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The Haunted Museum:

Institutional Critique
and Publicity*
Today occasions for
identification have to
be created-the public
sphereh as to be “made”,
it is not “therea”n ymore.
-Jurgen Habermas, The
Structural Transforma-
tionof theP ublic Sphere
A GloomyR omance the gestures of the neo-avantgarde in- they constitute reading publics; and came the ground of democratic, antia-
The 1980s saw not only the elabo- authentic.3 Even so, a first step must political demonstrations by groups bsolutist politics. Most pertinently,
ration of various critical aesthetic be to dispense with the romantic no- including ACTUP, which ideally Habermas’s account of the realization
practices, but a resurgence of inter- tion that the historical avant-garde generate not only internal solidarity of the bourgeois public sphere pro-
est in traditional modes of aesthetic sought the integration of art and the but interference patterns in the mass- duces a moment in which the institu-
experience and models of artistic sub- praxis of life. The claim that the ac- mediated transmission of information. tion of art is intimately, structurally
jectivity. This was accompanied by a tions-the gestures-of small numbers This is not an exhaustive list, but what involved in the construction of the
frankly ideological disavowal of the of typically bourgeois avant-gardists these have in common is their poten- subject of democratic oppositional
historical specificity of conditions of could ever effectively have changed tial, however residual or limited, to politics. According to Habermas, the
cultural production and reception. On the praxis of life, a claim necessary give rise to debates and opinions in public museum facilitated rational-
the other hand, in the wake of Con- for their subsequent failure, can no which both conceptions of the public critical debate, in the form of criti-
ceptual art, critics, perhaps especially longer be supported. Cultural institu- sphere and of collective identifica- cism. The museum “institutionalized
on the left, were quick to suppose that tions, including those of art, cannot be tions within and across categories of the lay judgment on art: discussion
what has come to be known as insti- considered in isolation. Once this is social difference coalesce. The various became the medium through which
tutional critique had failed, because accepted, so must be the recognition forms of publicity are communications people appropriated art.” Although it
they could see, for instance, cast uri- that it was never the function of art frameworks, which provide the con- was not necessarily where criticism
nals in elegantly appointed galleries.1 to resolve social contradictions. The ditions for the formation of publics.4 took place, the museum organized the
Indeed, in the shadow of a punctual, critics’ understanding of historical so- The Haunted Museum lay judgment of art that was expressed
linear, somewhat apocalyptic avant- cial contradictions cannot take prior- The specifically bourgeois public in criticism.6 Effectively, it organized
gardism, it becomes very difficult ity over their registr tion in works of sphere was one of the first objects of the experience of art. As one of the
to think about art after the 1960s as art, as though, for example, critics had Habermas’s continuing inquiry into institutions of the public sphere in the
anything but always already sold out. always understood better than the the relations between democracy and realm of letters, it allowed the subjec-
Certainly, by the mid-1990s nothing Dadaists what their work was deal- mass society. Habermas’s critique of tivity originating in the interiority of
like a movement has emerged even to ing with. On the contrary, our under- the avant-garde and postmodernism in the patriarchal, conjugal family to at-
act out the function of an avant-garde. standing arises in part on the basis of the essay “Modernity-An Incomplete tain clarity about itself. On the basis
Criticism finds itself at an impasse, avant-garde struggles to register those Project” (1980)5 is better known in of this self-interpretation, bourgeois
and so, perhaps, do remaining notions contradictions, to make them in some art circles than his more important publicity was legitimated as the
of criticality. This might provoke a sense public. My contention is that book, The StructuralT ransformation- ground for the regulation of the
reflection on the degree to which crit- considerations of relations between of theP ublic Spheret, hough it should broader private realm (including, for
icism has, perhaps unwittingly, bound the neo-avantgarde and the historical be noted that there, too, he is critical instance, private, mercantile contrac-
itself even to the various placeholders avant-garde have neglected what has of the avant-garde as an institution op- tual relations), which was the purpose
for an avant-garde. If it is possible to been the principal medium for those erated by fully assimilated cultural of the democratic institutions of the
look at contemporary practices with- relations, that is, publicity. Publicity functionaries. Essentially, the devel- developing political public sphere,
out merely cataloguing their criti- is referred to in this context as the me- opment of the bourgeois public sphere where the bourgeoisie could contest
cally predetermined failure, then it is dium, not only for art, but for all those saw the coming together, in Europe in the arbitrary exercise of absolutist
necessary to rethink conceptions of practices of intervention in economies the seventeenth and eighteenth centu- power. Habermas’s view of the bour-
the relations between the neo-avant- of cultural production and reception ries, of private individuals to form a geois public sphere as a social forma-
garde and its predecessors. This essay that go to realize conceptions of the public, defined by its supposedly dis- tion functioning in opposition to the
proposes a project for a reappraisal of public sphere. Publicity in this sense interested engagement in rational- absolutist state is tightly bound to this
neo-avant-garde institutional critique includes not only the familiar forms of critical debate. Many of the locations model of the new bourgeois subject
in terms addressing the romance of corporate advertising and state pro- in which this public found itself- emerging from the familial interior- “a
