Today in the van, Faith Purvey read from Pablo Helgera’s book, “Education of Socially Engaged Art,” and asked us what it means to enter a new place as a visitor and create relationships through the lens of a socially engaged artist? He talks about how participation generates vitality and that socially engaged art cannot be created through an academic vacuum. This question and article got me thinking about another article ‘Relational Aesthetics’ by Claire Bishop. In this writing, Bishop talks about artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, a contemporary artist who converted a gallery space into a kitchen, serving the viewers pad thai to create a communally engaged experience within the confines of the museum. Her argument was that there is a lack of antagonism within this engagement that makes this piece unsuccessful. Being within the confines of the white walled museum restricts the spectrum of the viewer, leaving only art critics, museum goers, artists, and curators, leaving a wide variety of people out of the experience. So my question is this, how do you define socially engaged art? Is it creating an awareness of community through communal experiences? Is it a way for an artist to enter into a space as a visitor and understand the culture of a place? Who is it for? The artist or the community or both? I like to think that it is for both the community and the artist alike, creating a relational experience that supersedes any ideas of individual experience.
student blog posts
We've had many discussions over the last 24 hours about ways an artist can navigate the world post-university. I personally feel more energized than before about finding alternative pathways as an artist in the world outside of institutions. Our visit to MoMAZozo reinforced the need for community engagement in these spaces- to make artist run spaces open an available to people who have no background or special education in the arts, and proved what a fruitful and beautiful experience that can be. It also reinforces all the reservations I have about institutions- their limitations, competitiveness, exclusiveness, etc., and proves that rural spaces, or even underserved urban spaces, could greatly benefit from more resources devoted to the arts, and that there are real benefits to a robust art scene in these spaces, benefits that extend far beyond the traditional capitalist understanding of value. As we have unequivocally seen, the devaluation of rural and underserved communities in favor of denser, more urban and wealthy communities leads to resentment and division that has catastrophic political implications. I believe strongly that creating alternative communities and networks throughout these spaces can lead to a shift in social relations that will in turn lead to a politics that benefits everyone, and I am more and more convinced that this is what I want to devote my energy to once I've graduated. By building in this type of community engagement into my practice, which, coming into field school was utterly lacking and my work was worse for it, is going to be essential for my development as an artist moving forward.
I had an amazing day today. I got to start the day with learning how to melt glass into beads and play with molten glass. Mitch had a bunch of stained glass, which I have usually only used in the realm of stained glass, and so to see this material so causally used for a different purpose was very inspiring and something that got me very excited. Then later in the day we met Mike and Paula. I was absolutely enthralled by Mike and the way in which he also repurposed normal tools that people may not usually use in a more creative way. Twas a very inspiring day.
Today we continued on our journey through New Mexico, and in doing so learning a little about the history of the people here through various displacements. At the end of the day we had a wonderful opportunity to talk with people from the community (or at least from New Mexico) and it was a very robust conversation. I was interested in the part of what the south valley is vs Albuquerque and how this urban city runs up against a more rural area. Also Mitch’s house is extremely inspirational, I want a place where I can just have space to do shit with a nice place to weld and a wood shop.
Stopping through Madrid today I felt so aware of its life and death and life again in a sort of palimpsest. This rewriting of culture and class, as it has been reborn in some strange, dissonant way. Dilapidated houses propped up and filled with kitschy folk art, new paint slapped on old boards. A sickly sweet makeup job. Behind these pseudo showrooms, shacks crawled up the hills. Without makeover, without facade. Crumbling dwellings sat. In denial? As some "quaint" remnant of time past? The dissonant cicadas pierced the still, hot air like warning calls. The happy signs of each tourist trap suddenly an erie marker of displacement.
A question was brought up tonight during the talk: what is humans ecological role within the landscape and how do we effect the ecology of a place? Driving through the landscape today and the last few weeks, it is obvious that through the density and sparsity of population of a place as well as the culture of the ecology of a place plays a big role in the effect of a landscape. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and in these rural towns, you can see just that. Through necessary agricultural, cultural, and rural needs, landscape is reformed to configure these needs. Acequias have carved out the land for irrigation purposes, barbed wire fences have dissected the land by ownership/property, while public lands are dispersed in between. A landscape dominated by agriculture and ancestry. So, to answer the question, what is our role in the ecology of a place? We reform it, we manipulate it, we add to it, we are defined by it. The livelihood of people’s is within the ecology of a place. It is a reciprocal relationship that is constantly in flux.
My eyes are heavy from the day, but it was a day well spent. So much information on water and land rights and thoughts sit heavy on my mind. The reading on the injustices and depletion of water was upsetting and led to many conversations of the end of the world, whether it be bioterrorism, fault lines, or the ring of fire. What was so interesting to me was the story that Erin told us today about the trespassing laws when invading Native American property is subject to punishment of the federal tribal laws which can be as severe as federal prison. An interesting point that was brought up from that was that all the land is indigenous, so what makes it trespassing on Native land? Another moment that really helped me in my life was the time spent with two horses in Cerillos. I was so calm, and that was my thinking place. This moment of connection was even more powerful than the nature walk that we did, where there were sirens and noises that infiltrated my psyche. I need to be with the animals. That is what is missing.
