Working in non-art contexts and creating active, participatory relationships between viewer and artwork are two key strategies deployed by artists with specific social justice goals. Do these strategies increase the potential for impact by broadening audience and modeling active participation, or do they render the work less visible and understandable to a wider audience? How does a work of art that is happening in the context of daily life announce itself as art? What are the consequences of a project being positioned as artwork, and visible as such?
When considering an artwork's potential for impact, it is important to fully consider its relationship to the various audiences that form around its creation, enactment, and representation, and how each audience is addressed differently. One project might have many participants operating at multiple proximities, each having very different experiences. This same project might also be reflected to a number of passive spectators via documentation presented in an art context, news media, storytelling, or other representational means.
Who are these publics, how do they form? Is the work addressing an audience actively or is it the subject of an address? Who is a participant and who is an audience? Are any of these modes of address effective proxies or rehearsals for actual political engagement? To what extent does the mode of address not just determine an audience but create it?
This episode considers the multiple audiences and participants that a socially engaged artwork can accrue, both as it is actively engaging participants and as it is re-contextualized through representation to ancillary audiences.