Socially Engaged Contemporary Art: Tactical and Strategic Manifestations

Artists who are committed to social justice through their work must navigate a complex contemporary art world characterized by numerous political positions and aesthetic expectations. In this paper, Nato Thompson observes two overarching approaches taken by artists—strategic and tactical—that operate against a political and economical infrastructure. Thompson describes successful examples in both categories, including sustained place-based work; culturally engaged radical pedagogy; engaged museums; engaged academic institutions; and a variety of work that raises questions rather than resolving them. Among the organizations highlighted as doing strategic socially engaged art are the Center for Urban Pedagogy and the Queens Museum; their efforts are infrastructural and sustained in a place over time. Artists highlighted as working through tactical and often guerrilla-style forms of intervention include Critical Art Ensemble and its Free Range Grain project and Paul Ramirez Jonas’ Key to the City implemented in partnership with Creative Time.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 1.28.35 PMNThompson Trend Paper

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