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BORIS GROYS: The Topology of Contemporary Art PART 2: MULTIPLE MODERNITIES. 5. MONICA AMOR: On the Contingency of. Contemporary Art in Time” considers some examples, and conse- quences, of .. Cf. Boris Groys, “The Topology of Contemporary Art,” in Antinomies of Art. Synopsis: To understand the qualitative properties of “Contemporary Art”, the Author examines the interplay between Modern & Post-modern.

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The installation is, as it was already said, a finite space of presence where different images and objects are arranged and exhibited. And to transmit an information from one generation of hardware and software to a next generation means to transform it in a significant way.

Every copy is by itself a flaneur — and experiences time and again its own “profane illuminations” turning it into an original.

The contemporary “contemporary art” privileges the present in respect to the future and to the past. Now it becomes relatively easy to characterize the place that the contemporary installation occupies in relationship to the modernist claim to truth and to its postmodern deconstruction.

Lives in Koeln, Germany. The mere fact that a modernist artwork is still recognizable as an artwork means namely that this artwork reproduces the general conditions of recognizability of congemporary artwork as artwork — even if a form of this artwork seems to be quite original. It is also no accident that the vocabulary constantly used by the historical avant-garde is the language of iconoclasm. The question formulated by Benjamin is namely: And precisely this claim to truth was put in question by post-modernist criticism: Have the prints become originals, especially as they all might be slightly different, or still just different versions of copies?

The Topology of Contemporary Art: Boris Groys | alfredcrucible

These images and objects present themselves in a very immediate way. Otherwise the work of symbolic destruction would remain unaccounted for. An installation is a boriz of the present — of a decision that takes place here and now. In fact, the aura, as described by Benjamin, only comes into being thanks to the modern technique of reproduction.


Quite on the contrary, these images and objects manifest — mostly in a very obvious way — their status as copies, as reproductions, as repetitions. Their status as copies becomes therefore to be just a cultural convention — as it was earlier the status of the original. Every large exhibition or installation is made with the intention of designing a new order of memories, of proposing the new criteria for telling a story, for differentiating between past and future.

Whereas Modern artwork places itself within an infinite space, it is argued that the installation creates a closed context, automatically acknowledging clntemporary objects and spaces through the inclusion within. The copy is, on the contrary, without a place and ahistorical -being right from the beginning a potential multiplicity. Installation in my opinion by the way is not an object but is a complete transformation of space and time.

The Topology of Contemporary Art: Boris Groys

So to rightly characterize the nature of contemporary art it seems to be necessary to situate it in its relationship to the Modern project and to its post-modern reevaluation. If an artist produces 2 pieces that are the same then the argument goes that one is a copy? But if the difference between original and copy is only a topological one — that means if it is only a difference between a closed, fixed, marked, auratic context and an open, unmarked, profane space of anonymous mass circulation — then not only the operation of dislocation and deterritorialisation of the original is possible, but also the operation of relocation and reterritorialisation of the copy.

The installation takes a copy out of an allegedly unmarked, open space of anonymous circulation and puts it — even if only temporarily — in a fixed, stable, closed context of topologically well-defined “here and now”. In other words, an objective spectator at that time, confronted with the figure of Christ, could not find any visible, concrete difference between Christ and an ordinary human being — a visible difference that could suggest that Christ is not simply a man, but also a God.


According to Benjamin, in our age the artwork leaves its original context and begins to circulate anonymously in the networks of mass communication, reproduction and distribution. The artist was supposed to embody “active nihilism” — the nothingness that originates everything. There are no eternal copies as there are no eternal originals. In other words, Benjamin describes the production of the mass culture as operating by a reversal of the “high” Modernist art strategy: This paradoxical character of the Modern project was recognized and described by a number of the theoreticians and fopology on by many artists in the 60s and 70s.

This artistic space of the installation may be a museum or art gallery, but also a private studio, or a home, or a building site. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

Is it enough that the public simply goes by the assumption that an original exists somewhere, hidden away and protected, unless its aforementioned destruction does take place and is purposely made known? Benjamin’s answer to that question is, of course, no. The central notion of Modern art was the notion of creativity. That is why I would argue that the installation is the leading art form of contemporary art. So for Kierkegaard, Christianity is based on the impossibility of recognizing Christ as God-the impossibility of recognizing Christ as visually different: They are here and now — and they are thoroughly visible, given, unconcealed.

Being often enough characterized as “formalistic” Modernist art can hardly be defined in formal terms: The metaphoric use of the notion of “generation” as it practiced now in a context of technology is very revealing.