When is art no longer art, and when are artists no longer artists?

One of my key research questions was “…what is the ‘art’ and where does it exist; is it in the work, is it the experience in the making, the social interaction, or the finished object itself? Where do I sit with projects that are collaborative, am I a facilitator? artist? collaborator? editor?”

I lifted these notes from The Pantograph Punch: Artistic Agency in Public Agencies By K. Emma Ng while I consider what my role or position is moving into the new year. The context is different, but the article is covering some of the same ground in contemporary public art work.

“Sometimes it seems that in public processes the work of artists is conflated with that of designers. The PAIR programme is based on the idea that that “artists are creative problem-solvers. They are able to create long-term and lasting impact by working collaboratively and in open-ended processes to build community bonds, open channels for two-way dialogue, and reimagine realities to create new possibilities for those who experience and participate in the work.” These expectations overlap significantly with our understanding of what designers do: solve problems through a collaborative process of dialogue, research and imagination. When is art no longer art, and when are artists no longer artists?”


Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation Performance (1977-1980). Image courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. [source, The Pantograph Punch]

“Motivated by an ethics of care, artists are often striving for a grander conception of ‘public good’ than a single project might allow. This is the critical function of art, and it is dependent upon the artist’s freedom to act as a critic. But unlike Bishop, I don’t think this means artists must always work in an antagonistic mode. Artists can indeed be valuable facilitators working within public agencies, if what they are facilitating is an agonistic framework for a public that contains multitudes. The role of artists in public projects should be generative, rather than ameliorative.

‘Public good’ is an idea that is constantly shifting. A creative city is one that invites artists to contribute to shaping physical manifestations of public good within the built environment. But a creative city that truly values artists also understands that they are not journeymen, and is willing to support them even when they can’t be put to work in the same way as other creatives. Sometimes artists are the big cogs, working on slower, more fundamental change.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s