Art has its own power in the world, and is as much a force in the power play of global politics today as it once was in the arena of cold war politics. Art, argues the distinguished theoretician Boris Groys, is hardly a powerless commodity subject to the art market's fiats of inclusion and exclusion. In Art Power, Groys examines modern and contemporary art according to its ideological function. Art, Groys writes, is produced and brought before the public in two ways -- as a commodity and as a tool of political propaganda. In the contemporary art scene, very little attention is paid to the latter function. Arguing for the inclusion of politically motivated art in contemporary art discourse, Groys considers art produced under totalitarianism, Socialism, and post-Communism. He also considers today's mainstream Western art -- which he finds behaving more and more according the norms of ideological propaganda: produced and exhibited for the masses at international exhibitions, biennials, and festivals. Contemporary art, Groys argues, demonstrates its power by appropriating the iconoclastic gestures directed against itself -- by positioning itself simultaneously as an image and as a critique of the image. In Art Power, Groys examines this fundamental appropriation that produces the paradoxical object of the modern artwork.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a group of "unofficial" artists in Moscow -- artists not recognized by the state, not covered by state-controlled media, and cut off from wider audiences -- created artworks that gave artistic form to a certain historical moment: the experience of Soviet socialism. The Moscow conceptualists not only reflected and analyzed by artistic means a spectacle of Soviet life but also preserved its memory for a future that turned out to be different from the officially predicted one. They captured both the shabby austerity of everyday Soviet life and the utopian energy of Soviet culture. In History Becomes Form, Boris Groys offers a contemporary's account of what he calls the most interesting Russian artistic phenomenon since the Russian avant-garde. The book collects Groys's essays on Moscow conceptualism, most of them written after his emigration to the West in 1981. The individual artists of the group -- including Ilya Kabakov, Lev Rubinstein, and Ivan Chuikov -- became known in the West after perestroika, but until now the artistic movement as a whole has received little attention. Groys's account sheds light not only on the Moscow Conceptualists and their work but also on the dilemmas of Soviet artists during the cold war.
The public generally regards the media with suspicion and distrust. Therefore, the media's primary concern is to regain that trust through the production of sincerity. Advancing the field of media studies in a truly innovative way, Boris Groys focuses on the media's affect of sincerity and its manufacture of trust to appease skeptics. Groys identifies forms of media sincerity and its effect on politics, culture, society, and conceptions of the self. He relies on different philosophical writings thematizing the gaze of the other, from the theories of Heidegger, Sartre, Mauss, and Bataille to the poststructuralist formulations of Lacan and Derrida. He also considers media "states of exception" and their creation of effects of sincerity—a strategy that feeds the media's predilection for the extraordinary and the sensational, further fueling the public's suspicions. Emphasizing the media's production of emotion over the presentation (or lack thereof) of "facts," Groys launches a timely study boldly challenging the presumed authenticity of the media's worldview.
The leading art theorist takes on art in the age of the Internet In the early twentieth century, art and its institutions came under critique from a new democratic and egalitarian spirit. The notion of works of art as sacred objects was decried and subsequently they would be understood merely as things. This meant an attack on realism, as well as on the traditional preservative mission of the museum. Acclaimed art theorist Boris Groys argues this led to the development of "direct realism": an art that would not produce objects, but practices (from performance art to relational aesthetics) that would not survive. But for more than a century now, every advance in this direction has been quickly followed by new means of preserving art's distinction. In this major new work, Groys charts the paradoxes produced by this tension, and explores art in the age of the thingless medium, the Internet. Groys claims that if the techniques of mechanical reproduction gave us objects without aura, digital production generates aura without objects, transforming all its materials into vanishing markers of the transitory present.
Since Plato, philosophers have dreamed of establishing a rational state ruled through the power of language. In this radical and disturbing account of Soviet philosophy, Boris Groys argues that communism shares that dream and is best understood as an attempt to replace financial with linguistic bonds as the cement uniting society. The transformative power of language, the medium of equality, is the key to any new communist revolution. From the Hardcover edition.