Reading Lists: Southwest Contemporary’s monthly compilation of worth-while writings from around the art-world internet.
Kara Walker on demanding exactitude in the pursuit of historical truth:
‘How will the world be changed by this event?’ The question keeps making the rounds. To which I reply: ‘Which event?’ There are many events, each one of us is an event. The question is too broad and inadequate. As the world is big, so are we, but our goals are small. Foremost in our minds is a wish to return our personal traumas to their mental storage space and resume the act of living as it was before. Implicit in the question of change is a failure to fully accept that the jobs, the money, the infrastructure are simply not going to be there ‘in the future’, at least not in the same way. [Frieze]
British cultural historian Robert Hewison on reimagining the infrastructure of the arts:
Notwithstanding the fact that they exist within a market economy, the arts are not, ultimately, a commodity. They are an offering. They offer meanings that exist outside the cash nexus. They offer delight, they offer hope, they offer consolation. As I have long argued, there is a difference between value in exchange and value in use, between cash value and cultural value. We have to think of the arts as part of the public realm, that space where private and public interests meet and where their conflicts can be resolved, where the local can find accommodation with the national, and where there are institutions that are not driven solely by the profit motive, but by the idea of a greater public good. When we attend a performance or visit a gallery, we become more than individuals, we become the collective sharers of a common imaginative space. [The Art Newspaper]
The editors of Art Agenda double down on the mission of arts criticism during crisis:
If the role of criticism is to read the signs of a culture, then the first responsibility of publications such as this is to preserve the freedom of its writers. Which sounds self-evident, but stick with us. Freedom in this context means being able to write against consensus; to resist the idea that writers are instruments of a predetermined cultural politics; to write in-depth about contemporary art in a media landscape dominated by disposable emotional experiences.
Which is to say, the freedom not to follow the prevailing wind but independently to interpret the signs and think about where they might lead. [Art Agenda]
Ben Davis reimagines art’s mission in the time of social distancing:
The more common reason people visit a museum is social, as a prop for being together, as a sort of puzzle to figure out with friends or companions. Art is, at its most stripped-down level, something that people like to talk about—a kind of symbolic currency people pass between one another, a bank of images to give a shape to shared meaning.
And while we can’t literally be together just now, our hyper-mediated tools do offer ways to tap into these social parts of art experience. [Artnet News]
The Art Dealers Association of America reported the results of their COVID-19 Impact Survey of U.S. Art Galleries:
Such immediate and devastating revenue losses will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on these small businesses and the broader arts community for the next 12 to 18 months if not longer, and it is still uncertain how long such losses may continue. It is essential that federal, state, and local governments take further action to ensure that the small business community, including art galleries, have access to the critical support that is needed if they are to sustain their businesses for the long-term and continue their essential contributions to the nation’s vibrant arts and culture landscape. [ADAA]
Jörg Heiser on the “empty heroics” of quarantine art and the role of public artists and thinkers during a crisis:
All of these examples beg the question of why artists and intellectuals pay lip-service to social causes or, worse, promote stale concepts of the free-spirited intellectual who heroically dissents from the petit-bourgeois majority and their lemming-like submission to in-the-closet Hitlers. The answer is simple: because not doing so would require them to admit to themselves and others an unsettling sense of existential insecurity. That is hard to do, so the typical panic reaction has been to rehash preconceived notions to fit new circumstances. An exception to that rule was Jürgen Habermas, who said in an interview in early April: “We have never understood better how little we know, and about the constraint of having to act and live under conditions of insecurity.”
. . .
Artists and thinkers might consider the reasons to seek a public platform, and what to do with it. They should be prepared to acknowledge uncertainty, to embrace instability, and to rethink their ideas. Rather than filling the void with empty rhetoric, at the very least what’s needed are reflections on what it means to live in that void.
I’m sure that someone, somewhere, is creating a masterpiece about this crisis. But we might not get to experience it for quite a while. Because good things take time. And that’s fine. [Art Agenda]