First Response: Art as catalyst not just a thermometer

As a person I often feel I live two separate lives.  In one life I am the artist; milling through Western’s fine art program striving to acquire good and meaningful skills as an artist. In my other life I am mentor, the small group leader, the teacher to at risk 5th graders, and street worker in homeless camps. Rarely do theses two worlds cross paths because they compete for my undivided attention. Even in my nearly brain dead state of 7:30am I was shocked about the work both Marina Abramovic and Rick Lowe are doing. It is contradictory to our senses that in Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present”, this well known artist was “present” for any person willing to wait in line and pay for the museum to sit across from them for as long as they desired. The slide show of pictures on her site showed images of people sitting across from her and the duration of their visit. One gentleman, in a quiet sticking picture sat for the entire 420 minutes. Some who sat down in front of Abramovic had tears streaming down their faces; others only could sit and face the artist for a few minutes. The work of Rick Lowe’s “Project Row Houses,” like Abramovic’s work is set up to serve people. Lowe’s art is the intersection of a great need for restoration and social justice in a community crossed with a passion for art. It is exciting that art is a catalyst for social change not just a thermometer. Still Lowe’s art is questioned as art. Instead it is thought of as urban renewal and social work.  This is tragic because why can’t art effect social change. Why can’t it be oriented in a way that produces action and effects lives? Sure it can easily call for social change, but how much art in the world actually perpetuates it?



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2 Responses to First Response: Art as catalyst not just a thermometer

  1. 494studio496 says:

    You have an interesting point. The boundary of what art is seems to be intellectual, meant to inspire ideas that serve as a catalyst for action. However, the action of social change is not as readily considered ‘art’. This says a lot about the definition of art and really limits artists. I, too, would like to see this definition include anything, including the action that affects change- large or small.

  2. Maia says:

    Red76, founded in Portland, Oregon by Sam Gould in the early 2000s seems like something you would be interested in. The group does a ton of interesting work, things ranging from building benches to create public spaces, to getting random people on the street to tell their story and then play them on a radio channel, to giving random lectures, among many, many other things. You should check out their website:
    (I know I’m not a student at WWU anymore, but I still think it’s interesting to read the classes blog. -Maia)

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