Unlike men, all conceptualisms are not created equal. Some idea art—another dated term circa 1970—is so cliquishly abstruse as to celebrate, say, a man masturbating inside a gallery as a creative act (Vito Acconci’s 1971 Seedbed), or, more recently, a figure slithering around buffed cement in white pajamas (Terence Koh’s 2011 nothingtoodoo). Other examples, though, push open art’s closed doors: Consider Joseph Beuys’s 1980 founding of the German Green Party (he tagged it “social sculpture”) and the protest work that recently got Ai Weiwei arrested. Besides the obvious differences in generosity, crucial distinctions also appear when these artists address the mother of all art world MacGuffins—the “dematerialization of the art object.” A formula fetishized by legions of American artists, this “iron rule” has served Third World creators largely as a means to an end. And what end would that be? It varies, of course. In the case of the Belgian-born artist Francis Alÿs—whose work has explored the demanding intersection between politics and poetics in Mexico for two decades—that artistic mission amounts to a set of pointed but open-ended reflections on the volatile nature of entropic societies. Not one to churn out additional in-house chatter about the global art market, Alÿs’s goal has been instead to produce work that questions, provokes, and engages, while in the process also expanding the reach of art and its audience.
more from Christian Viveros-Fauné at The Village Voice here.