What is it that makes Pop so different, so attractive?
Art and popular culture in a world undergoing a transformation
What is it that makes Pop so different, so attractive? brings together four highly diverse voices in a series of conferences that enter into dialogue with the exhibition devoted to the British artist Richard Hamilton (1922-2011). Appropriating the theme raised by Hamilton in his famous 1956 collage, the seminar debates the crossover between artistic practices and popular culture that gave rise to multiple phenomena identified as Pop Art. In broader terms, it also touches upon that which surrounds the legacy of the popular culture from that time, which, through music, media and lifestyles, acted as a catalyst for society’s desires and energy for life over a large part of the second half of the 20 th century.
Due to its irreversible ambivalence, Pop, on the one hand, would definitively dissolve post-war Avant-garde pretensions, advancing the terms and contradictions of the contemporary art system. On the other, it would mark a new organisation in the field of culture, not vertically structured as “high” and “low”, but in complex and interconnected strata, where, a priori, identifying space and agents generating critique, originality and aesthetic value would be impossible; a system where codes are invented, disseminated, appropriated and discarded without any kind of solution for continuity. Ultimately, they would reveal the inescapable potency of a culture that is produced and consumed collectively, en masse, whereby the artist would be fuelled in the same way as the rest of the components from the social mass.
Quite possibly, Richard Hamilton is the one member of the Pop generation to take on board, more consciously, the contradictions that stemmed from working with the language and imagery of the media and consumer culture, revealing the possibility of articulating new critical positions through them without compromising the artist’s position. This series of conferences approaches this complex panorama from complementary perspectives interweaved in the history of art and cultural critique, bringing together four very different voices, both in terms of generations and intellectual backgrounds, endeavouring to circumscribe the most relevant issues in the current debate.
Diedrich Diederichsen is an author, music journalist and cultural critic. He is Professor of Theory, Practice and Communication of Contemporary Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He has worked as the editor on influential music magazines such as Sounds in Hamburg and Spex in Cologne. He is also the author of Personas en loop (Adriana Hidalgo, 2005), Psicodelia y ready-made (Adriana Hidalgo, 2011) and recently Über-Pop Musik (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2014), among other studies.
Eloy Fernández Porta is Doctor of Humanities at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he teaches Contemporary Art in the Hispanic Studies Programme. He has published the cultural critique books Afterpop. La literatura de la implosión mediática (Berenice, 2007), Eros. La superproducción de los afectos (Premio Anagrama, 2010) and Emociónese así. Anatomía de la alegría (con publicidad encubierta) (2012).
Kerstin Stakemeier is an art historian. Since 2012 she has worked as a professor at the CX Centrum for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich and is a regular contributor to the magazines Afterall, Texte zur Kunst and Artforum, and a specialist on the Independent Group and Richard Hamilton. Her recent publications include Painting – The Implicit Horizon (edited with Avigail Moss, Jan van Eyck Academie, 2012), A – Autonomy (co-written with Marina Vishmidt, 2014) and Entkunstung – Artistic Models for the End of Art (b_books polypen, 2014).
The distinction between Modern and Contemporary Art has become ever more pronounced with the development of the latter as a fully fledged cultural industry within the last ten years. But the distinction is not one of the terms of production and distribution of cultural commodities alone, it also is one of artistic genres and their fundamental expansion via non artistic media. In his artistic work since the late 1940s Richard Hamilton again and again pushed the boundaries of those artistic genres, but while employing numerous media, from (exhibition) design to television ads, he ultimately never abandoned those artistic genres in favour of a more media based art. Like many fellow "Pop" affiliates, Hamilton remained a distinctively modern artist. Still, from his early days in the Independent Group onwards he produced a decidedly contemporary art. An art that, unlike other Pop-identified artists, realized a fundamental reconstruction of modern artistic genres rising from the post-war culture industry.
Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Setting forth from the series The Critic Laughs, one of the most incisive works in the exhibition, this intervention approaches Hamilton’s work from the background of the confrontation between “masculine” Pop Art and second-wave feminism that gained force at the end of the 1960s. Within this discursive framework, the domestic imagery and advertising fiction that run through the work of the British artist take on a new dimension and reveal the poetics of humour in which binaries of genre appear as the segmentation of the market of origin and as a never-ending source of comical effects.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
Around the 1960s, one can observe what in system theory is called a re-entry on both sides of the divide between popular and high art. The distinction between high and low reenters both fields and produces new co-ordinates, in which in the long run the low of the low get disqualified as well as the high of the high. This was not visible because both re-entries took the form of long cultural struggles, which were fought by the forces of the cultural industry and the critical and subversive actors, often fighting from the same side against imaginary opponents. Now that we can see this process, Diederichsen asks: should we opt for the discredited positions?.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200