Theme Self & Others
The following is an excerpt from an essay in Teaching Contemporary Art with Young People by Jorge Lucero.
Contemporary art that deals with relationships presents one of our core human necessities as its main material. Our desire to understand others and be understood by them - plus our willingness to knot our stories to others’ stories - is used by artists who focus on relationships to give their work a larger-than-life quality and reach.
Immigrant Movement International.
In collaboration with the Queens Museum of Art, Bruguera opened up a storefront so that members of the community could have a gathering space to enact artistic and activist projects.
Very quickly after the center’s start, though—and ever since—the community members took over, offering classes in everything from fitness to citizenship; holding festivals featuring traditional foods, folkloric performances, and informational speeches about the center’s programming; and using the space to conduct support groups that would strengthen not only the relationships within the various immigrant communities themselves but also the relationships between the immigrant communities and nonimmigrant communities.
This last aspect uses the project’s “officialness” to amplify the voices of those who may have previously stayed in the shadows. Being designated merely as the “initiator,” Bruguera recedes so far into the background of the artwork that it becomes less important to determine who started what and more important to see the real effects that projects like this have on the hundreds of stakeholders who take part in their programming, construction, and products.
Lisa Jarrett and Harrell Fletcher: King School Museum of Contemporary Art
The King School Museum of Contemporary Art
A contemporary art museum, the King School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMoCA, 2014–present), is housed in an elementary school in Portland, Oregon. The school, alongside artists Lisa Jarrett and Harrell Fletcher’s students, invited contemporary artists from all over the world to put on exhibitions, lectures, art fairs, workshops, a podcast, and other occurrences that one would find in major museums the world over.
Through KSMoCA, the school community becomes more literate about the institution known as the “artworld,” and the artists, professors, and college students become more literate about King School’s educational and cultural dynamics. By mutually sharing the space and its objectives, the participants of KSMoCA simultaneously ask “What can art be if it is school?” and “What can school be if it is art?”
Nicole Marroquin is a Chicago artist and educator whose collaborative work using archives blurs the lines between studying and activating found knowledge to empower and mobilize people today. After finding sparse materials about school uprisings on the southwest side of Chicago, Marroquin collected first-hand accounts; enacted walking tours of sites where significant events occurred; and collaborated with other artists, teens, and teachers—plus made objects, installations, and prints—in order to showcase her findings, but also to galvanize a potentially passive populace into action.
Harrison High School Student Uprising 1968
Pedro Reyes and United Nations (pUN)
People’s United Nations (pUN)
People’s United Nations (pUN) is an event enacted by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes. Reyes uses the form of a world peace summit in order to bring people together around conversations that perhaps an actual international summit—attended by delegates from each country—may never take up.
By combining the absurdist modes and humorous permissions of art with the seriousness and utopian aspirations of a world summit, the participants of the People’s United Nations are able to be more playful with their topics of conversation and consequently delve into areas of discussion which may seem “off-topic” in a more sanctioned event. By releasing his participants from the pressure of having to solve actual world problems through tried and true modes, Reyes affords his participants the opportunity to propose utopian solutions that don’t seem that far off, especially if they’re acted on by everyone as opposed to just diplomats and elected officials.
The pUN is simultaneously an installation (with some fixed qualities) and a public commons (ready to host whatever qualities its participants bring to it).