Class Presentation

Posted on May 29, 2014


Art in the Age of Biopolitics: From Artwork to Art Documentation
by Boris Groys.


This is one of the presentations on site-specifics and contemporary art strategies. In recent decades, the interest of art has been shifted towards art documentation.

The definition of Art Documentation is that “it is not art; it refers to art, and that art is hidden.”

Art documentation by contrast, marks the attempt to use artistic media within art spaces to refer to life as a pure activity. Art becomes a life form, whereas the artwork becomes non-art, a mere documentation of the artwork.

Biopolitics and Art Documentation together

Art is also biopolitical because it begins to use artistic means to produce and document life as a pure activity.

Biopolitics is usually confused with genetic manipulation, which re-forms an individual body. The inability to differentiate between natural and artificial is common in a lot of films, specifically Sci-fi films.

Art documentation is the art of making living things out of artificial ones, which is biopolitics. An example is the movie Blade Runner.

Blade Runner is a 1982 movie starring Harrison Ford. The story is about artificially produced humans called “replicants” that are given photographic documentation when they are produced. They are given life, which makes them impossible to tell apart from the natural human beings. Here is a part of the trailer.

You can see from that how hard it is to tell the difference between a human and a replicant.

Another area is Documentation as an Art Form

Documentation becomes the sole result of art, which is understood as a form of life, a production of history. It describes the realm of biopolitics by showing how the living can be replaced by the artificial and how the artificial can be made living by means of a narrative.

A French movie called ‘The Blind’ was based around a survey an artist did on people born blind. He wanted them to describe their concept of beauty and several responses were of figurative artwork. Even though they had never seen art or anything in their life, they believed that art depicted the real spirit of beauty through what they had heard.

This was fascinating as it gives people another understanding of life and even though you may be blind or death, you can still feel the benefits of being alive.

Another example is one by “Carsten Holler called The Baudouin Experiment: A Large Scale, Non-fatalistic Experiment in Deviation”. It was a group of people enclosed in the interior of spheres inside an Atomium in Brussels. They spent an entire day cut off from the outside world and their time there was documented, not telecasted.

This is similar to a TV show called Big Brother. Big Brother is manipulated as there are many cameras and the organisation can select which contain it wants for public viewing. The difference between that and Holler’s is Holler’s is a mere documentation of their time in the spheres, whereas Big Brother is telecasted and manipulated.

Posted in: Exploring Spaces