Ideas about the role of the artist in society have been percolating broadly in discourse on art and politics. In the summer issue of Artforum Simon Critchley addressed this wave within the context of the politics of everyday life. “In the situation we find ourselves in, there are two powerful, but opposed, temptations: to participate, and to withdraw.” In this year’s Venice Biennale, curator Christine Macel asserts that the “artistic act” itself “is an act of resistance, of liberation, and of generosity.”
Against the backdrop of a discordant presidency, Human Human considers the array of ways that recent artworks register as political, and responsive. The impetus for the exhibition grew out of months of conversations with artists about urgency and agency, particularly in relation one’s work in the studio and one’s life as a citizen.
We all have a different relationship to art and politics. Some works were created as a means of retreat, regeneration, or peace. Restorative for the artist, as well for the viewer, these works mobilize a new imaginary, or simply find a space apart. Using formal strategies, some works obliquely visualize ethics of critique and models of resistance; and others directly engage an aesthetics of activism.
By bringing together works across a spectrum of making, Human Human creates a space to consider art and affect in relation to the twin impulses of escapism and action. What is the role of art in relation to world-making, from the studio to the street?
What is the dimensionality of citizenship within chaos?
Works in this exhibition all produce meaning that begins with, but transcends the logic of the studio. This means that they are artful in their politics — these are art-political objects. But what is most enduring about this work what we might call successive composition. Each one takes from the world of things and from the realms of ideas, and builds another layer, makes another move. These artworks are our polyphony, our many contours, they are our emergent present.
Participating artists: Danielle E. Campbell, Jeff Carter, Helen Maurene Cooper, Barbara Koenen, Kathryn O’Halloran, Kirsten Leenaars, Ernesto Pujol, Aram Han Sifuentes, Mary Simpson, Pedro Velez, Rhonda Wheatley, and Scott Wolniak.