Your comfort is our silence: The politics of disinterested art criticism
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Beginning with an analysis of the AIDS activist art of the 1980s, "Your Comfort Is Our Silence: The Politics of Disinterested Art Criticism" will chart the degree to which canonical art criticism worked in collusion with the institution of the museum and political Right wing to suppress artistic and curatorial practice engaged in representing lived social concerns. This attempted divorce of art from the field of social engagement during a period of cultural crisis was maintained under the guise of resistance to ideological influence, purporting a "disinterested" matrix for art's analysis and display. My thesis will work to reveal the veiled systems of power and capital at work within this methodology, whose adherents were vocal in their attempts to elevate the role of the critic over the intent of the artist. As a product of the turbulent Culture Wars the 1980s, activist artists were forced to speak in code in order to gain access to the institution, while those who were explicit about their politics were censored or relegated to small experimental venues. In the early 1990s, the art of "identity politics" was given institutional credibility, and the insufficiency of canonical critical methodology for this new explicitly socially engaged practice was made evident. What followed was a wave highly lucrative but often banal and unself-reflexive art that aped the aesthetics of social practice, without the political stakes. My thesis theorizes this triumph of capital over activism as a result of the proscription of the field of art's social engagement, established by the journal October , as early as 1976.