Mel Ramsden’s Theoretical Critique of Institutions: A Close Reading of “On Practice”
Keywords:institutional critique, artist theory, Marxism, critical theory
The work offers a detailed reading of Mel Ramsden’s “On Practice”. The introductory paragraphs bring insight into contemporary discussions concerning definitions of the term “institutional critique” and exhibit different approaches to the historization of these practices. The main thesis is that Marxism was present in the critical practices of the New York-based conceptual artists associated with institutional critique, while the expanded thesis is that their Marxism was a form of interpretation/intervention in the institution of art. The central part comprises a reading of Ramsden’s text. The reading divides the text into three segments: a critique of bureaucracy in art, a critique of the art market, and a call for alternatives. Special attention is paid to the third segment. The communal art alternatives that Ramsden proposes are juxtaposed with the concrete practices of the “social turn” in contemporary art. The final remarks offer conclusions regarding the main and expanded theses and raise the question of the type of intervention that Ramsden’s text performs in the contemporary institution of art.
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