Thursday, May 07, 2009

Canvas Abandon

Art is leaving the museum halls in search of a more vital interactive context. In this day and age of individual accomplishment and self-enhancement it seems yet again our artists are one step ahead of us and aiming for the change that others only just begin to feel the need for. It is a change towards reconnection, a switch from using art to observe and analyze to making art the art of interaction, a social event.

The contrast is similar to what in psychology would be called natural observation (meticulously recording and analyzing what we see in a natural setting on paper) and setting up an experiment (the bringing together of people who actively participate and generate the result). Art is no longer a question posted by the artist, analyzed by him to then be presented to us as a conclusion of his thought process. It has become a question posted to the public and asking for their hands-on participation and analysis. “Giving each person a voice is what builds the community and makes art socially responsive.” (Gablik :82)

Where some might question whether this interactive form of art is really art; I would suggest to turn to art history for an answer. Many of the great artists we know from before were initially not accepted because their ideas were ahead of ours, because their concepts broke boundaries we had set for ourselves and because they explored our cultural norms in ways we had never thought of. They made art in a different way and we also questioned its validity.

While we used to have the tendency to sit back and observe art as if we were sitting in front of a TV, we are no longer going to be entertained as such. Having always been focused on looking, obsessing over, and gazing, art now requires action. Lygia Clark is one of those artists who challenges us to let go of our ‘normal’. She crosses the boundaries of observation and those of objects and people, and creates pieces where object and body become one. In blindfolding people, enhancing their other senses and giving them only their hands to grasp what life is around them, she challenged us to step out of our comfort zone, requiring interaction to experience.

Instead of depicting subjects of controversy one is now challenged to physically experience it. There is a common quote used among teachers everywhere: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will understand.” I feel contemporary art is doing exactly that. We have gone from the showing stage to the involving stage. Art is out to change the world; not by hinting at change with images, but by grabbing people by the hand and making them experience and become part of the change.

So art is not contained on a canvas any longer, it has taken on the world as a place to manifest itself. From the halls of galleries where it only reached the elite few that came by, it now goes for a stroll outside, to meet people, to interact, to confront. There is no limit to space for art other than the limits of our minds and the world is our canvas. Through art we can negotiate the direction where we want to go with our life, our culture, humanity but, most importantly, where we don’t.

It seems a logical step for art to take on this social form as people are a social species and nothing in this world ever happened because one person took action. It was always an idea multiple people stood up for that determined the course of life. Art in a way is promoting this vision. Emotion is steered in a new direction, sensitizing us to the course we were so obliviously walking along, making us aware of the others walking alongside of us and asking of us to evaluate, in our newfound perspectives, our norms and values. Art is looking for a purpose other than pleasure, not only requesting awareness but a common step up to a world of harmony. We are still looking for aesthetics, maybe not on paper but in the immediate world around us, and art is still our way to represent it.