avant-gardism and criticality.2 More paganda, but such apparently diverse caf6s, clubs, debating societies, etc.- consciousness functionally adapted to
is required than to dispute the premise cultural practices as, for example: were private, even exclusive, but this the institutions of the public sphere in
of Peter Buirger’s argument in Theory museum exhibitions; Conceptually allowed for the conduct of debate, as if the world of letters.”7 The museum
of the Avant-Garde that the failure of based art, to the extent that it interro- among equals. Even though the read- contributed to the self-representation
the historical avant-garde’s intention gates the institutional construction of ing public found its models in the aris- and self-authorization of the new,
to sublate art, and the acculturation subjects; academic journals and trade tocratic behaviors of such settings as bourgeois subject of reason. More ac-
of its protest against art as art, renders union publications, to the extent that salons, the opinion of this public be- curately, this subject, this “fictitious
identity” of property owner and hu- phasis on the forms of communication complex bureaucratic history,14 but volved in representation.”20 Counter
man being pure and simple,8 was it- he saw as the historical background to the central point is that while “the to a strictly Habermasian account, the
self an interlinked process of self-rep- modern public communication, transformation of the old royal palace example of the museum thus suggests
resentation and self-authorization. Habermas largely ignored the exis- into the Museum of the French Re- that representative and bourgeois
That is, it was intimately bound to its tence of competing forms of publicity- public was high on the agenda of the forms of publicity were never clearly
cultural self-representation as a pub- plebeian or proletarian-grounded in French Revolutionary government,” separable. At least in the case of the
lic. Central to Habermas’s project (for different communicative practices.ll so that it opened on August 10, 1793, museum, their developments have
this remains the case in his later work) He has allowed that his own account to commemorate “the anniversary of been intertwined. Further, if the mu-
is a procedural model of the subject of might have been different if he had ad- the fall of the tyranny,” that govern- seum can be accounted for, in terms
carefully delineated rational-critical mitted competing publicities and con- ment largely took over an idea that had derived from Habermas’s own, as hav-
communicative exchanges. This mod- sidered “the dynamics of those pro- been debated internally and publicly, ing always institutionalized a hybrid
el describes the subject of the muse- cesses of communication ... excluded by Diderot among others, since 1744, form of publicity, then Habermas’s
um, considered as an institution of from the dominant public sphere.”12 as well as specific plans formulated in linear narrative of the decay of the
bourgeois publicity. Ultimately, what As Geoff Eley argues, “Habermas’s the royal administration since 1774.15 bourgeois public sphere may be sub-
is at stake for Habermas is the possi- idea works best as the organizing cat- The transformation of the Louvre by ject to a more complex temporal
bility of realizing a normative concep- egory of a specifically liberal view of the Revolution met different require- scheme.21 The question remains,
tion of the public sphere, one that the transition to the modern world ments, in thematic terms (as publicity however, of whether or not it is pos-
might allow for rational-critical ex- and of the ideal bases on which politi- for the bourgeois democratic state, sible to conceive of any sphere in
change across a range of social differ- cal and intellectual life should be con- rather than the absolute rule of the which the relations between different
ence. By now, however, it is a familiar ducted.” But the public sphere “in its king), than would have satisfied royal forms of publicity might be played
criticism of Habermas that his model classical liberal/bourgeois guise was policy. Nevertheless, the Revolution- out, precisely, in public, in which the
of the bourgeois public sphere rests on partial and narrowly based ... and was ary government main ained the broad different models of the public sphere
an idealized abstraction from the actu- constituted from a field of conflict, function of the institution as planned that contradictory forms of publicity
ally existing political cultures of contested meanings, and exclusion.”13 by the royal administration. This project could be subjected to rational-
Western Europe in the late eighteenth In the history of the public art muse- sketch suggests, first, that the debates critical analysis, rather than rationalist
and early nineteenth centuries, and um such contest tion is evident from that took place in the period 1744 to domination or mass media spectacu-
that his procedural subject is both the start. For Habermas the museum 1774 (before plans based on them larization. This is to some extent the
gendered (male) and disembodied.9 was one of the institutions embodying were actually implemented) about the function that Habermas assigns to the
These problems stem from the unre- a form of publicity that functioned to idea of a public art museum that did bourgeois public sphere in reviewing
solved relation between normative challenge the “representative” public- not yet exist, may be considered in his own formulation thirty years later:
and empirical elements in Habermas’s ity of royal collections (in order to re- terms of the rational-critical debate of bourgeois publicness ... is articulated
account. The gendering of the proce- alize a conception of publicness op- bourgeois publicity and the self-rep- in discourses that provided areas of
dural subject is signaled by the patri- posed to the ecret politics of resentation and self-authorization of a common ground not only for the labor
archal character of the conjugal family. absolutism). Representative publicity Habermasian subject. Second, how- movement but also for the excluded
Given a significant a priori power dif- refers here to the way royal collec- ever, the actual museum in which im- other, that is, the feminist movement.
