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The Global Work of Art

World’s Fairs, Biennials, and the Aesthetics of Experience

Caroline A. Jones

The Global Work of Art

Caroline A. Jones

400 pages | 37 color plates, 128 halftones | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2017
Cloth $65.00 ISBN: 9780226291741 Published June 2017
E-book $10.00 to $65.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226291888 Published June 2017
Global biennials have proliferated in the contemporary art world, but artists’ engagement with large-scale international exhibitions has a much longer history that has influenced the present in important ways. Going back to the earliest world’s fairs in the nineteenth century, this book argues that “globalism” was incubated in a century of international art contests and today constitutes an important tactic for artists.

As world’s fairs brought millions of attendees into contact with foreign cultures, products, and processes, artworks became juxtaposed in a “theater of nations,” which challenged artists and critics to think outside their local academies. From Gustave Courbet’s rebel pavilion near the official art exhibit at the 1855 French World’s Fair to curator Beryl Madra’s choice of London-based Cypriot Hussein Chalayan for the off-site Turkish pavilion at the 2006 Venice Biennale, artists have used these exhibitions to reflect on contemporary art, speak to their own governments back home, and challenge the wider geopolitical realm—changing art and art history along the way. Ultimately, Caroline A. Jones argues, the modern appetite for experience and event structures, which were cultivated around the art at these earlier expositions, have now come to constitute contemporary art itself, producing encounters that transform the public and force us to reflect critically on the global condition.

1          The Blindman; or, How to Visit a World Exhibition
Blind Epistemology
Objects and Encyclopedics
Universal Object Lessons
Sensory Alternatives

2          Desires for the World Picture
Ars et Feriae
Publics, Infrastructures, Discourse
Objects of Art/Difference
Art in the Age of Its Touristic Reproduction
Architectures and Endings

3          Old World/Biennial Culture
Old Beginnings in Venice
Repetition and Difference
Subjects, Nations, Artists
Biennial Culture

4          New World/Cold War
Hemispheric Rearrangements
Arte Moderna
Difference and Repetition
From Museum to Bienal
Plastic Revolutions
Modulor Moderns

5          Transnational Openings
Tactics of the Trans
Unities/the Differend
When Attitudes Became Norms

6          The Aesthetics of Experience
Tropes of Experience
Encounters and Emblems
Expérience, Erfahrung, and the Experience of Event
Economimesis at the Fair

7          Critical Globalism, in Practice
The Worldly Subject
Global Workings of Art
Practicing Critical Globalism
Review Quotes
New Global Studies
"The Global Work of Art is a smart and challenging book that will open further debate for those interested in biennial culture, global exchange and the arts."
Olafur Eliasson
“Art has a unique ability to form communities, whether temporary or permanent, by bringing together people from very different backgrounds into a shared space, where differences of perception and worldview are appreciated and actively welcomed. The Global Work of Art presents an exciting, in-depth history of one such community, the art biennial, investigating the considerable potential of this institution and the artworks that have arisen from it. Jones examines the critical, experiential qualities of art with great clarity, along with the ‘aesthetics of experience’ that the biennial as a globalized exhibition format supports.”
W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Image Science: Iconology, Visual Culture, and Media Aesthetics
“Continuing her innovative work in redefining the object of art history, Jones takes on the world in this book, a critical investigation of the labor of art to provide alternatives within the dominant forms of spectacle promoted by neoliberal globalization. Crucially, Jones makes us encounter the staging conditions of contemporary art, from the private gallery to the blockbuster exhibition, in radically new ways. This is a landmark book that will be studied for years to come.”
Alexander Dumbadze, author of Bas Jan Ader: Death Is Elsewhere
“This is a wide-ranging and ambitious account of the history of biennial-style exhibitions. Displaying Jones’s broad knowledge of exhibition history, the history of philosophy, and current theoretical debates, The Global Work of Art covers great ground and should be of interest to art historians, historians of exhibitions, curatorial studies students, and curators. Here is a significant contribution to the study of contemporary art.”
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