A new paradigm of an engaged, participatory and socially relevant art is emerging.
If you're out, you're out - you simply don't count," the artist Sandro Chia once declared in an interview in Art in America. Referring to the art world, he said, "Anything that happens must happen within this system," which he went on to describe: "I work for a few months, then I go to a gallery and show the dealer my work. The work is accepted, the dealer makes a selection, then an installation. People come and say you're good or not so good, then they pay for these paintings and hang them on other walls. They give cocktail parties and we all go to restaurants and meet girls. I think this is the weirdest scene in the world."
Sandro Chia's description of the art world as a suburb of hell is all too familiar; it is a world in which artists are defined through showing or not showing, selling or not selling, and through the goals of money, prestige, and power that are so crucial to our whole society's notion of success.
Within the modernist paradigm under which I grew up, art has been typically understood as a collection of prestigious objects, existing in museums and galleries, disconnected from ordinary life and action. Defined entirely in individualistic terms, the modern artist's quest was enacted within the inner sanctum of a studio, behind closed doors. This mythology of the lone genius, isolated from society, and relieved of social responsibility, is summed up for me in these comments by the painter Georg Baselitz: "The artist is not responsible to anyone. His social role is asocial; his only responsibility consists in an attitude to the work he does. There is no communication with any public whatsoever... It is the...