A review of "The Future of the Reciprocal Readymade (The Use-Value of Art)",
curated by Stephen Wright
Apexart, New York, March 17-April 17, 2004
by Alan Moore - 05/25

But Is It Art? -- Like a harbor-dumped body, the question always queasily resurfaces. It problematically implies that the aesthetic can somehow fall victim to the social. Nina Felshin, the editor of a book that takes the same question for its title, answered her own query by defining a category and historicizing a tradition of "activist art" (after Lucy Lippard's coinage). With the recent show at Apexart, The Future of the Reciprocal Readymade (The Use-Value of Art), curated by Paris-based Stephen Wright, we have again stepped squarely into this territory of the aesthetic questions surrounding political art.

This is heady stuff, and I'll get to it. First, one must ask: how is the audience addressed by the work? What impact does its content have? All the works in The Future... relate more to different vernaculars, or visual practices, than to styles of art making. They also elicit different kinds of engagement, different attentions and responses.

Each of these installations, or, let us say, gallery set-ups, is a node, a register of a certain social field, and a certain set of actions within that field. The Atlas Group's project fits that bill cleanly, since it is a record, albeit a sometimes fictive one, of the Lebanese civil wars of the 1970s and '80s. With its melancholy and dry humor, the Atlas work has great subtlety and depth of emotional engagement....

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