Ane Hjort Guttu 2009-2012, fellowship project National Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Programme
An analysis of political art could follow several directions – directions dictated by movements within political theory. One tradition within this theory defines politics as power struggle; another examines the administrative aspects of politics, like statehood or democracy; a third separates politics from power or administration by emphasizing various forms of emancipation. Opposed to the idea of politics as struggle for power and privileges, political emancipation proposes instead the struggle for equality: equal political rights and equal recognition. Emancipation also means personal self-realization, and its study and promotion is closely linked to psychological and pedagogical traditions.
I see this third alternative as the most productive starting point for an investigation of the political within art and artistic work. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, because the nature of artistic practice is itself emancipatory. Within modernity, this emancipatory goal was projected onto the figure of individual artist and his subjective, individual expressions, and onto the notion of the applied arts as a means to alter or improve the world.
Secondly, there exists, particularly within the visual arts, a solid tradition of institutional critique, which sets itself the objective of questioning the fundamental structures of production and distribution of art. This tradition can at its best be seen as an attempt to liberate art or break away from power structures.