Artists Art Issues Exhibitions About Us Search

Art & Theory
Book review of Félix Suazo's A diestra y siniestra
by José Antonio Navarrete

Bookmark and Share

The following question however, continues to hang in the air: what does Suazo mean when he suggests that all works of art intrinsically bear a political stamp? In other words, is he arguing that the political is not something outside a work of art, something that the latter should overcome or avoid, but a "substantial" part of it? Although he repeatedly refers to the relationships between art and politics that are directly linked to an emancipatory utopia —German expressionism and post-World War I Mexican muralism, among others in developing a well-founded answer to this question he necessarily shifts to another course, since the most expeditious means of driving home his point is to be found in contemporary art. He resorts to such means by identifying with an understanding of politics as "a system of inter-subjective relationships", this being the most flexible, far-reaching of all the meanings of that term, as Suazo himself points out upon borrowing it from Nicolás Abagnanoí­s philosophical work. Although absent from everyday dictionaries, this meaning of "politics" is the one that works best for Suazoí­s purposes, as long as the characteristics that define the system of politics within inter-subjective relationships are properly identified. The author of Left and Right... achieves this with undeniable success upon examining the various approaches of contemporary artistic practices within the complex discursive weft built by power relationships, including those in the field of art.

As Suazo points out, three theoretical sources nourish his focus on the relationships between art and politics in the shift from politics as subject-matter to politics as a means of communication in contemporary art: Wittgensteiní­s philosophy of language and his view that language games are an expression of forms of life in interaction and conflict; Foucaultí­s theory of power, and in particular, the principle that relations of communication lead to power effects, and Lucy R. Lippardí­s line of reasoning on the political scope of activist art. They all provide effective methodological underpinnings on embarking on a study of the complex links between the political and art in contemporary artistic practices. As Suazo points out, the aim of such practices is to undertake a critical analysis of dominant social representations by exploring language games as constituents of a space for confrontation, rather than postulating their militant commitment to a redemptive political project through more or less pamphletary or melodramatic expressions.

The spectrum of proposals that can be addressed through that three-pronged perspective therefore ranges from those that are openly confrontational and linked to collective agendas, such as those of the Great Fury, to others that, although referring to the individual are influenced by social life, such as those of Julio Galán; from those that take on controversial issues in the public sphere, such as those of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, to those that dismantle more ascetic-looking institutional discursive strategies, such as those of Juan Carlos Rodriguez and Cavita. In line with that, Suazo seeks to identify the specific directions taken by the relationships between art and politics in current conditions, which leads to a sort of cartography of some of the most interesting routes explored by contemporary art, in addition to some disjointed journeys as well. In his analysis of the role of ethics in contemporary art, for example, Suazo makes his point along four principal lines, which he bases on the works of specific artists: those referring to the body as a redoubt of ethical debate, like Nela Ochoa and Javier Téllez; the relationships between ethics and community, as in the work of Pepón Osorio; whereas in ethics and appropriation he makes reference to Nadí­n Ospina, and in ethics and cyber-art, to Yusef Merhi.

2 of 3 pages     previous page     next page

back to issues