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– Autumn/Winter 2002

The Slobozian Question

Charles Esche

Sean Snyder, Video still from Dallas Southfork in Hermes Land, Slobozia, Romania, DVD, 2001. Courtesy of the artist.

Sean Snyder, Video still from Dallas Southfork in Hermes Land, Slobozia, Romania, DVD, 2001. Courtesy of the artist.

The existence of the expanded field of art, the fact that art no longer has to look like or be about 'Art', is something we should neither need to justify nor even take much time to explain these days.

We could simply state that the present condition of art is a consequence of modernism's last hundred years or so and modern artists' attempt to shift art away from the perceived docility of the bourgeois comfort zone. For reasons part political, part devilish and partly in the name of experimentation, art has now ended up near to the place where it was headed for when van Gogh happily found himself thrown out of the Brussels academy for lack of painterly skill.

A much more urgent, contemporary question then is how artists might use the sites that art occupies today in order to think things otherwise? In other words, how art can express an idea that catches the imagination of others? How might that work question a dominant world-economic system and throw into relief, disturb and even nullify that system's rhetoric of claims to apparent self-evident success? As the system might well announce: 'If you're not with us, then you're against us', it's clear that this invitation to be 'with us' suggests all that is required is submission to enjoying the good times ahead. So there are certain disadvantages, especially for those who might live on the wrong side of the world, but things are, self evidently, getting better 'over there' and the new factories are bringing employment and even a smattering of civil rights. For, after all, imperialism is finished and the rest is just business, isn't