Critical Reflections on At Your Service (and beyond)

Published in M. Placentile and M. Vykoukal (eds.), CASAzine #4: Drawing the Line (Art and Activism), (pp. 151–159) September 26, 2008. Amsterdam: Cultural Analysis Summer Academy (CASA).

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In our time of seemingly constant emergency and crisis, many artists have moved away from contemplative forms of representation to direct, participatory action. Socially engaged art can be viewed as a form of constructive anthropological research because it aims to create new connections; and if such action-based art can sustain new relationships, it might generate small-scale models for alternative social arrangements and value exchanges. Thus, socially engaged art can be said to start with a commitment to the possibility for social transformation through different social constellations and behaviors and thrive on a consciousness greater than the drive for individual profit.

At Your Service consisted primarily of gestures that hinted subtly at social and political issues. It offered a springboard into exploring ways of approaching strangers in public space, yet there were times when the actions felt undetermined to its various participants. In consequence, future projects, need to relate to concrete, issue-concerned interventions that allow for deepened dialog while expanding frameworks for being and enhancing courage to live with more integrity.

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Keywords: Direct action. creative activism, social engagement, performing rights.