DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Ripple Effect: Socially Engaged Art

Miquel Luciano uses photo kites to
call attention to the problems of
a flawed immigration policy
Art can serve many purposes. One of those is to point out social problems in an effort to promote change. That is the focus of the exhibition The Ripple Effect: Currents of Socially Engaged Art now on display at the Art Museum of the Americas.

According to curator Raquel de Anda the exhibition presents artists who "participate in the growing practice of working outside the studio to engage with communities - a genre of art often referred to as Social Practice, Relational Aesthetics, or Dialogical Art."

"The artists advance public awareness of timely issues and expand the the potential of art to engage communities. Their work exposes flaws, experiment with social interactions, and beg for new imagined potentials," de Anda added.

Aschoy Collective's Masked Man
One example is the work of  the Bolivia-based Aschoy Collective which revolves around a public action in La Paz in which a masked performer went through the streets, accompanied by musicians. It was designed to call attention to the condition of about 2,000 shoeshiners -- many of whom wear ski masks to hide that they are professionals brought low by the economy.

A wall of postcards
Another example of this social practice art is Mark Strandquist’s “Write Home Soon.” That began as a series of photographs of encampments abandoned by “Occupy” protesters. But that’s not what you’ll see at the museum. His contribution to “The Ripple Effect” is a wall of handmade postcards, each sent anonymously by people who had seen the artist’s earlier photos when they were temporarily installed on the facades of abandoned D.C. buildings.

These postcards, many of which are heartbreakingly poignant, respond to a prompt: “Have you ever lost access to a place that was important to you? Please include a memory or story from that space.” The result is a commentary on housing access and homelessness.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
You can still see the exhibition, but you will have to hurry. It is closing on January 13.

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