Contribution to the first Autonomy Newspaper (2011).
The article “Autonomy and corruption in Italy,” was written after following the Autonomy Summer School, from 28 June to 2 July 2010 at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, with participants from academies and research institutions around the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and in Germany. The “school” actually involved more of an exchange of ideas and working together around the notion of autonomy in relation to contemporary artistic practice. The participants were joined by guest speakers each day for workshops and discussions.
The word “Autonomy” sounds outdated. In an artistic field, this term finds itself unfortunately wedged between two possibilities: the romantic notion of the isolated Artist, developing works in a studio, unaffected by the socio-political beyond his walls; or the cold reality that to operate within those same socio-political arenas an artist and the mediators involved in a creative action are only there to facilitate public agenda(s) or to smooth social process. These two positions are not mutually exclusive. The current state of contemporary art practice in the Netherlands and other Western European countries is multicultural, globalised, professionalised. And it is within this multi-faceted geographic and cultural context that the Autonomy Project seeks to facilitate a number of events over the coming years (including a public debate and formal symposium) in different locations, bringing the issue and practice of Autonomy back into debate. The Autonomy Symposium in October, 2011 in Eindhoven, Netherlands included speakers such a Jacques Ranciere and Peter Osborne.
Within the Autonomy Project, “autonomy” was thus being redefined as a relational, critical space: as an island within the ‘system’, where art is able to question or contest assumptions without being consumed or internalised. It is within this context that I examined the concept of corruption in relation to critical art practices – in Italy in particular.
I believe that a discussion on corruption can lead to a productive reflection on the relationship between art and our contemporary socio-cultural environment. Usually regarded as a negative term, corruption is understood as “moral deterioration or decay,” and as “the perversion of anything from an original state of purity”. Can such a highly criticised practice be a critical tool itself?
The Autonomy Project’s editorial board consists of a number of partners and is coordinated by John Byrne (John Moores University Liverpool School of Art and Design), Steven ten Thije (Van Abbemuseum) and Clare Butcher (independent curator, South Africa).