A few weeks ago I went to a lecture about socially engaged art, the speaker didn’t impress me much, but her art practice did. An audience member asked a question does art inspire social change? Her answer was long and more involved then I am willing to write here, but the short answer is yes. The debate over socially engaged art for the last ten years is continuing to heat up in art world. Collaborative works have penetrated the Whitney and Venice Biennales and most Art Fairs across the globe; artists are engaging politics, environmental issues and many other conflicts that besiege the world today. Collectors, curators, galleries and museums have been asking the question, who is the author of a collaborative piece? Claire Bishop in this weeks reading posits, the creativity behind socially engaged art is said to “rehumanize” a “numb and fragmented” society and collaborative works have fallen prey to critical examination and tend to have a deeper meaning. Ms. Bishop, what art form doesn’t fall victim to critical dialogue? There is a continual argument within the art world over the precise definition of “deeper meaning” when it comes to descriptions of works of art. I believe meaning happens in the interaction between the viewer and the work. Meaning is something that happens through the cognitive processes, so it is possible to trigger an experience when looking at a piece of art. It does not matter if the work is a collaborative inspired piece or not.
Historically, artists whether they are working independently or collaborative have faced questions surrounding the process of their practice. The responsibility of socially engaged art to me is to provide a space and a voice for the voiceless in a contemporary world that feeds on contradictions, privilege and ownership. In reading Bishop’s article I find I agree with most of her arguments, but I think her arguments can be made of an individual artist working on a collage painting, because collaged works are collaborative works. Her example of the Deller piece makes me realize how much “perceptions” and “complexity” of work plays heavily in the art world and how that sometimes gets in the way of artists making interesting work. There is no arbitrariness in social engaged work and there is no arbitrariness in the meaning we forge from it. Bishop is highlighting the ways in which one must critique works made collaboratively, each artist hand makes the work unique and therefore the ownership lies with the viewer. In this article Bishop never address’ the Internet as being a collaborative space, I would be interested in her thoughts. The Internet is the perfect vehicle for collaborative works like Youtube videos, but the Internet generates other arguments, for instance, is it low or high art? Personally like the fact she stayed on the politic of "art practice"and as an artist whose work deals with social issues I find her responses in line with current climate of institution’s engagement with socially driven art.