Thomas Snow (UCL) - 2014-15 Students

On the Margins of Institutionalism: Activism and the Politics of Art in the Neoliberal Economy, Istanbul 2009-2013

This project concerns activism and the politics of art in the neoliberal economy. I am particularly interested in how creative and collective aesthetic productions occurring during protest activity contrast with more conventional forms of art-making within the institutional exhibition format. Given the anti-capitalist/neoliberal agendas of many artworks and exhibitions today, many critics focus on a central contradiction concerning the faux-philanthropic gestures of corporate patronage within a contemporary political economy bent on the privatisation of material and immaterial labour. Within now standardised narratives of neoliberalism, institutional crises reflect greater dismantling of public sector structures revealing socially-engaged artists to have simply replaced public sector works. Yet, to what degree can this critical narrative hold in a context that has little history of state funding for the arts? Focusing on Istanbul 2009-2013, I reflect on moments that urban activism have collided with exhibitions contextualised by the post-2008 financial crash and occupational protest movements.

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