Workshop Helmut Draxler

Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (NL)

Two-day workshop 'Historicity, Locality, and Agency in Contemporary Art Practices' by art historian and art critic Helmut Draxler.


Historicity, Locality, and Agency in Contemporary Art Practices

In modernist and in avant-garde practices the historical moment was always already a given – the Present as the very idea of a moment where the New could appear, transforming the past into the future. Usually that act was understood as a sort of heroic agency, enabling artists, theorists and political activists alike to overcome or transgress the given cultural, economic, social conditions. Since the postmodern, postcolonial and feminist critique of such narratives however, historical moments, cultural localities and heroic agencies have lost their innocence. They represent by no means a given any more; as highly questionable and phantasmatic entities they have to be reflected within each artistic, theoretical or political trajectory. Therefore, Fredric Jamesons famous phrase “Always historicize!” from 1979 has became the guideline for generations of cultural producers since. Homi Bhabhas call for a “location of culture” or the debate about post heroic agencies or subjectivities could easily be added.

The seminar will discuss the theoretical framework of that shift as well as practical examples from the different spheres of art practice, curating and art criticism, focussing on the tensions in between historicity and actualization, between the local and the universal, between claiming and critique.

Reading list:

Susanne Leeb, Not Quite Embracing Failure. History in Contemporary Art, in: Texte zur Kunst No. 76, December 2009, p. 100 – 108

Hal Foster, The Return of the Real, 1996

Kobena Mercer, Art History after Globalization: Formations of the Colonial Modern, in: Tom Avermaete, Serhat Karakayali, Marion von Osten, Colonial Modern. Aesthetics of the Past – Rebellions for the Future, London 2010, p. 233 – 242


Helmut Draxler (DE,1956) is an art historian, art critic, and works as Professor for Aesthetic Theory at Merz Akademie University for Art, Design and Media in Stuttgart.

He is author of Gefährliche Substanzen. Zum Verhältnis von Kritik und Kunst (Berlin, 2007) and Die Gewalt des Zusammenhangs. Raum, Referenz und Repräsentation bei Fareed Armaly / Coercing Constellations. Space, Reference, and Representation in Fareed Armaly (Berlin, 2007); he edited Film, Avantgarde, Biopolitik (together with Sabeth Buchmann and Stephan Geene) (Vienna, 2009) and Shandyismus. Autorschaft als Genre / Shandyism. Authorship as Genre (Vienna, Dresden, Stuttgart, 2007).

Pantelis Makkas

"Mono Logue", video installation, 2011, Museum of Contemporary Art Alex Mylona, Athens, Greece