mary Kelly (see Chapter 13), when I was invited to participate in “Visual Worlds,” I wasn’t sure what I was expected to contribute. Like Mary, I am an artist who has rejected, for the most part, not only what she refers to as the “iconic signifier,” but material production in general. Well, I thought, as a so-called institutional critic (that’s my primary artistic designation), I have focused most of my work on at least one “visual world,” that is, the world of visual arts. I could also say that my work has been about visual art as it appears in the world of museums and galleries, foundations and corporations, international exhibitions and the media. Now, however, I realize that all of the artist participants – and I use the term “artist” advisedly, thinking primarily of the framing that the “Visual Worlds” exhibition provides – have either eschewed or problematized material production, visual representation, or both. I realize that what we all have in common is precisely the fact that we are working at points of intersection between different “visual worlds” or, I would say, between different social fields: between art and politics or activism or corporations or media or academia. It may even be that the point of this “artistic” grouping is to argue that the very possibility of working, and being able to intervene, at such points of intersection is not only a question of representation. Rather, it is a question of the working itself: a question of the structure of cultural labor and cultural practice; of engagement, action, and interaction. In this, I would like to commend the conference and exhibition organizers for resisting what I see as one of the pitfalls of visual studies, that is, a tendency to remove the “visual” from the “worlds” of cultural practices and material conditions in which the visual finds its meaning and its function.