“Triange Table” from “Exercise Trilogy”, Chi Kai Yuen
A series of three works comprising video and mixed-media installations, it instigates a deviation from the norm by changing the use of the physical body in its immediate surroundings. It was recently awarded the First Prize at the Taipei Arts Awards in 2014. Look out for more on this project soon on Brack!
For an artist, declaring they will solve a social problem makes one vulnerable; it’s difficult, art school doesn’t teach it, and it is obvious to others when you fail. But awareness is safe and comes easily for anyone trained in the arts. In art school, we are taught to use shortcuts like, “make it big, red, and shiny”. Applying this lesson to activist art, we take some controversial imagery, mix it with a hot-button issue, and make it very public. Awareness can also just be a euphemism for attention, and everyone – especially perpetually under-appreciated artists – loves a little attention. But as people who believe that art and artists not only can bring about social change and, given the cultural terrain of today, are necessary to bringing about social change, we are deeply dissatisfied with these ambitions. We support all those artists who are working to bring positive and progressive change to the world; we just insist that they aim higher and shoot further. What is at stake is the efficacy of this practice.
“Activist Art: Does it Work?”, Stephen Duncombe, Steve Lambert, on Online Open
I am not optimistic when witnessing the ways people are coming together around modalities of scarcity and suspicion. To counteract this, I consciously choose to focus on remarkable creative actions and alliances with peaceful citizen movements are gaining momentum around a myriad of social justice issues, from domestic workers rights and immigration reform to climate change and environmental disaster recovery. Let’s consider what happens when we shift from a necessary pragmatism of working together to the poetic, transformative possibility of “together work.”2 What makes together work distinct is that it focuses energy and agency on how people are connected to one another to experience both the urgency and the complexity of sustained collective action.
Why are we doing this? There is already an unprecedented level of information and access to such projects all over the world. Yet much of the material is often limited to reportage by a singular voice and focuses on only the final presentation stage of a project. Exemplary work is simply not that easy, and many are deeply curious to know more about what is required.
Together Work, by Carol Stakenas, on Art 21.
Photo by Enrico Amici
“visible examines the spatial relationships within which different players, from different cultural backgrounds and with different temperaments, generate meaning and form alliances. The alliance between actors and spectators brings to life the space of action of cultural and social relationships.
visible brings to light and gives strength to artistic actions which have a real capacity to experiment and produce visions that can have impact on the social and cultural imagination of our contemporary world.”