Dark Matter: Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere.

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2005 Gregory Sholette / The Journal of Aesthetics Protest

Astrophysicists describe dark matter1(and more recently dark energy) as invisible mass predicted by the big bang theory, yet so far only perceived indirectly by observing the motions of visible astronomical objects such as stars and galaxies. Despite its invisibility and unknown constitution, most of the universe, perhaps as much as ninety six percent of it, consists of dark matter - a phenomenon sometimes called the"missing mass problem."2Like its astronomical cousin, creative dark matter also makes up the bulk of the artistic activity produced in our post-industrial society. However, this type of dark matter is invisible primarily to those who lay claim to the management and interpretation of culture - the critics, art historians, collectors, dealers, museums, curators and arts administrators. It includes makeshift, amateur, informal, unofficial, autonomous, activist, non-institutional, self-organized practices - all work made and circulated in the shadows of the formal art world. Yet, just as the astrophysical universe is dependent on its dark matter, so too is the art world dependent on its dark energy.


1"There is perhaps no current problem of greater importance to astrophysics and cosmology than that of 'dark matter',"The Center for Particle Astrophysicsat Berkeley California.

2TheScientific Americanwebsite has a fine introduction on this subject, see:"Dark Matter in the Universe"by Vera Rubin.