Art + Citizenship
Issue

8.1 / Art + Citizenship

November 10 2016
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Untitled drawing for Flow City, 1983–2001

Introduction

I sat down to write this an hour after listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. My fingers moved so fast, so furiously, tears falling on the keyboard.  Six months ago, we were in the middle of this divisive election year and we wanted to bring voices together to illuminate a topic that defines and divides us: citizenship. How contemporary art acts as a resource/convener/agitator was prescient in our minds. How can the art world do more than provide refuge but offer insight to why socially engaged thinking matters? How do artists, curators, and creative interveners bring criticality, awareness, and sensitivity to news headlines and lived experiences in a fast moving political climate? Even during a tolerable administration, this was on our minds as borders closed and migrant vessels capsized in the Mediterranean Sea; as walls were verbally and psychologically constructed and bodies - black, brown, transgender, queer – were erased. We didn’t know how this election would turn out then, but we knew that this was a time for active discourse. But now, more than ever, we know it is a time to act, to listen, to publish, to organize.

In this issue seven contributors from across the country consider how citizenship relates to cultural and political systems as they intersect with artistic practices, institutions, and diverse publics. Publishing a mere 48 hours after the 2016 presidential election results, these voices carry for us a renewed sense of our commitment to social justice, political change, and community care continuing our steadfast belief in the power of making voices heard, of challenging “easy” writing, and lifting up the work of artists as a lens through which we can realize action—even if it is in the face of tremendous odds. As our executive director, Michele Carlson, recently wrote: “Whom do we work for? What is our work, and most importantly, what world does it create?” This issue is committed to creating the type of valuable dialogue we want to engender: a community of viewpoints, a diversity of experience. It is through bringing voices together that mobilization and change can occur. Do not be silent. —Kara Q. Smith

 

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