Part Five – Exercise 5.4: Institutional Audience

Does institutional critique presuppose an ‘insider’ audience requiring familiarity with artworld topics and issues or can it be understood by almost anyone spending an hour or two in a gallery?


Institutional critique as part of conceptual art requires context. Context, not intrinsic in the object or work, relates to prevailing cultural conventions and knowledge. However, as the previous exercise has shown, to consider something as art is already making it part of the institution of art (Fraser, 2005), i.e. it is an ‘inside’ position of perception. An audience that is not part of the ‘art-world’ would need to ‘learn’ that language as if someone would learn a foreign language. However, as understood after conceptual art movement one cannot reject an aesthetic appeal of materialized work. In a Kantian sense, the affect rising from any work evokes feelings and (dis-)pleasure to the viewer. But, a further deeper understanding of cultural meaning of work of ‘institutional critique’ can only be obtained through the ‘inescapable evidence that language-use’ is a necessary condition (Harrison, 2008:324)

Institutional critique in the sense of Asher, Haacke or Lawler, is embracing an extended notion of Minimal phenomenology as well as an inside position. In summary, one can spend an hour or more in a gallery and enjoy the aesthetics but the politics of the aesthetics would be obfuscated.

(word count: 186)


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