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This is Not Art: Activism and Other 'not-art'

This is Not Art: Activism and Other 'not-art'
Alana Jelinek

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Art is not political action. Art is not education. Art does not exist to make society stronger, or the world a better place. Art disrupts and resists the comfortable, the stiflingly familiar and the status quo, or it only serves to deaden a disenfranchised society further. So argues This Is Not Art, a radical and vigorous critique that debunks myths about art in order to celebrate its real and unique importance. With the postmodern deconstruction of now-outdated shibboleths such as 'genius', 'authenticity' and 'beauty', new and neoliberal myths about art have arisen to take their place: that art's value is primarily monetary as a prized and marketable commodity, or that art is important because it ameliorates social problems. These ideas are not only the province of art-dealers and power-brokers, but pervade the part of the artworld that defines itself as radical, political or ethical too. Highlighting the social mechanisms of legitimisation and dissemination that exclude the genuinely disruptive or defiant, This Is Not Art draws on Foucault and Marx to uncover an artworld obsessed with profit and from which diversity, individuality and freedom have been erased.

In the search for a new way to understand art's urgent importance, Alana Jelinek returns to the question of 'what is art?', retelling the history of art practice for our contemporary moment and exposing the ways in which neoliberal norms and values have seeped into every aspect of our lives. From the author's unique perspective as a practicing artist and theoretician, This Is Not Art offers not just a searing criticism of the artworld as it is, but a vision of a new way of understanding and practicing art - as the embodiment of power and agency within us, the possibility of thinking and acting differently, of finding new stories to tell.

Table of Contents


Part One: Setting the Scene
Chapter One | The Institutional Definition of Art
Chapter Two | Neoliberalism and the Artworld

Part Two: Artworld Orthodoxies
Chapter Three | Understanding Power
Chapter Four | The Art/Life Dichotomy

Part Three: A Celebration of Art Practice
Chapter Five | The Disciplinarity of Art Practice
Chapter Six | In Celebration of Art Practice

Author Info

Alana Jelinek is AHRC fellow at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge.


'This Is Not Art provides a timely critique of the neoliberal values that have become a normal part the contemporary art world, and particularly those art practices that claim to be opposed to ‘traditional’ forms of art.'
Mo White, Cassone


Art Does Not Exist to Make the World a Better Place Read
WTF Art Thou? Read
Aesthetics and Art: Why Damian is Jack Read

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781848858572
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2013
Number of Pages: 192
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 20 integrated bw illustrations

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