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What Does “Contemporary” Stand for? Philosophy and Art: What Comes First. Seminar with Natalya Smolyanskaya

25 January – 18 April 2020


The new seminar cycle at Garage Library invites participants to revisit the concept of contemporary art based on the writings of twentieth- and twenty-first-century art theorists and artists.

The term “contemporary art” does not refer exclusively to the artworks produced today. The phrase itself comes with many connotations and is linked to a particular philosophy of art.

Today, the mode of art production that had given rise to the genres of installation and performance and appropriated historical and anthropological research as part of art practice seems to have exhausted itself and entered a period of stagnation. Trying to resolve the impasse, contemporary artists increasingly turn back to the practices of modernism and the avant-garde, attempting to review the history of art. Contemporaneity is a living, pulsating phenomenon of many dimensions, in which social, political, and aesthetical ideas and practices come together. Art wants to take over philosophy, often refers to it, openly borrows from it all the while building a critique of its achievements.

So how do we understand the contemporary condition in art? Participants of the seminars will read and discuss some of the seminal and relatively old but lesser-known works on the philosophy of art and the relationship between art theory and practice. Theoretical and critical writings will be accompanied by visual materials, and artists’ texts will be studied alongside philosophical publications.


Natalya Smolyanskaya is an artist, curator, and philosopher of art specializing in institutional critique, the role of the avant-garde in the era of the “surpassing of art”, and the actualization of art in contemporary life. Together with a group of curators, she runs research projects Voyti I razreshit [Entering and Allowing] and Mesto iskusstva [The Place of Art]. From 2007 to 2013 she was the head of the research program dedicated to avant-garde theories and practices and the languages of art at the International College of Philosophy in Paris.


Free admission with advance registration


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