ferentiation, women nonetheless tions served to impress upon the perial treasures were from 1793 “cer- Contact with these movements in
played a constitutive role in the devel- court, visitors to the court, and of emonially displayed as public turn transformed these discourses and
opment of a reading public and there- course “the people” the magnificence property”16 might have symbolized the structures of the public sphere it-
fore of the public sphere in the world of the absolutist ruler. In fact, howev- the rise of bourgeois democracy, but it self from within.22
of letters but, according to Habermas, er, in its development out of royal col- also represented, paradoxically but The Returns of the Avant-Garde
because of the patriarchal organiza- lections, the public art museum took precisely, the merging of the subjec- On this theoretical ground, I want to
tion of property relations were not form as an institution of the bourgeois tivity of the bourgeois and the mon- turn to the relations between histori-
able to cross over into the political state, but one that defined a hybrid arch. The museum purported to repre- cal and neo-avant-gardes. In the mo-
realm. Habermas himself has recently form of publicity, haunted, as it were, sent the new civic body to itself, but ment of the blockbuster show, the
recognized that the exclusion of by representative publicity. The Lou- this was still a matter, essentially, of museum clearly takes its place within
women from the political public vre provides a model for the modern, the state granting identity. Represen- an at least partly refeudalized specta-
sphere had “structuring signifi- public art museum. A full account of tative publicity elaborates the body of cle culture. It is necessary to disturb
cance.”10 Similarly, because of his em- its development would require a very the monarch, while bourgeois public- the way in which we have come to
think of the relations between muse- ity’s constitutive requirement is the ty.24 For the subject of the museum, Duchamp, though I will also refer to
um and public in order to argue for the supposedly democratic disembodi- as an institution of the bourgeois pub- Alexander Rodchenko; signal subse-
introduction of the term publicity into ment of the new subjects of universal lic sphere, remains both male and ab- quent artists include Buren and Mar-
how we think of the relations be- reason. But in the interpretation of the stract (or universal). The function of cel Broodthaers. The second strand,
tween historical and neo-avant- Louvre sketched here, bourgeois pub- the canonical “master” is to guarantee while related to the first, nevertheless
gardes, and, as we will see, conven- licity, at least in the specific instance this. Conceptual art dismantled the insists that by means of a more direct
tions and institutions. The question, of the public art museum, is unable to expressive gesture as the foundation address, the museum can be made to
after Habermas, is whether it might be separate itself from representative of mastery without sufficiently re- function as a site for the production of
possible or productive to think of the publicity even at its inception. This flecting on its own conception of the critical publicity. Historical figures
art of institutional critique that re- preempts and reverses the terms of the public sphere (which is why, after all, include El Lissitzky and again Rod-
flects on the museum as reconfiguring liberal philosophical critique of bour- stripes have come to equal “Buren,” chenko, and recent artists Haacke and
the historical moment described here geois publicity. (John Stuart Mill and and a Rolodex can look like “classic” Fred Wilson. A broadly Habermasian
in relation to the early history of the Alexis de Tocqueville sought the aug- Conceptual art).25 Hence, in the con- framework is particularly useful in
Louvre, however fleeting or idealized mentation of bourgeois publicity with text of thinking about practices, such considering this second strand.26 It is
it might have been-the moment in elements of representative publicity as Daniel Buren’s and Hans Haacke’s, possible that Rodchenko’s mono-
which the museum was, if always in a so as to protect it from the “tyranny of that reflect on the function of the prin- chromes left “the modern status of
partial manner, an institution of criti- an unenlightened public opinion.”)’7 cipal social institution-and principal painting as made-for-exhibition” just
cal publicity. This requires, in turn, an And it complicates elements of Haber- form of publicity-of art, the museum, as intact as Duchamp’s readymade left
extension of a dominant account of the mas’s own continuation of that cri- it is necessary to begin to map rela- the museum-gallery nexus.27 Buren,
development of institutional critique tique. For Habermas, the bourgeois tions between the historical avant- in passing what is only nominally
that situates the neo-avant-garde’s public sphere gradually gives way to garde and the neo-avant-garde onto “painting” (alternating white and col-
first decentering of the subject of art the mutual infiltration of public and relations between the museum of the ored stripes, 8.7cm wide) through ev-
in Minimalism’s phenomenological private realms, particularly the appro- historical bourgeois public sphere and ery conceivable distribution mecha-
inquiries into conditions of percep- priation by the state of what were for- the not entirely dissimilar museum of nism, might be seen to elaborate the
tion.23 The neo-avant-garde’s con- merly functions of the family. This ac- the structurally transformed public limitations of Rodchenko’s demon-
cerns expand outward, in Conceptual companies the continuation of the sphere of late capital. The narrative of stration. Buren, too, saw an end to a
art and post-Conceptual institutional commodification of culture that had the development of institutional cri- representation described in somewhat
critique, from an initial engagement been a precondition for rational-criti- tique must be situated within a broad- hallucinatory terms.28 But if his work
with the immediate relations between cal debate by setting cultural products er account of the public sphere. One has become not so much the end of
subject and object, viewer and art in circulation, so that they became effect of this is to suggest that institu- painting, in Douglas Crimp’s version
work, through the broader constraints available for private discussion. tional critique has been prematurely of the phrase, as a perpetual ending of
and conditions of that relationship. Habermas argues that the commodifi- buried. There are two interwoven painting, then it demonstrates the
This entails an engagement that begins cation of the content of culture is cen- strands within different institutional- power of the institution of art to sus-
to turn the space of the museum itself tral to the shift from an active, educat- ly critical practices and their histori- tain what is perhaps its central catego-
into an object located in a social and ed or trained culture-debating public cal antecedents. While the same his- ry. By now Buren’s work may only
ideological network (an object of in- to a passive, unenlightened culture- torical figures may appear in both, enact its own surrender to its subjec-
quiry, one term in an expansive set of consuming public.18 It is only this what is important is not the trajecto- tion as painting. Similarly, if in nomi-
social relations). But despite the de- shift into mass culture that gives rise ries taken by individual artists, but nating objects as art Duchamp posed
mocratizing grounds on which it ana- to a degree of refeudalization of the how implications in their work may an inquiry into art as a category of un-
lyzed and sought to dispense with public sphere, so that publicity comes be seen, passed through different the- derstanding, there is a transformation
aesthetic mastery, in largely maintain- to be “generated from above ... in or- oretical and political matrices, taken of the readymade strategy in Brood-
ing the abstraction of content that was der to create an aura of goodwill for up in later work. The first strand of thaers’s Musee d’ArtM oderne,D ep-
crucial to the high modernism valo- certain positions.”19 Now, when pub- institutional critique takes as its task artemendt es Aiglesi n its various in-
rized by the museum, Conceptual art lic authority itself must compete for the material analysis of the perceptual stantiations between 1968 and 1972.
