Curatorial Statement

This third iteration of the Creative Time Summit occurs in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Living as Form. In essence, the previous Creative Time Summits have both explored artistic approaches to social justice issues, and thus have worked to shape the intentions and complications of this exhibition. With over 100 projects displayed in an archive, twenty curatorial advisors, eight commissioned works, and a web archive of over 350 projects, Living as Form is a broad attempt to take stock of socially engaged art. Even still, this exhibition is just the tip of the iceberg.

With each manifestation of the Summit, the purview of what is considered to be under the rubric of socially engaged art incrementally grows, increasing the potentiality for new forms of community. For The Creative Time Summit: Living as Form, theater, architecture, dance and social justice non-profits have been included.

Most of the artists presenting here also have their work on display as part of the Living as Form exhibition at the historic Essex Street Market. As much of this work is extremely complicated—involving numerous audiences, workshops, and considerations of regional and cultural specificity—its presentation in archival form will certainly pale in comparison to the actual living, breathing thing. However, as it would be next to impossible to bring all that work in its living specificity together, we feel that a survey of this work, no matter how removed from its original context, will provide insights into the vast new terrain that is possible with socially engaged art. Even though this work is not easy to display, it is nonetheless a significant, growing form of cultural practice. It seems daunting to attempt to contain it all under the heading of "Art", as so much socially engaged cultural work exists outside this purview. Here, we are following the logic of cultural practice to its end instead of simply following existing definitions.

As one begins to survey these works, recurring forms, questions and considerations reveal themselves across all the disciplines: accountability, navigation of power both personal and structural, sustainability, pedagogy and reception are all points of engagement that these artists must consider in their work. While these questions are not easily resolved, knowing that they are recurrent is helpful when interacting with the works and attempting to situate them in a broader context of social practice.

Finally, this Creative Time Summit occurs during an age of austerity and its reactions. From the Arab Spring that has captured the imagination of the world to the streets of Madrid, Athens and Madison, publics are mobilizing as governments withdraw public funding and continue their efforts at negating unions. With mounting public pressure for change, mobilizing efforts have begun to spring up across the globe. Where they will go, however, is not clear. The desires of liberal democracy come with their own hangover. A past Summit presenter, Dmitry Vilensky of the St. Petersburg-based collective Chto Delat, has indicated that the lesson of Perestroika should not be forgotten. How the artists, activists, thinkers and other engaged citizens of the world act on this is what we are here to consider. The name Chto Delat, taken from a pamphlet written by Vladmir Lenin, raises a worthwhile question to consider: "What is to be done?"

Nato Thompson
Chief Curator, Creative Time