field: a journal of socially-engaged art criticism
We are living through a singular cultural moment in which the conventional relationship between art and the social world, and between artist and viewer, is being questioned and renegotiated. FIELD responds to the remarkable proliferation of new artistic practices devoted to forms of political, social and cultural transformation. Frequently collaborative in nature, this work is being produced by artists and art collectives throughout North, South and Central America, Europe, Africa and Asia. While otherwise quite diverse, it is driven by a common desire to establish new relationships between artistic practice and other fields of knowledge production, from urbanism to environmentalism, from experimental education to participatory design. In many cases it has been inspired by, or affiliated with, new movements for social and economic justice around the globe. Throughout this field of practice we see a persistent engagement with sites of resistance and activism, and a desire to move beyond existing definitions of both art and the political. The title of this journal reflects two main concerns. First, it indicates our interest in a body of artistic production that engages the broadest possible range of social forces, actors, discursive systems and physical conditions operating at a given site. And second, it signals a concern with the questions that these projects raise about the “proper” field of art itself, as it engages with other disciplines and other modes of cultural production.
How do these practices redefine our understanding of aesthetic experience? And how do they challenge preconceived notions of the “work” of art? For many in the mainstream art world this opening out is evidence of a dangerous promiscuity, which threatens to subsume the unique identity of art. As a result this work has been largely ignored by the most visible journals and publications in the field. At the same time, an often-problematic concept of “social engagement” has become increasingly fashionable among many museums and foundations in Europe and the United States. There is clearly a need for a more intelligent and nuanced analysis of this new tendency. However, it has become increasingly clear that the normative theoretical conventions and research methodologies governing contemporary art criticism are ill-equipped to address the questions raised by this work. FIELD is based on the belief that informed analysis of this practice requires the cultivation of new forms of interdisciplinary knowledge, and a willingness to challenge the received wisdom of contemporary art criticism and theory. We seek to open a dialogue among and between artists, activists, historians, curators, and critics, as well as researchers in fields such as philosophy, performance studies, urbanism, ethnography, sociology, political science, and education. To that end the journal’s editorial board will include a diverse range of scholars, artists, historians, curators, activists and researchers. It is our belief that it is only at the intersections of these disciplines that can we develop a deeper understanding of the cultural transformations unfolding around us.
–Grant Kester, founder and editor, FIELD