(Re)thinking Critique: Transversal and Ethico-Aesthetic Dimensions in Partaking Practices




Palabras clave:

partaking critique, contemporary art, activism, instituent practices, transversal


The article examines critique in relation to current theories pursued and addressed in contemporary art and activism. The conception of a “partaking critique” seeks to conceive critique beyond universalising abstractions and totalising gestures. By reformulating critique as a partaking practice, we set ourselves in relation to the current demands and urgencies of a world that must confront the challenges of climate change, migration flows, inequalities between the global north and south, and the mistrust of democracy. We find it important that critique results not merely in a judging and condemning analysis and the division between correct and false. A “partaking critique” deals with historical conditions and traditional formulations of critique. Critique as a partaking practice is situated, local, transversal, and reparative, and thus mobilises dispositions to act in a panorama of neo-liberal mechanisms of paralysis and paranoia.

We developed our understanding of critique based on our engagement with critical examples at the crossroads of artistic and activist practices, such as Colectivo Situaciones, which in the scope of this article can only be briefly presented. We queried, shifted and transformed the concept of critique employing discourse analysis and a close reading of critical (queer)feminist concepts of the late 1980s. The perspectives taken by Donna Haraway and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick allow us to place the focus not on negative critique but on instituent and transversal processes, and thus on rethinking the transformative potentials of ethico-aesthetic practices.

The current socio-political and ecological challenges require a thinking that transverses and queers traditional valorisations of critique: we do not offer a universal, objective and strong theory, but instead favour categories of partiality, situatedness and responsibility. Critique as a practice of partaking is communicated not as the judgement of a critical subject, but in, through and with instituent processes as well as in materialities.

Biografía del autor/a

Elke Bippus, Ruth Lang, Zurich University of the Arts / University of Basel

Dr. Elke Bippus is Professor of Art Theory and Art History (since 2006) and Senior Researcher at Zurich University of Arts. Her research interests include modern and contemporary art, image and representational theory, performativity, artistic production techniques and procedures, politics and aesthetics, art as epistemic, feminist and anti-hierarchical practice.

Her current research project is “Participatory Critique as Transforming and Transversal With” (11/2018–05/2022) as part of the DFG/SNF Research Group Media and Participation: Between Demand and Entitlement. Further information: http://people.zhdk.ch/elke.bippus/index.html

A. Ruth Lang is a Research Associate in the project “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement – Participatory Critique as Transforming and Transversal With” (11/2018–05/2022) currently doing her PhD in Art History at the University of Basel.

The focus of Lang’s doctoral research is on the analysis of the relation between art – knowledge – criticism following the second phase of institutional critique. It examines artistic militant practices within the institutionalized field of globalized contemporary art from the 2000s onwards. The core of the study consists of the international exhibition and research project Ex Argentina (2002–2006), initiated and co-curated by the artists and curators Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann. One of the central goals of the dissertation project is the art scholarly analysis of a case study that, so far, has been discussed in German-speaking countries only in a fragmentary manner and focusing on their partial realizations in Europe. The contextualization and comparison of selected poetic critical practices should then also serve as a basis for a re-negotiation of critique.