Cultural Barbarians – Is art dead? (vpro backlight documentary)

Has art turned into nothing more than a market, where only museums’ visitors numbers count, or the stardom of an artist such as Ai Weiwei? A new generation of artists is fighting this trend and creating explicitly activist art connected to a changing world.

A sculpture of a kneeling Hitler was recently sold for 17 million dollars. The British artist Isaac Julien had the works of Karl Marx read out loud at the last edition of the Venice Biennale, while private yachts were mooring at the quay for the opening, and with Julien himself being sponsored by Rolls Royce. Cultural pessimists announce the ‘end of art’: it is now ruled by money, celebrity, design and digital mass culture.
But the Italian actor Alessandro Baricco, the collective “Assemble Studios” (eighteen young architects and designers who decided to improve houses in a working-class area of Liverpool without seeking a profit and thus won the prestigious Turner Prize), visual artist Femke Herregraven and Artist Renzo Martens don’t see it that way.
Could it be we are only adapting our cultural experience? Which should inspire optimism. In order for art to continue to be relevant, it should connect to the social reality around us and revive itself through fresh commitment.
With: Alessandro Baricco (author), Renzo Martens (visual artist), Femke Herregraven (visual artist), Mark Nash & Isaac Julien (visual artists), Anthony Meacock and Lewis Jones (architects art collective Assemble) and Timothy Morton (philosopher).

Director: Alexander Oey


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