HAMOU, Joachim; RUDOVSKA, Maija; SIRIEIX, Barbara (eds.)
“In an era in which everything seems relative and art has to descend from its pseudo-absolutist heights, I still find it possible to talk about activism, a contemporary, unique and active current in art.”
— Andrejs Kurcijs, Berlin, 1923.
The starting point of this book is indeed an essay by Latvian philosopher and doctor Andrejs Kurcijs, “Active Art,” dating back to the 1920s, that Riga-based philosopher Ainārs Kamoliņš proposed ot read and interpret today, in the light of recent debates about art and its role in politics and society, in terms of activism or playing an ‘active’ role. As Kamoliņš puts it: “One of the paradoxes when we are speaking about active art is that we can’t define it because then it’s already passive. In this sense it’s good to think about active failure. One should do just enough so as not to govern the discourse but still enough to have an impact. To use this force within the art field without making rules.”
The book, edited by Maija Rudovska, Barbara Sirieix & Joachim Hamou (who were also the curators of the exhibition, “A Barbarian in Paris” in 2018 at Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris, inspired by “Active Art”), gathers a poem by Laura Boullic; essays by Bella Marrin and by Rebeka Põldsam (about the late Estonian artist Anna-Stina Treumund); artists’ contributions by Evita Vasiļjeva, and Eva Barto; a two-fold contribution by Robert Glück reflecting on New Narrative; a reprint of “Perspectives,” by James Baldwin; and a conversation between the editors and Ainārs Kamoliņš.