Thursday, April 15, 2010

There must be a relationship

Forgive me for posting another drawn out response to the reading, but this is how I process information. Internal debates are how I learn.

Within her essay Alternative Space, Rosalyn Deutsche engages several critical theories in the process of deciphering a relationship between Art and the City. This relationship is brought to the forefront with the discussion of the art gallery’s role in gentrification and, subsequently, the displacement of the homeless. This very issue was the basis of a panel discussion about New York’s East Village. In response to a panelist’s statement, Roger Kimball remarks that “He never specified just what the homeless might have to do with art- how could he have done so, since they have nothing at all to do with art?”
I find myself immediately appalled by such a remark, which perhaps is Deutsche’s intention. The question remains, what sort of thought process leads to Kimball’s perspective, and for that matter, the opposite response that I favor? By elaborating of several Neoconservative criticisms, Deutsche points out a sort of mechanization of urban development. This eliminates the resident’s role in the formation of a city, instead placing responsibility on a “provision of facilities to fulfill ‘essentiall’ human needs.” According to Neoconservatives, this eliminates the urban environment from the political realm. I find a major flaw in this argument. My observations of Baltimore have led me to believe that residents play an integral role in the formation of their city. Community organizations, such as Charles North Community Organization, depend upon the involvement of the local population. It therefore seems self-evident that the environment plays a major political role. The question remains, how does this environment relate to art, and does the latter part of the political realm as well?
On the topic of public art, Deutsche mentions the concept of a “pure art experience,” in which art is at the forefront while the social realm is made a backdrop. I find this to be a highly irrational stance. One cannot separate a work of art from its surrounding context. For one, the artist will inevitably be influenced and inspired by his or her surroundings. Once the art is placed in a location, the experience it invokes in the viewer is influenced by the immediate physical surroundings. This is all to say that the human condition prohibits one from transcending their context: there is no pure, un-bias experience.
I have assumed the political realm requires the involvement of social forces (in this case, residents of an urban environment). If art cannot be separated from its physical and social context, then it must therefore be political. With this in mind, Kimball is mistaken in his statement about art and homelessness. Art is inseparable from the galleries it is displayed in, and consequently contributes to gentrification and displacement. This cause and effect relationship is proof that art and homelessness are indeed related.

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