Friday, May 28, 2010

Print, the Media, and Equilibrium

Roberta Smith says of MoMA PS1's Greater New York: "It pays lip service to all of the touchstones of the moment: collective art making, the ephemeral, audience participation, political subject matter, art as life, art as documentary, art as social interaction" (NYTimes, May 27). I find myself wondering if lip service is key here; rarely do I see art in such sanctioned spaces that is a real social and political response to the contemporary American landscape. I have been joking about my Five-Year Art Crisis as I re-assess my art practice, the momentum of academic systems that have rewarded me in certain regards (though I remain in the fiscally untenable position of practicing as an independent scholar as well as artist) and the contexts within I would ideally work. And I find that the politics I hold dear thrive best in less sanctioned spaces.

Still I turn the idea of equilibrium around in my mind, as the theme of next year's Southern Graphics Council conference. Like so many things in my life, running the art conference circuit doesn't make sense. I pay out of my own pocket to go, and it's not clear what kind of professional rewards I reap. But what continues to compel me is the notion of bridging this gap between the Print Community (I use caps facetiously; how do we determine which communities of people creating prints receive this title?) and the activist print community. And equilibrium seems the perfect umbrella under which to consider how artists approach a world that seems increasingly out of balance.

Being an activist is to take an approach of hope and optimism, however dark the world appears. Creating activist art is an act of faith in the power of imagery to sustain social movements. Rebecca Solnit refers to the narrative we tell as activists, reminding us that our arguments and efforts to spread information are aided by telling the story in as many and as compelling ways as possible. To be an activist is to take the position that we the people have control over the spread of information, that we can change public discourse. This is why narrative and graphics become crucial to any campaign. We can no longer trust the media to tell our stories for us. We cannot show up to protest and expect the media to meet us there. We have to change the information landscape, reshape it, redraw the maps we use to guide our lives. This is where the multiple comes into play. This is why I believe in it with ardent fervor. How else do you battle corporate media than by making your image countless times in an attempt to counter-balance their narrative?

So with that in mind, I invite any references to print artists addressing these concerns--that of the media, and of trying to restore balance in the narrative of our society.

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