also maintained the disembodiment of publicity, “publicity imitates the kind protocols the museum uses to disguise In the 1968 installation “Section
its own subject. It is precisely this to of aura proper to the personal prestige or naturalize what is in fact the his- XIX&me Siecle,” for instance, in
which much institutional critique re- and supernatural authority once be- torical bourgeois subject. The princi- Broodthaers’s own apartment, the
sponds, insofar as it insists on legibili- stowed by the kind of publicity in- pal historical figure here is Marcel space was taken up with the large
crates used for the transportation of individuality that emblematizes bour- field of operations of the avant-garde- er field of publicity, which would
works of art-which themselves only geois subjectivity. This was the gist of as separate from other social institu- inform the museum, rather than the
appeared as postcards-reversing the Buren’s argument in “Function of the tions (as if overturning cultural insti- other way around. The museum, that
customary, institutional order of con- Museum,” that “everything that the tutions would accomplish the goal of is, would be repositioned as one of a
sumption of art, so as to literalize, con- museum shows is only considered and this or that social or political revolu- complex array of institutions of pub-
versely, the production of aesthetic produced in view of being set in it.”32 tion). The question, instead, is how to licity. The autonomy of art would be
value. The 1972 installation of the On this assumption, it is the set of re- rethink these relations without col- abandoned as a mere postulation,
“Section des Figures: The Eagle from lations among conventions and the lapsing back onto the argument, made and along with that, its claim to a
the Oligocene to the Present” at the various local institutions of art, that is, on the left and the right, that both his- preeminent cultural-political role.
Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, the museum-gallery (and art maga- torical and neo-avant-gardes failed Similarly, the implicit institutional
was an exhibition containing 266 ob- zine) complex, criticism, the academy, because they were never able to ex- critique of the readymade might be
jects representing or otherwise relat- etc., that constitutes the broader insti- tract their own conventions from a bi- connected to a critique of sublima-
ed to eagles, culled from the collec- tution of art. But if Duchamp and nary relation to the museum. Accord- tion, so that its rhetorical gesture
tions of 43 international museums of Rodchenko rattled the bars of conven- ing to this argument, the avant-gardes would go toward opening up the
various kinds, as well as private col- tionality without creating more than ended up serving the institution they definition of the public of art, via its
lectors and dealers.29 On one hand, localized, temporary institutional cri- sought to undermine or make obso- references to industrial production,
this hyperbolized the arbitrary the- ses, and without opening up the lete. The simplest rebuttal is to point particular kinds of domestic work
matics of collection. On the other, it broader institution, then these rela- out that the poles of this argument, (which might include consumption),
collapsed the positions of artist and tions need to be rethought.33 For if it service and obsoletion, are too ex- and the translation of nature into cul-
curator, that is, of artist and cultural is only the neo-avant-garde that man- treme for a measured analysis of the ture.35 Rodchenko, more instru-
functionary, and replaced the Duch- ages to analyze the discursive param- various practices of institutional cri- mentally inclined in his revolution-
ampian readymade with objects eters of the institution of art, then we tique. The best access to this question ary moment than Duchamp, insisted
whose value was preestablished by are still left with something of a fail- is via a reconsideration of the function that the institution of art had a role
their places in museum collections, ure, at least an “incomplete project,” of the museum.34 to play in the construction of a pub-
each labeled “This is not a work of on the part of the historical avant- InstitutionalC ritiquea nd CriticalP lic. This is clear not only in the
art,” “a formula obtained by the con- garde. Of course, there is a strong ublicity search for a universal language of ab-
traction of a concept by Duchamp and temptation to say of Dada, for exam- In 1938 Rodchenko made his famous straction, in the forays, however par-
an antithetical concept by Mag- ple (and especially), that it failed. Art (already retroactive) declaration re- tial, into factory production and the
