Abstract

Over the past decade, we have witnessed a proliferation of self-organized activist initiatives taking aim at the institutions of the art system. From the Guggenheim to the Brooklyn Museum, institutions have been targeted for their complicity in perpetuating, neglecting, or concealing various forms of injustice. These developments have involved a simultaneous decentering of authority and an intensification of accountability. Looking beyond the art-historical legacies of institutional critique, which is often invoked to analyze these developments, “From Institutional Critique to Institutional Liberation?“ offers a decolonial perspective on the political crises of contemporary art, one grounded in the work of movement-building. It argues that without acknowledging and confronting the “colonial matrix of power” that binds white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and settler violence, activist engagements with art institutions are liable to remain confined to single-issue campaigns lacking in solidarity with one another and easily neutralized by their targets. Decolonize This Place, an ongoing artistico-political formation best known for its three-month conversion of Artists Space into a “movement undercommons” in 2016, is presented as one example of what decolonial organizing could look like when the art system and contemporary liberation struggles meet.

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