Contemporary art is a place of political exile

In the last two decades, so-called knowledge production – a set of artistic practices that are not based on the creation of physical objects, but the production of discourse – have become commonplace in contemporary art.

Now at exhibitions, instead of traditional expositions, people can increasingly meet with artistic research or discursive events, performances (lectures, round tables, conferences or speeches), and artists themselves write more and more dissertations and participate in conferences. Theory and Practice speak with famous critic and curator Simon Sheikh, who took part in the former West conference in Berlin, about the production of knowledge in the context of intangible production, about its advantages and disadvantages, about contemporary art education and aesthetic journalism.

Over the last few years, what has been called “knowledge production”, namely the practice of an art based on research, publication, and discussion, rather than making objects, has become something like “ism” of other contemporary art. As far as I know, this concept is also used in other humanitarian disciplines. How do you define knowledge production in a broader context?

I think knowledge production is connected with the idea that ideas can be capitalized, as well as with the creation of patents, internet companies and service providers located at the crossroads of technology, advertising, and consumption. Knowledge production is an important issue in Europe and America because industrial production has been moved to places with cheap labor: Asia, parts of Latin America and even to Southeast Europe. There, people are obsessed with life-long education, which helps Western society turn to knowledge production. For me, that means a change in labor and production, when goods are not produced in the form of objects, but as something intangible – immaterial. By the way, in Germany, there is beautiful word immobility, which means “real estate”. We can think of knowledge products as unconventional forms, as opposed to material production.