Stephen Wright and Brian Holmes on Usership
An afternoon on Usership with Stephen Wright, Brian Holmes and users of the museum. As part of the public programme of the Museum of Arte Útil, theorist and writer Brian Holmes will respond to Toward a Lexicon of Usership by Stephen Wright. The afternoon is free for users. Spectators will be charged standard admission fees. Location: the Studio. Click here for reservations.
‘...since we can neither think nor even name art without appropriate terms, retooling our conceptual vocabulary has become a crucial task, one that can only be undertaken by fostering terminological cross-pollination with other avenues of human activity.’
Stephen Wright, Toward a Lexicon of Usership, 2013
For Museum of Arte Útil, the Van Abbemuseum commissioned writer and theorist Stephen Wright to compile a lexicon of terms as a means to address the lexical crisis in contemporary culture. serves as a toolkit for naming a new form of both artistic and political subjectivity - that of usership. Divided into words that Wright feels ‘should be retired’ such as expert culture, ownership and the disinterested spectator alongside ‘emergent concepts’ like 1:1 scale, loopholes and museum 3.0, Wright introduces ‘modes of usership’ that are becoming ever more prevalent and pertinent today: hacking, gaming and the final term of the lexicon - usership, to name just three.
On Saturday 15 March at the Van Abbemuseum critic and theorist Brian Holmes will offer a close reading of Wright’s terms in the context of the Museum of Arte Útil and, more broadly, how art and its institutions can be used today. Holmes and Wright will then consider the merits and implications of producing a lexicon. Is the slipperiness and ill-fitting nature of words today a situation that is best enjoyed without trying to correct it? Or even if lexical repurposing is worthwhile, is usership the right name for all those different subjectivities at work and at play? How about some other words? Here, the afternoon will be opened up to users to offer their own terms, to banish out-moded words or repurpose a vocabulary in a way that we increasingly need – but don’t have – at our disposal.
Brian Holmes is an art critic, activist and translator, living in Paris, interested primarily in the intersections of artistic and political practice. He holds a doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Berkeley. Brian Homes was the English editor of publications forDocumenta X, Kassel, Germany since 1997. Brian was a member of the graphic arts group 'Ne pas plier' from 1999 to 2001, and has recently worked with the French conceptual art group 'Bureau d'Études' .
Stephen Wright is a Paris-based art writer and professor of the practice of theory at the European School of Visual Arts. Over the past decade, his research has examined the ongoing usological turn in art-related practice, focusing on the shift from modernist categories of autonomy to an art on the 1:1 scale, premised on usership rather than spectatorship. A selection of his writing in English may be found on the collective blog n.e.w.s. In 2013, Toward a Lexicon of Usership was published by the Van Abbemuseum.