ritte.”30 In subjecting what was in a and life are still separate, or else art garding his triptych Pure Colors:R design and manufacture of utilitarian
sense an institutional readymade to has been subsumed by the institution ed, YellowB, lue (1921): “I reduced objects, but even in principal in the
the flattening, dehistoricizing effects of art: even John Heartfield has by painting to its logical conclusion.... shift into photography and ultimate-
of circulation within museum culture, now, however belatedly, had an exhi- This is the end of painting. These are ly factography, however ill-consid-
Broodthaers recognized the nature of bition at the Museum of Modern Art. the primary colors. Every plane is a ered and/or ill-used this was, in re-
the readymade as epistemological ges- My reservation about this is threefold. discrete plane and there will be no lation to some of the worst excesses
ture. He simultaneously elaborated First, it requires that we treat artistic more representation.” This may de- of Stalinism.36 But this insistence is
some of the limitations of that gesture, avant-gardes as though they were po- scribe painting’s conventionality, and even more clearly the case for Lis-
in terms of its historical inability to litical parties, holding them to the it may not be necessary to attach this sitzky’s concerted move into exhibi-
fend off its own denaturing in the per- same pragmatic expectations of re- description to an implicit critique of tion and environmental design. At
haps inevitable process of institution- form; second, it requires that we read the museum, as the emblematic art in- first, in the exhibition spaces such as
alization.31 One of the assumptions their manifestos not only too literally stitution. But Rodchenko’s linking of the Room for Constructivist Art
informing the art of institutional cri- but selectively (deemphasizing the that description to “the end of paint- (1926), the abandonment of the illu-
tique seems to be that the conventions differences between, and nonsensical ing,” in the Soviet context, may be at- sions of permanence and neutrality
of art are produced or at the very least aspects of, various Dada manifestos, tached to a critique of a mode of per- in the presentation of art works was
maintained by institutions, particu- for instance); third, most importantly, ception that extends beyond the to disallow the traditional, passive
larly the museum, on structurally and and contradictorily, given what it is museum, so that in this case avant- mode of reception. In the exhibition
often unconsciously ideological claimed that avant-garde “success” garde rhetoric might in fact bypass or space designs, the Soviet pavilions at
grounds, with the effect in turn of would have meant, it actually requires reframe the museum. Conventionality international expositions in the late
maintaining the category of artistic that we see cultural institutions-the might then be positioned in the broad- 1920s, the use of photography and
photomontage to structure the envi- juxtapositions, and the disjunctions historical account from the collection communicative framework in a rela-
ronment was a gesture toward jetti- they signal, serve to demonstrate the but the ways in which it had been tion to the museum, however tense, is
soning the pretense of autonomy in exclusivity of the subject of the muse- suppressed in categorization and dis- necessarily in vain. Hence the out-
favor of the production of public um, in a manner that might recall play. Wilson effectively repeated landish claim that the appropriate re-
spaces. These were to be structured Habermas’s account of bourgeois pub- some of the terms of Broodthaers’s sponse to his work is “total revolu-
not in terms of aesthetic imperatives licity as providing common and recip- procedures, but where Broodthaers tion,” a claim that at once takes art far
but as literal realizations of the com- rocally transformative ground for oth- had collapsed the positions of artist too seriously, and not seriously
munications framework in which er discourses. This is an attempt to and curator in order to mime the de- enough.41 This is not 1968 (perhaps
was suspended the new revolution- disturb the way the museum confers historicizing effects of the institution- any more than 1968 was), and what is
ary public. Perhaps the least of the identity. The risk is that the mere fact alization even of the readymade, Wil- apparently the relative conservatism
risks that Lissitzky’s exhibition and of the appearance of a work like Me- son did so to place objects in contexts of Haacke’s (Habermasian) practice is
environmental designs entailed was troMobiltanh as an ameliorative func- from which they had been excluded, what preserves its critical potential.
