Dr Chris McAuliffe | Blind Replicators and Conscious Foresight: Surviving Circulation

Date: Sunday, 23rd October 2016, 2:00pm
Venue: TarraWarra Museum of Art
Free to attend

The 2016 TarraWarra Biennial addresses the ideas of circulation and continuity emerging in art’s passage through institutional and industry channels such as exhibitions, magazines, galleries and museums. The sense of opportunity and crisis associated with these ideas might be traced back to 1976, when two challenging proposals relating to circulation and continuity were made.

Writing in the first issue of the journal October, critic Rosalind Krauss reflected on artists’ extensive engagement with circulatory media, such as magazines, photographs and video. As artists more self-consciously occupied circulatory systems, Krauss saw a radical change to art’s presence looming; ‘That an artist’s work be published, reproduced or disseminated through the media has become … virtually the only mean of verifying its existence as art.’ In the same year, evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins identified a new, non-genetic replicator emerging from ‘the soup of human culture.’ He called it the ‘meme’ and introduced the notion of cultural transmission propelled by the viral circulation of ideas or cultural artefacts. The proliferation and widespread transmission of cultural practices is central to both ideas. But transmission, Krauss suggests, is a process of evacuation; art’s presence becomes more distant, more attenuated as its surrogates multiply. And, in spite of Dawkins’s suggestion that through the meme ‘we have the power to turn against our creators,’ art’s capacity to drive such change has been smothered by social media’s bastardisation of cultural transmission. Now, forty years later, how are artists managing the pleasure and danger of circulation?

Dr Chris McAuliffe is Professor of Art (Practice-led research) at the School of Art, Australian National University. He has taught art history at the University of Melbourne and Harvard University. From 2000–2013 he was Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne.

Co-presented by TarraWarra Museum of Art, Gertrude Contemporary and Discipline as part of the ‘TarraWarra Biennial 2016: Endless Circulation Lecture Series’.