Conceptual Art From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique Type: Article; Author(s): Benjamin H. D. Buchloh; Date: ; Volume: 55; Page. Towards Other Genealogies of Conceptual Art. Institutions, Benjamin Buchloh describes how, after its closure, conceptualism became a kind. (pp4) “Because the proposal inherent in Conceptual Art was to replace the object of spatial and perceptual experience by linguistic definition.

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The very term “institutional critique” seems to indicate a direct connection between a method and an object: In the first wave of institutional critique from the late s and early s — long since celebrated and relegated by art history — these terms could apparently be even more concretely and narrowly defined; the critical method was an artistic practice, and the institution in question was the art institution, mainly the art museum, but also galleries and collections.

It shall not be my purpose here, however, to discuss or access the meaning of institutional critique as an art historical canon, or to engage in the writing of such a canon I shall respectfully leave that endeavor for the Texte zur Kunst and October magazines of this world.

Conceptualism and Abjection. Towards Other Genealogies of Conceptual Art

Instead, though, I would like to point out a convergence between the two waves, that seems to have drastically changed in the current “return” of institutional critique that may or may not constitute a third wave. In either of its historical emergences, institutional critique was a practice mainly, if not exclusively, conducted by artists, and directed against the art institutions, as a critique of their ideological and representative social function s.

The institution was posed as a problem for artists. In contrast, the current institutional-critical discussions seem predominantly propagated by curators and directors of the very same institutions, and they are usually opting for adt than against them.

That is, they are not an effort to oppose or even destroy the institution, but rather to modify and solidify it. The institution is not only a problem, but also a solution!

Benjamin H. D. Buchloh – ‘From an Aesthetics of Administration to a Critique of Institutions.’

There has been a shift, then, in the placement of institutional critique, not only in historical time, but also in terms of the subjects who direct and perform the critique — it has moved from an outside to an inside.


Interestingly, Benjamin Buchloh has described the historical moment of conceptual art as a movement from institutional critique and “the aesthetic of administration to the critique of institutions”, in a famous and controversial essay entitled, tellingly, “Conceptual Art — From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions”.

While Buchloh focuses on the emergence of conceptualism, his suggestive distinction is perhaps even more pertinent now that institutional critique is literally being performed by administrative aestheticians, i.

While I would certainly agree with any attempt to view art institutions as part of a larger ensemble of socio-economic and disciplinary spaces, I am nonetheless confused by the simultaneous attempt to integrate the art world into the current politico-economic world system and the srt of a “we” of the artworld itself.

Who exactly is this “we”?

‘Conceptual Art 1962-1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions’

If the artworld is seen as part of a generalized institutionalization of social subjects that in turn buhloh the institutionalizationwhat and where are the demarcation lines for entry, for visibility and representation? If one of the criteria for institutions is given in the exclusions performed by them as inherent in any collectionthe question which subjects fall outside institutionalization, not due to a willful act or exodus as certain artistic movements thought and desired, but through the expulsions at the very center of institutions that allow them to institutionalize?

Obviously, this would require a very expanded notion of institutional critique, that lies somewhat outside the history of institutional critique as discussed here. So, to return to the object at hand, institutional critique as buchlohh art practice: Analyzed in terms of negative dialectics, this would seem to indicate the total co-optation of institutional critique by the institutions and by implication and extension, the co-optation of resistance by powerand thus make concdptual critique as a critical method completely obsolete.

Institutional critique, as co-opted, would be like a bacteria that may have temporarily weakened the patient — the institution — but only in order to strengthen the immune system of that patient in the long run. However, such a conclusion would hinge around notions of subjectivities, agencies and spatialities that institutional critique, arguably, tried to deconstruct. It would imply that the historical institutional critique was somehow “original” and “pure”, thus confirming the authenticity of the artist-subjects performing it as opposed to the current “institutional” subjectsand consequently reaffirming one of the ideas that institutional critique set out to circumvent, namely the notion of authentic subjects per bichloh as represented by the artist, reified by the institution.


Notes on Institutional Critique

If institutional critique was indeed a discourse of disclosure and demystification of how the artistic subject as well as object was staged and reified by the institution, then any narrative that again posits certain voices and subjects as authentic, as possible incarnations of certain politics and criticalities, must be said to be not only counter to the very project of institutional critique, but conceptuao also the ultimate co-optation, or more accurately, hostile take-over of it.

Institutional critique is, after all, not primarily about the intentionalities and identities of subjects, but rather about the politics and inscriptions of institutions and, thus, about how subjects are always already threaded through specific and specifiable institutional spaces.

Rather, one must try to historize the moments of institutional critique and look at how it has been successful, in terms of being integrated into the education of artists and curators, that is of what Julia Bryan-Wilson has termed “the curriculum of institutional buchlog.

An institutional critique of institutional critique, what can be termed “institutionalized critique”, has then to question the role of education, historicization and how institutional auto-critique not only leads to a questioning of the institution and what it institutes, but also becomes a mechanism of control within new modes of governmentality, precisely ocnceptual its very act of internalization.

And this is the expanded notion of institutional critique that I briefly mentioned above, and which could become the legacy of the historical movements as much as an orientation for what so-called “critical concepptual institutions” claim to be. Reprinted in Peter Weibel, Kontext Kunst ,