Thursday, December 29, 2011

5 Questions for Contemporary Practice with Sreshta Rit Premnath

The latest 5 Questions for Contemporary Practice is with Sreshta Rit Premnath.

"2. Do you feel there is a need for the work that you are doing given the larger field of visual art and the ways that aesthetic practices may be able to shape public space, civic responsibility, and political action? Why or why not?

No, I do not feel that there is a need for the work I do. Rather, to restate myself, I feel the need to do my work. If I respond to an external need, then it is the result of internalizing it, and once it is internalized it is felt as an impulse rather than a need. Although my sense of civic responsibility and my political motivations are reflected in my artwork, I do not see my artwork as a means of political action. Politics as a means of social change is fully grounded in the ontic register. It requires an ethical clarity and a contingent certainty. However, to apply Wittgenstein’s words on philosophy to art, “Lack of clarity in [art] is tormenting. It is felt as shameful. We feel: we do not know our way about where we should know our way about. And nevertheless it isn’t so. We can get along very well without… knowing our way about here.”

However, every human being is a political being and how we act in the world is the embodiment of our politics. Although in this sense all our actions in the world are political, they are in most cases not particularly good politics or effective politics. While we could expand the word art to include politics or conversely expand the notion of politics to talk about its aesthetics, I find the two categories to function in different modalities within my practice. When the political enters my artwork it becomes the ontic ground for various formal procedures as well as the concrete ground for philosophical speculation.

There are crucial political imperatives grounded in the ethical urgency of what ought to be done that cannot be effectively dealt with in my art practice. However, I don’t think this makes my artwork less important, rather it reveals that there are multiple modes of discourse and some are more effective in “shaping public space, civic responsibility, and political action” than others."

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