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Sandra Lourenço

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Title

Reframing agency in contemporary art: on noesis, poiesis and praxis 

Synopsis

This research inquires into the expansion of the term ‘agency’ by asking what is the social range of its usage of and for contemporary art in the present.The concept of agency has become a source of increasing strain and confusion in contemporary societies. Variants of action and social theory, and political-institutional analysis have revived the concept in often contradictory and overlapping ways. At the centre of the debate, the term ‘agency’itself has maintained an elusive, albeit resonant, vagueness. It has all too seldom inspired a critical systematic analysis in contemporary art, despite the long list of terms with which it has been associated: subjecthood, ethics, intentionality, judgment, choice, freedom, and creativity.

Considering that agency is a polysemic concept, the research starts by examining in what way contemporary art defines its own individuality in relation to agency. For this, it focus on relational and social engaged practices of the last two decades when a shift occurred in terms of sociability, procedures and content, thus generating a change in the meaning of the concept of agency. Looking into three dimensional fields of knowledge where agency has been enacted – noesis, (auto)poiesis and praxis – this research aims to expand the emergence of agency in contemporary art as a problem of political empowerment, while arguing that artistic agency finds itself in a state of paralogical thinking.

This argument will be extended by looking at Michel Foucault`s and Reinhart Koselleck`s ‘conceptual history’ as a discourse of time rather than a discipline. By making use of their analytical method that overlaps in many fronts, this research aims to establish a relationship between the concept of agency and the idea of pathology as a mechanism of destructuration and dehumanization that can also be applied to the art world.