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“Artivists”, militant artists to conquer the art world

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“Artivists”, militant artists to conquer the art world

In the world of contemporary art, the situation is serious, but not (yet) serious. In the Age of Humanism, therefore at the height of the Middle Ages, philosophers and scientists, artists and men of letters, technicians and craftsmen were not necessarily – indeed, almost never – explorers of distinct paths. The modern age has brought a new paradigm, that of specialization, which has relegated everyone to their own comfortable bed. For a curious heterogenesis of ends, even contemporary artists, no longer at the service of princes and Popes (but of the market and its rapacious vultures) have begun to look at their own navel with the certainty that it corresponds to that, much wider, of the world.

Ivory Tower of Complacency

And to talk to themselves and to their fellow men, in that living room of the ephemeral that are the vernissages and consequent finissages, including pretzels, macarons and prosecco or champagne, depending on the latitude. Art, confined by itself to the ivory tower of self-satisfaction, needs a new vocabulary, with which to present itself to the world. And a new alliance with society. With “Artivism. Art, politics, commitment ”(Einaudi, le Vele, pp. 232, € 13.00), Vincenzo Trione, art historian and critic, enriches the discourse on contemporary art with a new and agile cultural and critical map.

The artivists

Who are the artivists? They are the new, great community of contemporary art, not just a current. Contemporary art underwent, in the first two decades of the new century, a necessary psychotherapy and understood that it was simply in danger of disappearing from the world, passing from the desert island of salons and galleries to the oblivion of what is not there.

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In the wake of Camus: no longer deserters but activists

The artist, who has voluntarily isolated himself from the world he was trying to tell, is now looking for the key to re-entering it, as an activist or as a witness. Basically, as an author. But when and how was the rift between intellectual and artist created? “The caesura” says Trione, “dates back at least to the 1980s, when two great inclinations in the art world prevailed, a neo-Dadaist orientation (the pleasure for the boutade) and the post-modernist one with a taste for the “rupture” and the quotation. Since 2000 some artists have felt the need to reaffirm the need to behave as intellectuals, following two trajectories: to be witnesses of territorial, ecological, urban planning needs or to become intellectuals, following Camus: no longer deserters but activists “; heads, hands and hearts at the service of society, against its contradictions and injustices. But we must hurry: “there is a risk that the avant-garde, the great category of the 20th century, from a raid will turn into a walk in a playground, but I am convinced that the phases of decline are the prelude to a return of art outside from the shallows: the examples are fruitful, from Kieker to Boltansky.

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What is art for?

The purpose of art, according to the philosopher Arthur Danto, is aesthetic and ethical at the same time. Only then is it political, conceptual. Where and how do the artivists fit into this horizon? «Art is returning to being multidisciplinary: in the previous L’Opera Interminabile (Einaudi, 2019), I tried to tell about some artists, such as William Kentrige, who engage in different practices. In recent years, a great contemporary direction has been developing which is leading to the birth of collectives seeking a new synthesis between art, science and culture, as in the Bauhaus, for example the Berlin Workshop of Olafur Eliasson ». There remains a knot, which Trione tackles with ample examples, that relating to the relationship of art with beauty. Classical, representative art is constitutively linked to the ethical paradigm of beauty; that of the twentieth century is instead connected to the concept of scandal, of dissonance, of the search for the new. A clean slate, better if not readable by everyone. With some exceptions, from Cattelan’s magical realism to Aleksievich’s documentary art. Scandal is a consequence, not a presupposition of socially and also ontologically revolutionary art.

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