A new year's issue with strong political contents, featuring: Kelley Walker
's new show, Oliver Payne
, Jimmie Durham
, Anna-Sophie Berger
, Paul Pfeiffer, Sadie Benning, The Young Pope
review, Victor Burgin
's 1984 article “Yes, Difference Again,”—in addition to the usual contents.
While reviewing past issues of Flash Art
, we stumbled upon an article by British artist Victor Burgin
discussing the show “Difference: On Representation and Sexuality,” held at the New Museum, New York, in 1984. According to the show's press release, it was premised on “recent interest in the issue of representation [that] has prompted many artists to explore the cultural formation of our notions of sexuality.” In Burgin's article, which we reprinted as this issue's “Time Machine,” he analyses in terms of the “difficulty of difference” the critical response against the “political conceptualism” embraced by many of the “Difference” artists, whose works were dismissed as démodé
during a time when formalist and expressionist fashions were ascendant. “What was at issue in the work was not a transient aesthetic form but a long-established semiotic form—text/image—encountered in most aspects of the everyday environment.” Defending his and his fellow artists' lack of concern with the development of a recognizable style, Burgin explains that “the work of such ‘works of art' was upon systems of representations which were not confined within the institutions and practices of ‘art.'” Amid the hostility encountered by the ‘Difference' works, Burgin discerned “a reflex refusal to admit difference that has more to do with our ‘large-scale' politics than we care to imagine.”
This issue of Flash Art
takes Burgin's meditation as a starting point to stimulate a discourse around difference within the current political climate. On the one hand, as theoretician Walter Benn Michaels suggests in this issue's “Macro,” reflecting on the recent Kelley Walker
show at CAM St. Louis, the politics of representation may be a red herring with regard to the problem of economic inequality and the critique of capitalism; on the other hand, artist Jimmie Durham
, also featured in this issue with an essay by Jennifer Piejko, boasts a lifelong engagement in civil rights struggles, mastering the “specificity of the political in art” that emerged through the political dissensus of Burgin and his fellow “political conceptualists.” To highlight a vivid distinction between the representation of politics and the politics of representation—both in art and in life—should be our goal for the year we are entering.
is an international quarterly magazine and publishing platform
dedicated to thinking about contemporary art, exploring the evolving cultural landscape through the work of leading artists, writers, curators and others.
One of Europe's oldest art magazines, Flash Art
was founded in Rome in 1967, before relocating to Milan in 1971, and was originally bilingual, published in both Italian and English. In 1978 two separate editions were launched: Flash Art International
and Flash Art Italia
. Today the magazine remains one of the most recognizable and widely read publications of its kind, and is distributed in 87 countries.