ISBN: 978-3899553420, 288 pages, 2011, English, Gestalten
“Activism” in art has become a fashionable topic, especially after the beginning of the global financial crisis. Critiquing the system, formalizing regrets about the past and expressing fears about an uncertain future have become daily topics for major media. Artists are now also reflecting these feelings (maybe even more than during the sixties and seventies) with an abundance of creativity, entering a lot of clichéd territories with no expressive boundaries. Art & Agenda has done a good job of documenting these artistic forms. This is not an abridged handbook for curators, although it’s quite curator-friendly and sold as a luxurious hardcover. The book tries to discern five historical and consolidated strategy lines: “The Commercial Aspect”, “The Human Element”, “Sanctuary”, “Think global, Act local” and “History Repeating.” Under these labels the five editors have identified areas of consistent conflict that go well beyond the classic “shock and provoke” approach. Public space, for example, is now the most natural environment for many actions and performances, while media are being cleverly and intuitively used as with any other tool. The ideas, delivered with their embedded controversies, come out loud and clear. The value of this book lies in its “curated” aspect, which includes single chapters on a coherent set of different artists, placing stars and the lesser-known side-by-side (100 in total), and building a significant collection whose agenda is probably more ostensible than real, but definitely emotionally incisive.