to be dismissed, after the fact, by the tion. More precisely, the attempt to thus altering those contexts.38 What This goes to the difference between a
champions of universal cultural patri- gesture toward the possibility of col- is evident both in the literalness of radicality that ends, quite literally, as
mony, as “mere” propaganda. More lective identification across social dif- Haacke’s presentation of information radical chic, in Buren’s decorations for
seriously, they ran the risk that their ference (even if it takes the limited, and in Wilson’s material demonstra- Nina Ricci’s Paris boutique (the end
instantiation of a utopian, revolution- negative form of shared discomfort or tion of the relations between proto- of the end of painting?), and a critical-
ary conception of the public sphere embarrassment at the presentation of cols of collection and display and pub- ity grounded in the notion of a legibil-
would be subsumed by their service information which is often, in some lic subject formation is the insistence ity that operates in and through, as
to the state. This was especially the sense, already known) does not pre- that the museum is one of the places in well as against, the museum.42 Final-
case, given the stridency of represen- tend to close the gap between the which something can be said about ly, and this is crucial to an understand-
tative publicity under Stalin (one has viewer (in the Metropolitan Museum, the world (with which it is has always ing of the work of Haacke and Wilson,
only to think of Lissitzky’s own pho- for instance), and the people depicted, been, after all, continuous). Given the it is more productive for a contempo-
tomontage of 1932, The Current Is so that it still-perhaps necessarilyin- structural transformation of the public rary critical endeavor to recognize
Switched On). Haacke’s diagram- volves a measure of abstraction.37 sphere under the weight of mass me- that the modern museum has always
ming of corporate investments in the This is to say that the subject of criti- dia, and the continuing intermeshing been a space in which were folded to-
institution of art, and thus corporate cal publicity is also the subject of the of capital and privacy, which as gether different, often contradictory
and state interest in the institution of contemporary manifestation of repre- Haacke has so thoroughly demonstrat- forms of publicity; forms of publicity
art as publicity, mimes the contempo- sentative publicity. Haacke’s work ed has very much affected the muse- that were never autonomous to the in-
rary, late capitalist version of running demonstrates the continuation of the um, this insistence might be seen as an stitution of art. We must allow for the
that risk. In a range of works includ- same hybridity-at the level of the pro- unlikely attempt to reclaim an ideal- same kind of continuous negotiation
ing A Breed Apart (1978), The duction of subjects-as I have identi- ized oppositional public space. To between available forms of publicity
ChocolateM aster (1981), VoiciA fied at work in the prototypical mod- clarify the value of this insistence it is as is necessary to comprehend rela-
lcan (1983), MetroMobiltan(1 985), ern, public art museum, in the useful to make a sharp distinction be- tions between historical and neo-
and Les must de Rembrandt (1986), workings of the contemporary public tween Haacke’s and Buren’s respec- avant-garde practices. In which case,
Haacke presents images of those peo- art museum. This is true, too, of Fred tive analyses of “the logic of adminis- Haacke’s and Wilson’s insistence
ple to whom the interests of art’s Wilson’s Mining the Museum (1992), tration” and the “conditions of about the role of the museum is pre-
corporate benefactors cause harm in which Wilson selected objects cultural consumption,”39 for Haacke’s cisely about performinga rt’s function
(black South Africans under apart- from the collection of the Maryland accepts a risk of adulteration, even as publicity within a prescribed and
heid, where both Mobil and the Historical Society and arranged them compromise, that Buren’s in its ab- always already compromised cultural
Rembrandt Group have extensive with new labels or in categories in straction refuses. This is the case inso- space, in order to wrest from it a par-
investments; immigrant and German which they are not typically included far as the assumption operating in Bu- tial and contingent critical publicity,
workers employed by Peter Lud- (most strikingly, iron slave shackles ren’s work is that the institutions of in terms of which a correspondingly
wig). These are juxtaposed not only and a silver service were juxtaposed art, and principally the museum, have mobile and perhaps strategic public
with the trappings of corporate sup- in a vitrine labeled “Metalwork 1793- predetermined not only the form but might form. As against the grandiose
port for the arts (“Sponsored by a 1880”). The effect of this was to re- the content and meaning of art,40 so claims that are made for the historical
Gift from Mobil”), but with the mu- veal not so much the exclusion of the that for Buren it is a foregone conclu- avant-gardes, here is an art of incre-
seum setting and audience. These material evidence of an alternative sion that any attempt to establish a mentally formed publics, an art of the
little deal.
1. Much of what passed for institutional critique in those galleries was after all little nale 1988-From the SouthernC ross:A Viewo f WorldA rt c. 1940-1988, reprinted in
more than the ironized production of commodities, or the production of ironic Dialogue: Writings in Art History (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1991). 24. This is also
commodities, but well-performed commodities nonetheless. 2. Gloomy, because where the critical function of Performance art might be located, insofar as it turned
conducted in the shade of the melancholy longing for a lost revolution. 3. Biirger, its attention to the actual bodies of artists, from which even the subject of Concep-
Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Min- tual art was abstracted, in order to produce a different analysis of the reification of
nesota Press, 1984), p. 53. 4. This project is grounded in a critical reading of early “the artist.” 25. In an interview with Andre Parinaud in February 1968, regarding an
