A meeting to articulate a collective reflection on the contemporary role of the art institution in the current economic, cultural and political climate. The project is initiated in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum | The Netherlands, MOSTYN | Wales and Galeria Labyrint | Poland

Reading Group II belongs to a series of meetings (talks, reading groups, laboratories) unfolding within Giant Step, a project that investigates the current conditions of cultural and artistic production within institutions, as well as the possibilities of critical practice resulting in institutional change. 

Giant Step aims to articulate a collective reflection on the contemporary role of the art institution in the current economic, cultural and political climate through a series of symposium at the partner institutions. The first symposium GS1: Enter the Artworld? Marginal Establishments, Cooptation and Resistance takes place in Bari (12th-14th of June 2012) followed immediately (15th-17th of June 2012) by an International Curatorial Course on the same theme.


Reading Group II will be hosted at Flat Time House, the home and studio of the late British artist John Latham. From here we will engage via internet with our co-workers from Bari, Eindhoven, Lladudno and Lublin, and with those who are eager to join our exciting project.

Not by coincidence the location of this reading will be at the 'living sculpture' Flat Time House, an architectural body that functions at the point of junction between the theory and the practice of the British artist. The complexity of Time-Base or Flat Time theory in fact still leaves unexplored many conceptual and aesthetic elements affiliated to the artist's work. But rather than seeking to fill these gaps, Latham's work itself seems to intentionally or unintentionally offer 'blind spots' as conceptual spaces for imagination and exploration. It is because of these metaphorical spaces for experimenting and, because of the legacy of Latham's engagement in the Theory married to Practice, that this institution articulates an appropriate environment in which to discuss Hito Steyerl's article The Institution of Critique.

The text can be found here:


The text focuses both on the internal relationships between critique and institutions, and on the political and historical conditions which lead to what Steyerl refers to as 'the institutionalization of critique'. By this the author understands the progressive depotentiation and cooptation of critique on the surface of cultural institutions, without it generating material change in their deeper structures and hierarchies. The text has the merit of tracing affiliations between historical strategies of critique, conceptions of the national state and the public sphere, the crisis of representation, and the reign of the neo-liberal order. By drawing these conceptual lines, it pays attention to the type of political subjects that critique produces in different historical and cultural contexts. The question that this reading group will raise follows Steyerl's final reflections: given the escalating precarity of life, and the progressive dismantling of critical institutions, how would an institution that caters for the needs and desires of the newly created political subject look like?

For more information about vessel's activities or about how to join the workgroup for Giant Step, contact Viviana Checchia ([email protected]), Vlad Morariu ([email protected]), and Anna Santomauro ([email protected])

Please confirm us your participation by sending an email to: [email protected]