The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the symposium “ART/CITY” on March 16, 2012. Participants have been invited to respond to the prompt “in relation to the arts and civic life, the question I am wrestling with right now is…” in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Kathleen Reinhardt, PhD candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin.
In relation to the arts and civic life, the question I am wrestling with right now is… how engagement-based practices through an anchoring of the artist in the community and space-making through art can occur and why. I am focusing on several projects by black artists (Wangechi Mutu, Edgar Archeneaux, Rick Lowe, Theaster Gates) committed to creating sustainable cultural moments, and how these cultural moments can be of importance not only for the community they are created in, but also for an art audience. I want to engage theories of participatory art, examining how artists negotiate the ongoing institutionalization of social practice. How is their artistic practice different and perhaps more relevant than efforts of community organizers? I want to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of art in community art projects like the Dorchester Project in Chicago for example, contextualizing the artist’s aim to provoke new emancipatory relations in the community and flesh out the political and aesthetic limitations of these works of art.