Anticipating my entry into Open Space has been an unexpectedly thoughtful (i.e. anxiety producing) experience. Agoraphobia is a tempting word for its literal meaning, but it’s not quite the condition I’m experiencing. It is related to a different, yet equally vast space, of open opportunity as well as overwhelming cultural and political shift. That is, these days, it’s infinitely more exciting reading about skirmishes in Wisconsin than what Roberta Smith wrote about the Armory Show.
And that’s just sticking to domestic issues. Art exhibitions, which these days seem to be of a middling variety and aesthetically all over the map, can’t compete with the more focused, if inconclusive actions sweeping across North Africa or the Midwest. Nor should they. Yet here I am, weighing the options about how best to make use of a wide-open, institutionally supported forum that allows for more thematic and stylistic latitude than I’ve been afforded in other venues.
I’m looking forward to using this platform as a means to engage public conversation—and I wager that over the next four months the thematic thread will be one of cultural revision rather than aesthetic innovation. For someone who has been steeped in visual art for decades, that’s a somewhat uncomfortable, though not exactly unwelcome equation. It does, however, suggest the possibility of teetering between weariness and inspiration.
Apparently, I’m not the only one feeling this way. I’ve been surprised by how many art world friends—artists, curators, writers, collectors—who have admitted their doubts about the making, selling or writing about art, wondering how it matters in the broader scope of the world—though more importantly, the role it plays in our lives. I had just such a conversation last night (over rather tasty cocktails), wondering if we’d be better off in a more visibly altruistic profession. There was no tidy resolution, of course, but the conversation spoke to the nature of reinvention and critical thinking. What would the art world be if it didn’t flicker with these moments of doubt? (We’ve had these conversations before, and we’ll doubtlessly have them again.)
I’m heartened to see the content of the first couple entries from my blog cohorts (people I’m thrilled to be in the company of). Norma’s post poetically dovetails with my own thoughts about who we are communicating with here, and when dialogs about art really matter; Christine’s initial diagram reveals a circular thought process that, for me, has been activated by this venue. I’m particularly taken by her question of what keeps us motivated and resilient in this game. It usually involves standing up to those fears and finding new challenges, or by wading back in and encountering an inspiring new work. I did actually read Roberta’s review, and would have to agree with her sunnier assessment of the fairs—she cites them as “pools of information that can humble, broaden and energize you in significant ways.” Here’s to more of that.