Flick Harrison on Sat, 27 Oct 2012 01:15:23 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> open letter to art critics

When I read a sentence like this:

"Much harder, much more ambitious, and therefore much more difficult to
evaluate, is art that intends to change the very way we see, act and make
sense of our world -- including what we understand to be politics itself."

I see my life story unfolding in a single problem.

This kind of subtle, provocative or ontologically-challenging work means,
for one thing, an audience limited to those interested in both art and
politics simultaneously.

I would add, however, that the words "art" and "politics" could be swapped
in that sentence, with equal truth.

When engaging with activists there is a demand for practical political art;
agitprop, posters, propaganda, fundraising videos, etc.  When the artist
strays from dogma, they become useless, if not dangerous, to movements.
Meanwhile, engaging the art world with politicized art brings the spectre
of partisanship (with its threat to state funding & rich donors) if not
simple disinterest or politically-motivated rejection.

Therefore at the same time as you call for more critical consideration of
political art, I'd call for more political consideration of it as well.

I'm currently in a collective doing what's called here "publicly engaged"
art; that is, artist residencies in community centres etc where the act of
bringing people together to make art is seen as a positive political
action.  The content of the art is irrelevant to that - except insofar as
the content must emerge from the participants, rather than from above.
It's important to push for high-quality final product, to create a
dedicated team, etc, but the politics is contained in the form of the
project rather than in the results.

Here's our website:


Critical reception for this kind of art, as far as I can tell, is pretty
slim.  It's not considered "good enough" to warrant proper critical review,
sort of like community theatre, and the political process contained in the
work isn't relevant to art theory, or something.

Headlines Theatre is another group that does this kind of work in a
different way - they do Boal-based Theatre of the Oppressed projects, i.e.
interactive forum theatre with audience members getting on stage to try to
work out the characters' problems.  The theatre critics often don't really
consider it proper theatre, though there is the occasional review.

This one is from Jerry Wasserman, who is the head of the UBC Theatre and
FIlm Department, which I suppose is as legit as it gets, although UBC is
more production- than theory-oriented:


In any case, my latest work is this video I created with an anonymous
activist group in Newfoundland, who took advantage of my residency at Black
Bag Media Collective to get me on board their anti-pesticide campaign.  I'd
love to hear any critical reaction to it.




* FLICK's WEBSITE & BLOG: http://www.flickharrison.com 

On 2012-10-25, at 06:03 , Geert Lovink wrote:

> (Written in response to the lack of debate during last weekend's 
> Creative Time conference in NYC. I think art criticism is important 
> source of inspiration and reference (or not) for net critique. The 
> letter also refers to the ongoing, almost funny neglect by the 'art 
> world' of 'new media'. /geert)
> An open letter to critics writing about political art
> - Stephen Duncombe & Steve Lambert
> Last weekend Creative Time held their fourth annual summit on the current
> state of artistic activism. Over two days, scores of political artists from
> around the world gave short presentations and organized longer workshops.
> Hundreds of people participated.

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