“Institutional critique” is a term used to describe art that is reflective about its positions in institutions and systems within the art world. Institutional critique typically takes the practices that allow art to be exhibited, circulated, exchanged, and sold as the subject of the artwork. This kind of artwork encourages the viewer to reflect on the idea of “the institution” by addressing it both directly and indirectly.
This exhibition explores three contemporary examples of artists engaging in institutional critique and considers their artwork in relationship to one another, in an historical framework. The exhibition investigates the methods used by artists to identify and address different institutions.
Curator and art critic Simon Sheikh asks what it means when members of the institution begin to engage with institutional critique. What does it do to the institution when a curator shows works of critique within its walls? He writes:
Institutional critique, as co-opted, would be like bacteria that may have temporarily weakened the patient – the institution – but only in order to strengthen the immune system of that patient in the long run.
This exhibition is a curatorial Capstone project. As a student project, it lies outside the typical framework of “the art institution.” Still, the university can be understood as a cultural institution. Thus this project is, ultimately, an experiment in curating institutional critique from within an institution.