work byJiirgen Habermas, particularly The StructuralT ransformationo f the Public exhibition of work by himself, Mosset, and Toroni, Buren said, “The color is decided
Sphere,f irst published in German in 1962, trans. Thomas Burger with Frederick by what they offer me when I buy the cloth. I do not choose.... This is to avoid always
Lawrence (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989). But my emphasis here is on practices making the same canvas-which is not decided in advance either-finding myself after
and forms of publicity, in part to counteract the sptialization of Offentlichkeiitn its ten years with a magnificent arch-classic oeuvre of a Buren who will have made the
translation as “public sphere.” And in suggesting multiple forms of publicity, and same canvas for ten years, and finally, my canvas will have become ‘Buren.’ ... I can
competing conceptions of the public sphere, this formulation already draws on fall into other traps which I haven’t yet discovered, but that one I have perceived,
the fundamental critique of the level of abstraction and exclusivity in Habermas’s so I try to avoid it.” Parinaud, “Interview with Daniel Buren,” Galerie des Arts 50
scheme, and its neglect of competing communicative practices, made in Oskar Negt (February 1968), quoted in Lucy Lippard, Six Years: TheD ematerializationo f theA
and Alexander Kluge, Public Spherea nd Experiencef,i rst published in German in rt Object1 966-72 (New York:P raeger, 1973), p. 41. 26. In the context of making
1972, trans. Peter Labanyi et al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). an argument in favor of work that functions as what I call critical publicity, the
See especially “The Public Sphere as the Organization of Collective Experience,” pp. omission of a discussion of John Heartfield’s work in AIZ may seem curious. While
1-53. 5. Jurgen Habermas, “Modernity-An Incomplete Project,” trans. Seyla Ben- of course connections can be made between Heartfield’s work and the art of insti-
Habib, in The Anti- Aesthetice, d. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1983). 6. Haber- tutional critique, in this essay I am specifically interested in strategies that remain
mas, StructuralT ransformationp, p. 40-41. 7. Ibid., p. 51. 8. Ibid., p. 56. 9. In the in closer dialogue with the museum. 27. Hal Foster, “What’s Neo about the Neo-
end, Conceptual and post-Conceptual art of institutional critique that attempts to Avant-Garde?”O ctobe7r 0 (Fall 1994), p. 19. 28. Buren has also said, “I believe we
reconfigure the museum’s potential as a site for critical publicity may participate to are the only ones to be able to claim the right of being ‘looked at,’ in the sense that
some degree in this abstraction of the subject. Nevertheless, given on the one hand we are the only ones to present a thing which has no didactic intention, which does
the contemporary dominance of mass media, and on the other, the balkanization of not provide ‘dreams,w’ hich is not a ‘stimulant’[ emphasis added] (Parinaud, “Inter-
identity politics and its tendency to degenerate into a field of clashing particularized view”). 29. See Rainer Borgemeister, “Sectiond esF iguresT: he Eagle from the Oli-
claims, a tendency that has not served museums well in the current “culture wars,” gocene to the Present,” trans. Chris Cullen, in BroodthaersW: ritingsI, nterviewsP,
in which not only the museum but art itself have been able to be characterized hotographse,d . Benjamin Buchloh, Octobe4r2 (Fall 1987). 30. Marcel Broodthaers,
as the preserves of “special interests,” a necessarily modified Habermasian scheme quoted in Borgemeister, ibid., p. 143. 31. Here the question might be raised whether,
demands attention. And as I argue elsewhere, we might also look to Performance in staging the “scandal” of the urinal, Duchamp didn’t in fact stage the limits of
art, as the dialogical counterpart to institutional critique, for another kind of cri- what the institution would sustain, which is to suggest that perhaps he did begin to
tique, in which what is performed is the folding together of bourgeois publicity and explore the discursive parameters of the institution (a suggestion perhaps supported
its irrational and perhaps pathological underside (“Preliminary Observations on by the nonexhibition of the urinal, so that its first appearance, already after the fact,
Performance Art and the Public Sphere,” proceedings of the third annual German was in the publication The Blind Man in 1917). (See Foster, “What’s Neo,” n. 35,
Studies Conference at Berkeley, Berkeley Academic Press, forthcoming). 10. Jiir- p. 19.) Or, I would suggest that Benjamin Buchloh’s account of the Box in a Valise
gen Habermas, “Further Reflections on the Public Sphere,” trans. Thomas Burger, (1936-41) as Duchamp’s own attempt to deal with problems of acculturation and in-
in Habermasa nd theP ublic Spheree, d. Craig Calhoun (Cambridge: MIT Press, stitutionalization might give 1936 as the moment in which the readymade touched
1992), p. 428. 11. Here, for example, one might consider, in the first instance, the on institutional critique, and might also give Duchamp as his own neo-avant-garde.
processes through which labor organized itself (see Negt and Kluge, Public Spherea See Benjamin Buchloh, “The Museum Fictions of Marcel Broodthaers,” in Museums
nd Experience)l;a ter examples have been addressed by Geoff Eley, among others by Artists, ed. A. A. Bronson and Peggy Gale (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1983), p. 45.
(see n. 21, below). 12. Habermas, “Further Reflections,” p. 425. Here Habermas 32. Daniel Buren, “Function of the Museum,” Artforum, September 1973, quoted in
appears to address but not explicitly acknowledge Negt and Kluge’s critique. 13. Bronson and Gale, ibid., p. 58. 33. In “What’s Neo about the Neo-Avant-Garde?” Hal
Geoff Eley, “Nations, Publics, and Political Cultures: Placing Habermas in the Nine- Foster argues that it is the neo-avant-garde (here Buren, Haacke) that comprehends
teenth Century,”i n Habermasa nd theP ublicS pherep, . 307. 14. See Germain Bazin, the operation of the historical avant-garde (Duchamp, Rodchenko) for the first time
The Museum Age, trans. Jane van Nuis Cahill (New York: Universe Books, 1967) as “rhetorical.” Foster’s critical move, in relation to Peter Burger, is to argue that the
and Andrew McClellan, Inventing the Louvre (New York: Cambridge University avant-garde’s attacks on art are “performative,n”o t literal, as Burger would have it.
