Politics at Play
INTERVIEW WITH COLLABORATING CURATOR JOHN JAMES ANDERSON
REPRISE: 40 to the Fore rethinks, remixes, and re-presents some of the groundbreaking exhibitions that emerged from our galleries over the past 40 years.
INTERACTIVISM (2014) in response to Picturing Politics: Artists Speak to Power (2008)
In 2008, Picturing Politics: Artists Speak to Power focused on the intersection of art and power. John James Anderson, one of the artists in the 2008 exhibition, returns as collaborating curator for InterActivism, which looks at the ways in which artists merge interests in political issues with interactive audiences and subjects with activism. Participating artists include Gabriela Bulisova, Eric Gottesman, Siobhan Rigg, and Danielle Scruggs.
You were in the 2008 exhibition Picturing Politics: Artists Speak to Power and now you’ve helped put together our current show InterActivism which is based on the 2008 show. How do you see the two shows relating to one another?
Mostly through the identity of a political art: which can be a very broad label through which to view works of art. In this instance, the exhibitions are a little less-related. This is partially due to the scope (total artists reduced to a quarter or fewer), and partially due to content (no White-House-Resident Bashers).
What role do you think politics has in art?
None. All. Depends on the artist. Depends on the goal of the work. There are too many divergent strains of art since 1850. And there is the whole big P versus little p of the politics at play. For some it is the politics of the history of representation and craft that is rebelled against (or for). For others it is a reflection of a specific issue in the work.
How has that shifted (or not) during the time that you’ve been a practicing artist?
My guess is not much. An artist is only aware of so much: it’s a growing pool. If you ever took swimming lessons as a kid, you only have a comprehension of the pool you bob and piss in, and an awareness of a pool beyond. But, you don’t really know that pool until you are bobbing in it: its depth and length. DC political art is one area in reference to national and international political art. My sense is it has not changed: partially because not much has changed in the six years since 2008. I mean, sure, lots of states recognize legal marijuana and gay marriage. There are still just as many ass holes who would drag you across a mile of gravel road for being gay, or lock you up and throw away the key for lighting a joint.
How does your work as a curator relate to your practice as an artist?
A curatorial practice depends on where you are. I curate to students who lives outside the beltway and may have never gone to a museum on the National Mall, or a gallery in DC. So I have to go beyond Ninja Turtles and Anime; Grant Wood, Van Gogh, and Dali. So, what I curate is not so much related to my practice as it is to the -X that is not the aforementioned.
Do you think artists and curators have a responsibility to address social issues in their work?
No. An artist’s responsibility is to make work that relates to the artist making work. Social or political works are an organic act of process, awareness, or research. Some artists do it, and others don’t. Neither should be slighted for not accomplishing the other.
Save the date! Saturday, August 23, from 1 pm to 4 pm we will host a gallery talk featuring the artists and curators for InterActivism and Of Present Bodies . Come to hear from the artists and curators, stay to mingle with them over wine and cheese.