It’s time to go inward man I hope I have the nerve
To take an inventory of the causes that I serveRodney Crowell
A Restless Art was published four years ago, in January 2019. It seems like another age. Since the pandemic arrived in 2020, the world has staggered like a drunk from one crisis to the next.
Actually, that’s just an image. Take any four years of world history and you’ll find a similar picture of instability. It’s true that climate change is an existential threat, but so too is nuclear power. Humanity is on a cliff edge, but not much closer than in 2019.
So why do I feel distanced from a book I wrote so recently, in which I invested so much care, and that I thought of as my last word on community art? Not because the world is in turmoil, though it is: because I am. And that turmoil makes me question much of what I thought and wrote just a few years ago. It’s not the world that’s changing, but how I see it. And how I see this restless art where I have spent my adult life.
The history and theory of community art I described in A Restless Art isn’t my main worry: it’s the practice I now doubt. At best, I think it’s served its time, and that time has passed. At worst, it has been suborned by the very power structures it emerged to challenge. Colonised and appropriated by neoliberal ideology, it can no longer empower, or even imagine better ways of living, because they have no value in that ideology.
What concerns me now is how to reclaim community art and return it to its original values and purposes. One step forward is to leave the 1960s term in its time and replace it with ‘co-creation’, though that has its own problems that will need confronting. Whatever name people settle on, though, this work has an important part to play in redressing a world out of balance, if it can reconnect us with our own spirit and strength, empowering us to work towards those better ways of living together in a vulnerable world.
I have an inkling of what that means, or at least the direction in which I need to look: hence the title of this post.
I don’t have any answers yet. Nor do I want to look for them on my own. We need co-operation and shared solutions, not individual ones. For ten years, I’ve used blogs as a way to think in public, as a deliberate effort to subvert the authority of writing. My changing ideas, including my errors and dead ends, are there for anyone to read—and to engage with. This post is a first step along a new path, and I’ll be happy if others want to walk it too.
Perhaps I’m wrong about the need to reimagine co-creation—I’m not sure about much these days—but it is what I want to think about. I’ve no idea how far my time, imagination and resources will take me, but I’m looking forward to the journey.
And if you noticed the change in title I’ve given this blog, well, that’s the name I’ve given my new project.
Hello Francois – it’s Mark here from Heart n Soul. I have been following your posts since we met at the first Gulbenkian Civic Arts Award – I would love to catch up and join you on your journey re your thoughts around the re-imagination of community art/co-creation (which I probably share) – let me know the best way to connect with you
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Hi Mark, many thanks for this. I’ll send you an email.
Yes… A conversation that is long overdue. Back to Friere I say.
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Freire, yes; a constant presence. But how to interpret his values in such a different world
I walked away from the ISME CM conference with a perhaps similar dismay. But I don’t think it’s dead.
There are activist, life-reimagining, institution-burning, brilliant, empowering and beautiful things happening – under the radar perhaps as the wider thing floats away…
If there was ever a time for it, it’s now. No?
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Thanks Matt – you’re right, there are great things happening but also a need for real, deep change. And the time is now. The solutions might take a bit longer.
Education system has a lot to answer for. The new young activists can’t see past ‘wokeness’ and their own oppression. But we are dinosaurs that are no longer relevant to listen to
I see things a bit differently, partly because of what seems to matter; but I’m only starting to work that out
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