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The Mediation of Critique: Polar Strategies of Mediation in the Exhibition of Contemporary Art in the Low Countries, 1982-1997

This project looks into the period 1982-1997, examining pivotal exhibitions from contemporary art institutions in the Netherlands and Flanders in which mediation was taken to a polar extreme in art’s presentation.

The aim of this research is to reveal critical insights about the nature of mediation – as a function of both the curator and the artist. Mediation stands at the nexus between art, artist, and institution, revealing much about the relationships between them and the power structures at play in the formation of exhibitions. While the exhibition itself is a complex and layered form of mediation, mediation does not strictly take place after an artwork has left the ‘studio’. Artists also use mediation as a formal operation to critically question and expose the conditions of the production, distribution, and reception of art – notions crucial to practices of institutional critique.

The mid-1980s mark a crucial divide in the approach of both artists and curators to mediation. Many artistic practices at this time take up the very process of art's mediation as their subject, either retreating from it by turning to post-conceptual works of sculpture and painting (Thierry De Cordier, Rene Daniels, Lili Dujourie, Fortuyn/O'Brien, Niek Kemps, Jan Vecruysse, and Ben Zegers are examples), or by mimicking it, employing media in an exaggerated manner. Consider, for instance, the work of Guillaume Bijl, Gerald van der Kaap, Aernout Mik, and Roos Theuws, whose practices emphasize their constituent media and the context of their presentation while also making use of media that were new to the museum, such as digital photography, installation, video, and computer art.

This study proposes that at the crux of these seemingly antagonistic practices is a shared, albeit very different, response to mediation. While some artists appear to withdraw from mediation, others speed it up to its heightened extreme. Focusing on a particular network of contemporary art institutions in the Low Countries, this study will posit this hypothesis against the analysis of key exhibitions that show a contrast in their approach to mediation: both in curatorial framing and in the artworks themselves.

Funded by: NWO, PhDs in the Humanities
Budget: EUR 211,600

Angela Bartholomew, MA

Project leaders/ Supervisors
Prof. Dr. Katja Kwastek

Dr. Sven Lütticken


  • Bartholomew, A. (2015). ‘Rendering (the) Visible: MARBLEPUBLIC, Fortuyn/O’Brien’s Paginated Retrospective’, Kunstlicht, Betwixt & Between: Artist’s Book and Materiality, Vol. 36: nr. 1-2.
  • Bartholomew, A. (2014). ‘De Vierkantigste Rechthoek: Rockstar Tom Barman’s Greatest Hits’, Metropolis M, November 2014.
  • Bartholomew, A., J. Noordegraaf, A. Eveleigh (2014). 'MOCCA: Building a Model for Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage’, Museums and the Web Conference Proceedings, Baltimore, April 2014.
  • Bartholomew, A. (2013). 'Physical Closure and Virtual Visibility: Digital Initiatives at the Stedelijk Museum (2004-2011)', conference proceedings, Museums and the Internet Tagung, Bonn, May 2013.
  • Bartholomew, A. (2013). 'The Crisis in MoCA: The Broad Takeover of the Cultural Industry', Kunstlicht, Public Market Issue, Vol. 34: nr. 1-2.
  • De Man, H., et. al. (2012). Stedelijk Collection Highlights: 150 Artists from the Collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (contributing author of catalogue entries), Stedelijk Museum and NAI010 Publishers.