• Summer School as School 2021: Course 4
Course 4: Some artists never talk about their work! Contemporary art and the practice of theory and artist criticism
Course 4: Some artists never talk about their work! Contemporary art and the practice of theory and artist criticism
by Bernhard Rüdiger
2 – 7 August, 2021

Application deadline: July 16, 2021.

Course Description
Some artists never speak about their work! Contemporary art and artist's practice of theory and critics.

Some artists never speak about their work, others could say very little but would take radical positions on political subjects, and some others are politically and socially engaged and also become real theoreticians, as is the case with the writings of Jeff Wall. But there are some artists that even if they don't say much about the work, organise other ways to theorise their artistic approach. Gerhard Richter's Atlas is a good example for this theoretical approach through images.

Should we presume, that even when we are confronted with the work of a silent artist, we are facing an object or an action that was generated not only through fantasy, talent, extravagance, but also according to a theoretical position? Is this only the case for those approaches in the so-called western modern culture, where shapes, forms and attitudes were grounded on a theory of the work? Do we belong our days to the same family of artists working with his or her senses and producing at the same time a theory, like Barnett Newman did in New York in the fifties and sixties of the last century? Are we still modern artists, or does the actual definition of contemporary artist signify a radical shift?
The question of the theory — a theory that is spoken out, but also a silent theory that is simply at work in the artist workshop — occupies a particular role in modern art. It is not an academic approach of the theory that can be explained to others and is produced in the purpose to be diffused or learned, artistic theory is an internal construction necessary to the work itself, even when it is not visible or cannot be described as such. Artistic theory is grounded on an internal split of the artist. The artist behaves on one side as the singular subject that is at the origin of a singular work through intuition and fantasy, but he or she is at the same time an outstanding observer of the same singular work. The artist behaves in his or her workshop as the first viewer, the one who observes the produced work from a distance. This shift from an extreme subjective intuition to an observing outstanding position is grounded on what European modern culture has defined, at the end of the 18th Century after the radical change of the French Revolution, as a critical position. Friedrich Schiller, the German poet, affirms that critics can only exist as a character of a free individual. A man who is sensible, someone who is lost in his or her senses, but ends by producing a distance by splitting off his or her subjectivity in several dialectical positions. In Schiller's view, a critical free man is deeply involved as subject in the experience of the real, but is in the same time able to discuss his or her own subjectivity, not by analysing this very subjectivity, but by discussing the nature, the quality, the reasons of the object he or her is observing. Critics can be at work only in the presence of an object and this is what artists do every day in their workshop, when they stop doing and begin to step backwards to observe the produced thing as an object. It is this object that modern art names a shape: an object that puts the subject in capacity to exercise critics. To be a critic means to have the capacity to produce a given object from a distance. Shapes are transformers, forms able to put us in an observing position, so that we can generate a discussion from several points of view, even when we are totally alone and silent.
But is this still the way we look at artworks? Can it be that actual artworks don't behave as transformers, but as predetermined formats? Something simply given, that does not produce a distance and a critical position of the viewer?

The new approaches of what we call contemporary art could open up several questions. Is theory still necessary to produce art, or has theory abandoned this individual and singular place in the artist mind and in the viewer's eye? Can we still talk in terms of shape? Is art still producing objects if we can no longer exercise a critical position upon them?

The five-day course will try to approach this notion of critical object from the point of view of the artist. Beginning with some examples and nourished by a confrontation with the reality of the social, historical and political condition in Pristina, the course aims to produce a collective discussion on a new understanding of this relation to critics, theory and creativity in contemporary art.

Bernhard Rüdiger was born in Italy (Rome, 1964) and lives and works in Paris. He graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan with Luciano Fabro and, after stints as a teacher in Tours and Valenciennes, he currently teaches in Lyon. He is editor of the magazine Tiracorrendo and was co-founder of the artists’ gallery Lo Spazio di Via Lazzaro Palazzi, a busy venue in the Milan art scene from 1989 to 1993. His works confront visitors with a physical experience involving object, body and space. At once sculptures, monumental models and architectural pieces, through their meticulous spatial and acoustic arrangement his works seek to investigate history, particularly the history of places. One example is in the semi-private garden of the Antonin Perrin residence in Lyon, in which Rüdiger installed a scaled-down model of the two old low-rise buildings destroyed in 2004 during the zone’s renovation, which recalled the history of the site and its industrial culture. Rüdiger’s works also propose direct physical experiences and the possibility that the work can react to the visitor’s presence or to natural elements. All of Rüdiger’s projects are systematically accompanied by studies and models in cardboard, wood, iron, etc., as well as drawings, but they are far more than mere stages in a creative process. They constitute part of the fully-fledged work and are involved in specific presentations in an arrangement encompassing some 30 display stands. (Excerpts from Nadine Labedade, FRAC Centre Orléans).

10 participants will be selected to participate in this course. Eligible participants must read the Terms information, fill out the application form, upload the required documents and submit the application form. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Scholarships are available for participants from Kosovo.
A limited number of scholarships that cover the participation fee are available for international participants.