I think about abstraction a lot- not just strategies of aesthetic abstraction within my own art practice but as a condition of our lives. I was thinking about this a lot during our conversation about water rights tonight, the fact that they are based on a system of determining rights rather than an actual amount of water that exists materially. This kind of abstraction feeds into the conditions of underserved communities in ways I'm just beginning to understand. On the subject of underserved communities: we had a very interesting conversation today about this fact, and about density as a factor that drives resource development and distribution. Evidentally, only about 2--3% of arts funding goes to rural communities, and about an equal amount goes to local urban arts that are not connected with institutions. One question I want to answer is how to correct this. How to redistribute resources to these rural spaces, whether arts funding or water or infrastructure, and how to respect the idea that these communities deserve the same resources and anyone in a major city.
First of all, Faith pronounced “misery loves company” as “Missouri loves company” today and I loved that and I had to share
Earlier today, in the van, we were discussing the question of how to balance the development necessary for a shift to renewable energy with the important histories and structure of the landscape. While I understand why the question was being asked, it pissed me off nevertheless because the landscape has already been so constructed and damaged by the forces of ~dirty energy~ and every second we spend waffling on this kind of question we are doing more serious damage that too needs to be grappled with. It is similar to the issue of people saying a switch to renewable energy is “too expensive” which is NONSENSE because, again, the existing crisis perpetuates a system way, way more costly for the masses/everyone than any of these investments (part of the issue is a failure to consider the cost of things like public health in the “cheapness” or “efficiency” of an energy system... not to even get started talking about cost in terms of non-financial capital...)
This line of thought tied in well to many parts of the discussion tonight... I will dwell on this idea of the marker of “civilization”/“success” being excess of what the local land can support
On a separate note, I’ve included a photo of my four cardinal direction rocks from earlier today (I think I’ve already lost the black rock pictured, I was holding it in the palm of my hand for hours because it felt lovely and had great energy, and I put it in my pocket briefly and LOST IT, and I’ve been pretty sad about it ever since) because not only is it a reminder of an interaction with a stranger from the day, but I realized afterwards that I’ve seen this exact color-quadrant breakdown in native jewelry from the southwest before, and I had never stopped to inquire about the meaning. You learn somethin knew everyday, how bout dat!?
Thinking about many of the discussions we had traveling in the van they centered around an idea of ownership, accessibility, visibility and how these concepts relate to the role of the artist in the rural landscape. The history of land works could be looked at as staking claim in the landscape, something that doesn’t seem far from colonization and gentrification. Not only a physical gentrification of the landscape, but of a gentrification of the mind, the homogenization of endlessly complex and intertwined histories and lived experiences. This again seem to surface tonight in our panel discussion concerning water rights and the deep connection people feel along the river to an idea of first in time first in right. This far on our trip tonight was the first time the discussion for the necessity of another system of distributing water to maintain sustainability seemed to surface. Thinking about the contention of tradition again with, what at times, can seem like the necessity for a new system seems like such a fragile line to cross. This leaves me with the question how does progress contend or maintain the past? -or parts of the past? Does progress hinge on the overturning of the past? -or reevaluation?
I find myself desiring the intimacy and labor of ranch, to return to a sense of place that has since been lost while being on the road. I am having a hard time transitioning between the hyperlocal experience of Antonito, and the transitory excursion of the West. Crossing between borders and cultures, histories and geographies, alters the way I am able to understand place as a visitor. I am interested in what each speaker said about New Mexico being a territory that has been checkered and redrawn by natives, migrants, colonizers, and planners. Just as identity is shaped and reshaped by these shifting lines, I too have to consider how I think about the significance of crossing physical and metaphorical borders; the acaquia, Rio Grande, culture, time, etc. I'm not sure how to process this information yet. I feel overwhelmed by how temporary our visits are-- much of our days are spent in the car. I'm not sure what I am able to grasp yet. I hope to adapt to this quicker method of working, and find confidence in the ideas I encounter as I continue and process and think about the West.
today,,,,,,,,what do i want to talk about. perhaps i will start withhhhhhhhhhh
We were in the van today and mary wanted more things for the dashboard. I think we stopped in a place and had lunch and I walked and saw the things and I didn't want anything. I don't know. After seeing antiques antiques antiques studios crafts jewelry lines rows rows signs signs buzzing it is just kind of blurring and confusing and decentering and it is just the same and then the next one the same and there really isnt anyone in any of these it is a great commodification of itself of nothing. In taos there are tshirts advertising taos, a place where they sell taos t shirts. It was said the salsa at dinner was good and I realized that I can no longer discern and compare and feel and value between experiences and I don't really care to. We talked about meowolf in the van today, someoe just mentioned it in the next room. I called it a disneyworld of urban art. someone else called it entirely capitalist. there was another coffee shop in this place. the thing about coffee on this trip is that coffee is my favorite thing and it is something I love and I make it and care for it and I use it as a gift to myself and so to others. It is something I savor and cherish and preserve. And it is a black liquid. Here, I have to buy the black liquid and submit to structures of quality that I will not percieve in the end. and this thing that I don't really need and regard as odd in the first and made for myself and give time to and keep close to me and recognize and perform as a chief behavior is, on the road, a commodity, a gross consumptive, it oozes from the landscape like oil and sweat but it is coming out of hot black plastic and toggle pumps. It is really my fault. I make it in a way so that I do not want anything else. I do this with everything. I left my key ring in the hotel room this morning, the one I got from the bottom of a pool on my last day last summer. or perhaps not the last day. Talking with one of the visitors tonight I realized that tourism is like ant lions.