Research Strands‎ > ‎

Critique and Its Institutions


This research strand began PoCA's activities in 2006. 

Principally, it was run by Amanda Beech and Suhail Malik, with significant input from Andrea Phillips.

It's central concerns form the core of PoCA's ongoing activity, although this activity has branched into other related areas well beyond the initial questions raised by this strand of research. It is therefore, as of 2009, a closed strand. 

However, all of the activity has been recorded within the archive pages of this web-site.

The activities included small seminar groups, lectures and discussions with guest speakers such as Claire Bishop, Susan Kelly, Jacques Ranciere, Charles Esche, Saskia Sassen, and others.

These events mostly took place in London. However, significant outputs were hosted in Venice, Dundee, Rotterdam, and other locations in Europe.


The change in the status and operation of art's criticality is to be understood in the context of the recent shifts in social, cultural and financial structures and expectations over the last 40 years or so. Rather than being organised around normative or majoritarian standards, contemporary dominant sociocultural ambitions emphasise individualism, creativity, innovation, difference and questioning. These are of course key characteristics of what we have understood to be critical in art. But they are now also the characteristics that are to be affirmed simultaneously by liberal-democracies, insofar as they herald themselves to be auto-critical societies, and by contemporary models of capitalist economic advance, insofar as: (i) alterity and counternormativity are major forces of commodification ('rebel chic'); and (ii) the demand for innovation and difference is seen as a source of market expansion.

In these conditions critical art becomes emblematic of what is highly valued in auto-critical societies such as liberal-democracies, and the institutions and ideologies that promote it. This intertwining of interests, which leads to social-institutional-financial affirmations of contemporary art and the contrary (even when art practices claim to be institutionally critical) is what is meant by 'political currency' in this research, where currency is to be understood in the two-fold sense of our contemporaneity and also as economic circulation.

The project looks to understand what happens to art, what critical art can do, how its operation is to be understood, and what critique now is, in this condition. Our ambition is not only to reflect upon and generate contributions to artpractice in the light of what is understood for it to be political, but also to advocate art as a method for the redetermination of politicality as such. We aim to do so through a combination of discussion of practice and its contemporary conditions, together with curatorial and studio-based practices.