Strategies of Response

This issue of ART PAPERS began with a common equation: art + activism. But this jumping-off point immediately runs into a problem of definitions—of art, of activism—and a conflict between criteria, for although these two amorphous and adaptive categories sometimes intersect, they also have independent histories, roles, intentions, and structures of access. Wary of participating in a binary—wherein criteria for success, quality, accountability, etc. rarely overlap cleanly—we shifted course to consider strategies by which artists respond to the social and political urgencies of our time. In a time of global climate crisis (as I write this letter, the Amazon and Congo Basin forests burn) exacerbated by the international rise of xenophobia and authoritarian regimes, we do not ask whether art makes vital contributions to the future. We ask instead, how?

How does art respond to the call of our times? This issue considers some of the methods by which artists and cultural practitioners seek to respond, intervene, or shift awareness. It offers meditations on how artists imagine ways around, through, or against the structures they address in their work. With the following essays, interviews, and reviews, we hope to provide a platform for a few of art’s rejoinders.

In this ART PAPERS, David Kim and Michael Jones McKean consider the immensity of the horizon and the poetics of a global body, Christoph Chwatal explores the impact of witnessing in the essay films of Bouchra Khalili, Emily Wilkerson offers a case study of the New Orleans collective Paper Monuments. Carin Kuoni and Laura Raicovich discuss the impossibility of neutrality, and Fawz Kabra questions the logics of institutional critique in Hito Steyerl’s Drill. Jessica Vaughn talks with Magdalyn Asimakis about disrupting systems within and beyond the art world.

Kojo Ayodele Griffin’s Worksheets use the form of Mad Libs to expose the biases of language in journalism. In this issue, the reviews align closely with the theme, and Tal Beery contributes a glossary entry that picks up where I now sign off.

Sarah Higgins
Editor + Artistic Director