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The Synthetic PropositionConceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art$
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Nizan Shaked

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784992750

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784992750.001.0001

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The political referent in debate: identity, difference, representation

The political referent in debate: identity, difference, representation

Chapter:
(p.156) 4 The political referent in debate: identity, difference, representation
Source:
The Synthetic Proposition
Author(s):

Nizan Shaked

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781784992750.003.0005

This chapter offers a specific set of distinctions made in the debates about political art in the 1980s and 1990s by observing a constellation of anthologies, symposia, and exhibitions as a backdrop to understanding the curatorial agenda and reception of the 1993 Whitney Biennial for American Art, as well as a comprehensive examination of the exhibition contributions of Daniel Joseph Martinez, Andrea Fraser, and Lorna Simpson. The 1993 Biennial provides an ideal case study to examine the representation of socio-political issues in art, as it consolidated perspectives on two key terms for the later part of the twentieth century: identity politics and multiculturalism. A for-or-against debate gives way to understanding identity politics and multiculturalism as modes of describing a historical stage and/or a political strategy. Many artists concerned with these frameworks sought ways of showing how identities worked, not what they looked like. Significant in this respect was the landmark exhibition Difference: On Representation and Sexuality (1985), which highlighted a set of constructivist approaches to the formation of subjectivity and the subject, underscoring the social, ideological, psychological, economic, and linguistic structures of identity over essentialist definitions reliant upon notions of inherent communality. Silvia Kolbowski’s Model Pleasure I-VIII 1982-1984 (1982-84), included in Difference, is discussed.

Keywords:   Identity politics, Multiculturalism, The 1993 Whitney Biennial, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Andrea Fraser, Lorna Simpson, Silvia Kolbowski

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