October 15

The Artist as Public Intellectual?


Akademiehof of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Makartgasse 3, 1010 Vienna

A Symposium of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Friends of the Secession
Concept: Sylvie Liska, Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen

Since September 11, 2001, there has been a clear shift in the role intellectuals play in political discourse. Political figures now set the standards and moud facts in the fight for global hegemony. Against this backdrop, intellectuals are called upon to counteract domination of the discussion by the political powers-that-be. What role do artists have to play in this context? Are they prepared to assume the role of “public intellectual”? And if so, how?

In the era following the Second World War, the image of the politically committed intellectual went through several changes. In a visual arts context, local action became the model to pursue, replacing the all too authoritarian role of enlightened advocate typified by Jean Paul Sartre. Although local intervention was far more consistent with aesthetic practice than the drafting of abstract pamphlets, it soon seemed inadequate for confronting the global problems of the 90s. Drawing on a newly emerging discipline of cultural sciences and following the lead of scholars such as Edward Said and Susan Buck-Morss, artists have for some time been looking for new criteria as a basis for taking a stance and assuming public responsibility. The symposium The Artist as Public Intellectual? addresses the issue of (re-)positioning artistic practice in relation to public discourse.

Participants include artists who have developed politically committed work over several decades, together with scholars striving to define the social locus of artistic practice against the background of a politicised psychoanalysis, a critical assessment of the media and scrutiny of post-colonialist positions.

October 15, 2004
Welcome & introduction
Andrea Geyer: New York City, August 2004
Manthia Diawara
Barbara Kruger: Doubt
in conversation with Sabeth Buchmann
Rosalyn Deutsche: The Art of Non-Indifference
Discussion, chair: Roger M. Buergel

October 16, 2004
Thomas Hirschhorn: On Art in the Public Sphere, the Sphere of Public Life
Silvia Kolbowski: With what should the artist be satisfied?
Roger M. Buergel: Why art and intellectualism are mutually exclusive
Mignon Nixon: Controversial Discussions: Psychoanalysis and the „Woman Artist“


Sabeth Buchmann is an art historian and critic. Since March 2004 she has been teaching as professor of art history in the field of Modernism and Post-modernism at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Roger M. Buergel is an exhibition organiser, author and artistic director to documenta 12. Currently showing is The Government (with Ruth Noack, Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg; MACBA-Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Secession, Vienna, 2003–05).
Rosalyn Deutsche is an art historian and critic who teaches at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York City.
Manthia Diawara is Professor of Comparative Literature and African Studies at New York University.
Andrea Geyer lives and works in New York and Freiburg, Germany. She is a 2000 graduate of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program currently teaching as visiting professor at Malmö Art Academy.
Thomas Hirschhorn is an artist and lives and works in Paris. Hirschhorn ist known for the clear political statements in his work.
Silvia Kolbowski is an artist based in New York. She is on the advisory board of October journal, and teaches in the CCC program of the Ecole Superieure d’Art Visuel, Geneva, and the Architecture Department of Parsons School of Design, NY.
Barbara Kruger became internationally renowned by the early 1980s with her conceptual work based on appropriated images and text.
Mignon Nixon is Senior Lecturer in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and an editor of October magazine.
Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen headed the Kunstverein Hamburg from 1992 till 2001 while also teaching art theory at the College of Fine Arts in Hamburg. Since 2002 he has been Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.