Press, 1994). 15. Carol Duncan, “Art Museums and the Ritual of Citizenship,” in This means that they are waged, necessarily, in relation to art, “to its languages, in-
Exhibiting Cultures, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington: Smithson- stitutions, structures of meaning, expectation, and reception.” Foster observes that
ian Institution, 1991), pp. 88, 93. See also Duncan and Alan Wallach, “The Uni- particularly in evolutionary or progressivist accounts, modernist history “is often
versal Survey Museum,” Art History, vol. 3, no. 4 (December 1980) pp. 448-69. 16. conceived, secretly or otherwise, on the model of the individual subject, indeed,
Duncan, “Art Museums,” p. 93. 17. Habermas, StructuralT ransformationp,. 137. as a subject,”w hich is in part the case for Habermas. Foster proposes that if this
18. Here it is interesting to consider the very different accounts of the effects on analogy is “all but structural to historical studies,” then it should at least be worked
bourgeois interiority and subjectivity of the commodification of culture in Haber- through according to the most sophisticated model, and in a manifest way. He offers
mas and Walter Benjamin, in, for instance, “Unpacking My Library,” trans. Harry the psychoanalytical model, in which subjective events are only registered through
Zohn, in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1969); “Paris, Capital of the others that recode them (p. 17). The effects of this model are particularly welcome
Nineteenth Century,”t rans. EdmundJephcott, in Reflections( New York: Schocken insofar as it allows for a more complex temporal scheme, in which the relations be-
Books, 1978); and “Eduard Fuchs, Collector and Historian,” trans. Edmund Jeph- tween the neo- and historical avant-gardes are continuously renegotiated. 34. Foster
cott and Kingsley Shorter, One-WayS treeta nd OtherW ritings( London: NLB, adumbrates this, too, in reflecting on problems in his own thesis, which include “the
1979). While the chronologies of their accounts differ, for both, commodification historical irony that the institution of art, the museum above all else, has changed
enables the circulation of cultural goods, private ownership, and the construction beyond recognition, a development that demands the continual transformation
of a private interior, but for Benjamin there is always a fundamental instability in of its avant-garde critique as well” (p. 20). It is central to my argument, however,
the relations between private and public realms-hence, perhaps, the constitutively that while the museum has changed, it has not changed beyond recognition. 35.
solitary-alienatedbourgeois collector’s paradoxical “Sisyphean task of obliterating See Helen Molesworth, “Bathrooms and Kitchens: Cleaning House with Duc amp,”
the commodity-like character of things through his ownership of them” (“Paris, in Plumbing: Essays in ArchitectureC, riticism,M odernity,e d. Nadir Lihiji et al.
Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” p. 155). 19. Habermas, StructuralT ransforma- (Princeton Architectural Press, forthcoming); and Molly Nesbit, “The Language of
tionp,. 177. 20. Ibid., p. 195. For a contemporary elaboration of this, see also Mi- Industry,” in The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, ed. Thierry de Duve
chael Warner, “The Mass Public and the Mass Subject,” in Habermas and the Public (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991). 36. See Benjamin Buchloh, “From Faktura to Fac-
Sphere. 21. It is beyond the scope of this essay to trace this historical complexity, but tography,” October30 (Fall 1984). 37. A crucial question here is whether it is possible
for a more complete genealogy of the institutions of art we might look, for instance, to envisage the formation of any kind of public without some degree of abstraction,
to seventeenth-century Italy for developments of the academy that predate Haber- without, that is, a normative ideal subject. And if it is not, how is normativity to
mas’s account. And as against Habermas’s narrative of the degradation of bourgeois be generated across social difference? This is the broad philosophical and politi-
publicity, Geoff Eley has begun to detail alternate, proletarian, and collective forms cal question that subtends Haacke’s work. 38. Mining the Museum attracted large
of publicity in the nineteenth century (“Placing Habermas in the Nineteenth Cen- audiences to the Maryland Historical Society and an unusual amount of critical at-
tury”) and the twentieth, for instance, British “little Moscows” between the 1920s tention. It remains to be seen whether the museum’s exhibition practices have been
and World War II, “Red Vienna” between 1918 and 1934, and the phenomenon of permanently altered in its wake. 39. Buchloh, “Conceptual Art 1962-1969,” p. 143.
“cultural socialism” in Weimar Germany; see “Finding Habermas in the Twenti- 40. See Alex Alberro, “The Aesthetic Theories of Conceptual Art” (manuscript). 41.
eth Century: Citizenship, Nation and Public Sphere” and “Cultural Socialism, the In the interview with Parinaud, months before May 1968, Buren said, “Perhaps the
Public Sphere, and the Mass Form: Popular Culture and the Democratic Project, only thing that one can do after having seen a canvas like ours is total revolution”
1900-1934” (manuscripts). 22. Habermas, “Further Reflections,” p. 429. 23. See Ben- (Parinaud, “Interview”). 42. I am indebted to Helen Molesworth for a discussion of
jamin Buchloh, “Conceptual Art 1962-1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration a distinction between radicality and criticality, as articulated in Danny Fass’s and Joe
to the Critique of Institutions,” October 55 (Winter 1990); Hal Foster, “The Crux of Kelly’s video Skullfuck (1991) and especially in Gregg Bordowitz’s Fast Trip, Long
Minimalism,” in Individuals: A SelectedH istory of ContemporaryA rt 1945-1986, Drop (1994), in which Bordowitz, or rather one of his neo- Brechtian “characters,”
ed. Howard Singerman (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1986); and declares that he doesn’t want to be a “radical body,” preserving instead the possibility
Ian Burn, “The Re-appropriation of Influence,” catalog essay from Australian Bien- of speaking critically.