Gavin Butt

  • Visual Cultures as Seriousness

    Visual Cultures as Seriousness

    Gavin Butt and Irit Rogoff

    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. Can certain art forms—such as performance art—suggest ways in which we might be intelligent without being serious? And can one be serious in the art world without returning to established assumptions about the high-mindedness of the public intellectual?

    Copublished with Goldsmiths, University of London

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  • Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures

    Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures

    Kobena Mercer

    A cross-cultural perspective on the aesthetics and politics of pop art.

    How does pop art translate across cultures? What does pop art look like through a postcolonial lens? In the global marketplace of images, artists have long challenged the discourse of officialdom by turning to dissident elements in the languages of vernacular culture. This volume casts new light on the aesthetics and politics of pop by taking a cross-cultural perspective on what happens when everyday objects are taken out of one context and repositioned in the language of art. Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures examines practices that range from the recycling of consumerist waste in Chicano “rasquachismo” to the painterly pastiche of Hindu “photo-gods,” exploring the semiotic transformations that arise when art reveals unexpected antagonisms in the social life of images. Showing how boundaries marking “high” and “low” are further corroded by strategies that question categories of “folk,” “nation,” and “people” in the global culture of modernity, this book breaks new ground in understanding pop art's ambiguous reaction to (and compliance with) the dynamics of high capitalism. When Mao goes pop, should we see the results as avant-garde, anti-modern, or postmodern? Who “owns” popular culture in South Africa or Brazil? The critical revision proposed by this third volume in the Annotating Art's Histories series dramatically expands the world map of the period from which our definitions of contemporary art are drawn.

    Kobena Mercer is a writer and critic living in London. He is the editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms and Discrepant Abstraction (both published by MIT Press), author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, and an inaugural recipient of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, presented by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

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