Throughout this course, I’ve gained an appreciation for and an awareness of the importance of the collective in artistic action. Mixed in with these observations, however, is the realization that academic communities are in a constant state of flux. Each year new friendships are strengthened, and then in the spring with graduation or fellowships, those friendships become long-distance connections. Year by year the community changes. I think, then, it becomes important to form friendships with incoming students and to branch out beyond the university to become part of non-academic communities.
In our first blog posts, we were asked to respond to the question “Can art be subversive? Can it have real political impact?”
For me, the answer was always yes. But reading Yates McKee’s “Occupy and the End of Socially Engaged Art,” John Berger’s “The Nature of Mass Demonstrations,” and watching the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry helped me visualize the pathways from art to activism.
“Our synaptic network is momentarily disrupted when we are truly surprised, as our brain scrambles to figure out what is going on. This is not a sinister experience; it is a moment of openness and freshness, in which new perspectives, responses, and reflections are possible” (Bogad 37).
“I’m your audience, and you’re mine” (Bernstein 96).
In All the King’s Horses, Michele Bernstein portrays an open marriage between Genevieve and Gilles. They meet a young woman, Carole, whom they are both attracted to, and Gilles enters into a relationship with her.
The balance of power shifts when Gilles falls in love with Carole. Genevieve acknowledges this change, and the potential dangers: “For the first time, perhaps, he wasn’t sharing things with me” (43). Genevieve is blocked out of Gilles’ relationship on two levels. This sharing is both of information, and the physical act of sharing Carole.
In my research on Fluxus, I found that the movement had two main goals: (1) to challenge elite art institutions and to (2) meld art and life so that they are inseparable. In order to blur these boundaries, they experimented with form through “intermedia” – creating genres of art that crossed traditional categories, like visual poetry. The enactment of art was another way to reach for this goal. Performance and the actions of the viewer became important ways to change the dynamics of space. The audience was no longer separate from art, required to stand at a distance so as to protect the integrity of a piece.
“Fluxus art involved the viewer, relying on the element of chance to shape the ultimate outcome of the piece.” – The Art Story
“The interest is not in consciousness and its freedom, but in the production of new situations as an end in themselves” (Wark 58).
In The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark introduces the many players in the Situationist movement through a historical derive. This form allows the reader to experience the feeling of being within the SI. It’s a process I’ve enacted in my own life many times: someone introduces me to a new subject or concept, and then I spin off into learning more, following hidden paths of information, making my own map of the topic. What I remember most about these moments is the feeling of being absorbed, of traveling into a different mindspace where connections can occur. Transposing myself into a moment where time is past and present, and a time outside of both. Continue reading
“Towards the end of his life, Aimé Césaire has declared that the question he and his friend Léopold Sédar Senghor came to raise after they first met was: ‘Who am I? Who are we? What are we in this white world?’ And he commented: ‘That’s quite a problem” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
Shifting from Breton’s question, “Who am I?” to the collective “Who are we?” helps me to consider the roles that both the individual and the collective play in social movements. In his poem, “Emmett Till,” Césaire flips the equation of a racist, rural South by positioning a young black man as an individual person and his white murderers and the society that enabled their violence as a faceless group. They are an assimilation of “five centuries of torturers,” “five centuries of cheap gin of big cigars/ of fat bellies filled with slices of rancid bibles.” Continue reading