Sunday, October 9, 2011

The territory of art in society

A bit of a curve ball here, a break from the endless sea of motorcycles, a reference which I wanted to store here for later...

Reading one of my students essays today and she has referenced a book by English artist Stephen Willats called 'Art and Social Function'. I'd been talking to her about locating her work within (or around) existing contexts, histories, and trajectories. Anyway she points out that Willats defines what he refers to as “the territory of art in society,” or “art’s social environment” as “an environment of institutions and groups of people which effectively maintain it as an identifiable activity within society.

I've become fairly disenchanted with art over the last few years (too much working for art galleries!), which is only a problem because so many of my friends and colleagues are artists! Anyway Willats points to something here that I've been sort of vaugely thinking about a lot this year, just not in these terms. This idea, that art has a certain territory in society, is interesting. Because a territory is never stable, it's borders are attacked/defended etc, it can move or shift, and shrink or expand. My feeling is that shrinking is what it's been doing. I think our students have a very romantic view about the role of art in contemporary culture. The only people I ever really see at art galleries are other artists.

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