Boris Groys’ text “Politics of Installation” (2009) is a relevant text for several reasons, as is locating installations between the artist and the curator, but mainly because it draws a parallel between installations and sovereignty.
Contemporary artistic practices fall in several traps: on one hand they suffer from a narcissistic complex that prevents them from reflecting beyond their own condition of being art; on the other hand, as practices, they have a growing need to accentuate their participatory procedural nature and, for that, they haunt the art market through the acquisition of ruins and registers whose only life’s purpose is to enable a commercial value. Groys exposes the paradox within the art world by referring that such commodities, quintessential to art market, are precisely what the public less cares about.
If “the curator is considered to be someone who keeps coming between the artwork and the viewer”, then maybe we need to accept another one of Groys’ arguments, namely that the installation functions as a private space within a public sphere, where the artist regains sovereignty and freedom, making use of the installation as a “place” for both artistic and political expression, in the freedom and power that they, respectively, potentate.
Although it is clear than an installation is, ultimately, political, what Groys points out is its democratic and democratizing character, only to follow with the idea that before the installation becames a space that opens up to democracy, it encloses itself – “the space of an artistic installation is the symbolic private property of the artist”.
What I have to say is this: in the first place, Groys only approaches installations that fit official and institutionalized conceptions of the art world, so he does not take into account (because he denies their existence), those cases where the installation is the exhibition, not needing to make a statement as being a house within a house; in the second place, the sort of democracy Groys is talking about is a neoliberal one, hence it is not made clear whether the concept of “private property” underlines a moral judgement. As is well known, “the private is political”, he himself says it as a truism, but doesn’t “everyone” also knows “private property created crime“?
Though it is easy to locate Groys politically, and even though he concludes by saying that an installation is an aggressive, non-democratic, way of installing democracy that plays the role (almost heroic) of denouncing the “obscure transparency of the democratic order”, the problems above mentioned still stand, for Groys choses not to contemplate a form of horizontal expression, exhibiting and receiving, and he could have done it masterfully.