Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art
Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, edited by Zoya Kucor and Simon Leung (Blackwell, 2005)
This introduction compares the artist who is communicating an authority, be it God, Reason or Artist (for example, avant-garde artist whose objective is “shock us out of our perceptual complacency”), and dialogue-based public art. The latter is also about changing our attitudes but the artist in this case is not the authoritative force who changes the viewer but an initiator of a dialogue or conversation between different groups.
The idea of conversation is to overcome clichés and social stereotypes without forcing the participants to change their identify. It is not about finding out the truth but rather creating context where subjects are encouraged to be open to listening and understanding members of a different group. “We are led to see ourselves from the other’s point of view, and are thus, at least potentially, able to be more critical and self-aware about our own opinions. This self-critical awareness can lead, in turn, to a capacity to see our views, and our identities, as contingent, processual, and subject to creative transformation.” I think this also applies to the artist him/herself who does not start with an assumption of having a solution but creates in a more process-based way.
Art projects that are given as examples (Suzanne Lacy, “The Roof is on Fire” at the National Endowment for the Arts web site: http://18.104.22.168/artforms/Museums/Lacy.html; Austrian arts collective Wochenklausur; A Better Life for Rural Women by Nigerian artist Toro Adeniran-Kane (Mama Toro)) had positive practical solutions which seem simple but could not be thought of before those conversation actually took place.
This text did not really clarify how those social projects used aesthetic methods to facilitate the dialogues.