[NetBehaviour] Socially Engaged Art, Critics and Discontents: An Interview with Claire Bishop

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Jun 23 12:37:21 CEST 2008

Socially Engaged Art, Critics and Discontents: An Interview with Claire 
By Jennifer Roche

What criteria should we use to evaluate socially engaged art?

London-based critic Claire Bishop recently raised provocative questions 
and poked at the critical status quo about the discourse surrounding 
what she term, "relational" practices — socially engaged art, 
community-based art, experimental communities, dialogic art, littoral 
art, participatory, interventionist, research-based and collaborative art.

In her article for Artforum (February 2006), titled "The Social Turn: 
Collaboration and its Discontents," Bishop argues that the creativity 
behind socially engaged art is said to "rehumanize" a "numb and 
fragmented" society. However, she emphasizes that she believes socially 
engaged art has fallen prey to circumscribed critical examinations. The 
discourse, she argues, has focused mainly on the artist's process and 
intentions, or the project's socially ameliorative effects, to the 
neglect of the work's aesthetic impact.

"Artists are increasingly judged by their working process — the degree 
to which they supply good or bad models of collaboration," she writes. 
"Accusations of mastery and egocentrism are leveled at artists who work 
with participants to realize a project instead of allowing it to emerge 
through consensual collaboration."

“There can be no failed, unsuccessful, unresolved, or boring works of 
collaborative art because all are equally essential to the task of 
strengthening the social bond," she continues. "While I am broadly 
sympathetic to that ambition, I would argue that it is also crucial to 
discuss, analyze, and compare such work critically as art.”


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