Contemporary Art’s Evasive Social Reality
A talk by Suhail Malik, with corresponding shadow puppetry performance by Van C. Tran. Socially-engaged and participatory art often seek a constituency beyond or outside of the art field that it emanates from, constituencies such as the public, a multitude, citizens, communities, and so on. Such art strives to adapt itself to a reality beyond art’s own artifice and limitations, while also mobilizing its constructions to generate more just social realities. Yet, for all that, it is still art — ‘only’ art. In relation to the reality it seeks to impact, art then only ever falls short of what it could be and wants to be, its freedom and imagination is that of a shadow play. Contrary to this paradigm of contemporary art, an art that avows its institutional condition and limitation — for example, educational establishments — rids itself of the phantasm of a social reality that remains forever out of reach. This art can shape and establish its public as its subjects, as a social actuality in which it can intervene. But such an art is not contemporary art.
Suhail Malik is a writer and holds a Readership in Critical Studies at Goldsmiths, London, where he is Programme Co-Director of the MFA Fine Art. For 2012-13, Malik is Visiting Faculty at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York.
Van (rhymes with "fun") C. Tran uses overhead projectors to display “shadow poems” based off her relational experiences of the everyday. She received her MFA in Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara and is the recipient of various awards from the Central Coast: Isla Vista Arts, Friday Academy, and smART families from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Her work has been exhibited in the Contemporary Arts Forum in Santa Barbara, alternative spaces in Los Angeles, and San Diego Space 4 Art, an artists’ warehouse. Van currently lives and works, as an arts administrator and teaching artist, in San Diego, CA.
Co-sponsored by the Visual Arts Department, Discursive & Curatorial Production Initiative.