Artists Cultivating Direct Engagement with Communities

By Janzen, Ed | Canadian Dimension, November-December 2012 | Go to article overview

Artists Cultivating Direct Engagement with Communities


Janzen, Ed, Canadian Dimension


ART ENTHUSIASTS tired of hearing about eight-figure sales of Munches and Warhols, or sick of struggling through "jargon-rich," questionably relevant artist statements, will want to take a look at this book. Affirming Collaboration is a remarkable anthology of community-based, collaborative art projects that approach the critical socio-political issues of our time. As art markets currently emulate the boom-bust cycles of the wider neoliberal economy, and as many art practitioners respond by turning inward and focusing on their careers, this volume reveals a constellation of projects and practices that seek to change the world while remaining solidly planted in reality.

The publisher, the community arts organization Engrenage Noir/LEVIER, is well known for advancing art practices that cultivate direct engagement with communities and sociopolitical movements. Fully bilingual, and recording more than a decade's worth of art projects, events and theory across its 764 pages, Affirming Collaboration represents a major milestone for community-based art practices in Quebec and Canada.

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The subjects covered could scarcely be more diverse, ranging from art and healing in the context of physical or mental illnesses, to the practice of portraiture in relation to subjects who occupy "marginalized" positions in society, to theoretical discussions of art and ethics. One essay explores the particular political dimensions of video as a medium for storytelling and documentation, while another discusses a project that used art to break down stigmas and stereotypes associated with being a young parent. Yet another describes artists engaged in documenting a community project involving low-income people cooking collectively to meet their needs. …

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