Social Art Works: Social Turns & Reciprocal Systems

Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, as part of the Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium

When people talk about socially-engaged art, they often frame it as a trade-off: As social engagement increases, the artfulness and conceptual rigor decreases. Are there ways to get out of this impasse?

This lecture explores recent experiments in socially-engaged art and performance, focusing particularly upon artists who conceive social problems as formal puzzles. Surveying key questions and issues in aesthetics and media history, the talk lingers an artists and art groups such as Rimini Protokoll, Joanna Haigood, and others who use cross-media forms to explore social issues. What does it mean to incorporate the support systems and infrastructures of the social into the interior of the artwork? What new provocations come forward when we take an aesthetic stance on the support systems of labor, global communication, and human welfare? Why are we more likely to find cross-media artists working on questions of social engagement?