Visual Cultures as Seriousness
Can certain art forms—such as performance art—suggest ways in which we might be intelligent without being serious?
Can one be serious in the art world without returning to established assumptions about the high-mindedness of the public intellectual?
The contemporary art world has become more inhospitable to “serious” intellectual activity in recent years. Critical discourse has been increasingly instrumentalized in the service of neoliberal art markets and institutions, and artists are pressurized by the demands of popularity and funding bodies. Set against this context, Gavin Butt and Irit Rogoff raise the question of “seriousness” in art and culture. What is seriousness exactly, and where does it reside? Is it a desirable value in contemporary culture? Or is it bound up with elite class and institutional cultures? Butt and Rogoff reflect on such questions through historical and theoretical lenses, and explore whether or not it might be possible to pursue knowledge and value in contemporary culture without recourse to high-brow gravitas.