Dirty work: art beyond ‘autonomy’
Francis, Mary Anne (2007) Dirty work: art beyond ‘autonomy’ Journal of Visual Art Practice, 6 (1). ISSN 1470-2029
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Francis’s research explores ways in which artists, in the last decade, have pervasively begun to contest the notion of ‘autonomy’ in art. Following her presentation ‘What work does the work of art do? A symposium with Art and Language’ (London Metropolitan University, May 2003), Francis was invited to write a paper for an edition on ‘art’s work’ for the Journal of Visual Art Practice. The paper addresses the current rise of artists ‘working in the world’ – with non-art forms. Drawing on Bourriaud’s writing on ubiquitous ‘Relational Aesthetics’, which does not expressly address the theme of art’s work, Francis developed a case study of the Danish art collective, ‘Superflex’, and specifically their ‘Biogas’, the installation of a dung-fuelled heating apparatus in rural Tanzania. The paper examines the issue of how such a work might be theorised, in the near absence (at the time of writing) of theory explicitly relating to such practices. The claim that art such as ‘Biogas’ works in a new way is made via a rigorous development of Linger's fleeting suggestion, during the course of his own insistence that ‘Biogas’ belongs to a different paradigm of practice as its work exceeded what art does when it is autonomous. The article has recently informed a bid (outcome pending) on ‘social art’ to the AHRC.
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