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The One and the Many


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1. The Semantics of Collaboration
2. Art Practice and the Intellectual Baroque
Chapter 1: Autonomy, Antagonism, and the Aesthetic 19
1. From Text to Action
2. Park Fiction, Ala Plastica, and Dialogue
3. Relational Antagonism
4. The Risk of Diversity
5. Programmatic Multiplicity
6. Art Theory and the Post-structuralist Canon
Chapter Two: The Genius of the Place 67
1. Lessons in Futility
2. Enclosure Acts
3. The Twelfth Seat and the Mirrored Ceiling
4. The Atelier as Workshop
5. Labor, Praxis, and Representation
6. The Divided and Incomplete Subject of Yesterday
7. Memories of Development
8. The Limits of Ethical Capitalism
9. The Art of the Locality
Chapter Three: Eminent Domain: Art and Urban Space 155
1. Blindness and Insight
2. The Invention of the Public
3. The Boulevards of the Inner City
4. Park Fiction: Desire, Resistance, and Complicity
5. A Culture of Needles: Project Row Houses in Houston
Notes 229
References 281
Index 295

Promotional Information

Provides an overview of the broader continuum of collaborative and collective art practices

About the Author

Grant H. Kester is Professor of Art History and Chair of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art and the editor of Art, Activism, and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage, also published by Duke University Press.


"The One and the Many is brilliant, innovative, and brave, offering important insight on the intersection of art and politics. It complements the growing research into situational, collaborative, 'global' art projects but offers something new and stimulating by considering these works in relation to a loosely Marxian understanding of labor relations and through close readings of how they actually function over time. It develops new ways of thinking that should have a huge impact on debates in the field." Amelia Jones, author of Self Image: Technology, Representation, and the Contemporary Subject "In this comprehensive study, Grant H. Kester reminds us that the role of the avant-garde is always to question the nature of art's identity and that that identity is also always in-process. Within this evolving continuum, many contemporary artists now define their work collaboratively. The One and the Many examines this phenomenon, providing the necessary philosophical, theoretical, and historical depth to position such practice as the essential art 'work' of the twenty-first century." Carol Becker, author of Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production "This engaging, intelligent, and timely book is the next salvo in an ongoing debate about the way 'collaboration' is understood in contemporary art. Grant H. Kester's provocative arguments take the debate in new directions, transforming its focus and quality." Jennifer Gonzalez, author of Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art "Artists these days are more likely to work like rock bands, taking collective decisions and creating everything from social sculpture to fictional identities. This book brings us right up to date on the subject, and for me has served to highlight a missing link in the documentation of these tendencies... In The One and the Many, Grant Kester pays tribute to Green's research, but mostly targets the here and now, the very contemporary practices of groups such as Park Fiction in Hamburg, Ala Plastica in Argentina, Huit Facettes in Senegal, and the group Dialogue, which brings hand pumps and fresh water to Indian villages as a form of creative intervention. Importantly, he also looks at the work of solo artists, including Francis Alys and Santiago Sierra, who collaborate with members of the public or particular societal groupings. In doing so he succeeds splendidly in delivering to us the promise of the book's subtitle: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context." Peter Hill, The Times Higher Education, 9th February 2012 "Kester is a seasoned art critic with a long track record of insightful writing on the shift from public art and identity politics in the 1980s and '90s to the new phenomenon of community art in the '90s and 2000s... Kester, the consummate pedagogue, shows us ideology at work by comparing different kinds of art." - Marc James Leger, Afterimage "Tackling some of the most hotly debated subjects in art and criticism today, The One and the Many represents a decisive intervention into what we can expect to be a much longer discussion about the nature of collaboration in contemporary art." - Sarah E.K. Smith, eviews in Cultural Theory "The One and the Many ... Offers in-depth discussion of individual artists in relation to his vision of reparative collaboration,and attacks some of the cherished verities of current critical theory." - Eleanor Heartney, Art in America "By pointing out that many contemporary artists' practices already exist quite comfortably as political activism, or urban planning, or community education Kester enables the discussion to shift from why something is art to what is at stake. The book also provides a thorough and rich description of a variety of projects..." - Amber Landgraff, C Magazine "Proposing nothing less than a paradigm shift in the definition of the aesthetic, Kester argues for a move beyond evaluations of visual or textual signification to considerations of the often-unforseen effects of collective interaction... [T]here is a productive tension between the modest, local practices Kester focuses on and the ambitious scope of his argument."-- Sami Siegelbaum, Art Journal "...Kester asks intriguing and critical questions throughout the work...it is in his willingness to examine the merits of a public practice that aims for the production of continual micro-solutions rather than global change that Kester confronts previously accepted notions of community-engaged art practice and propels the debate over socio-political public art in an exciting new direction." - Cameron Cartiere, Public Art Dialogue

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