The question of art’s impact on the world often places too much pressure on art. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s acknowledgement of “the shift from an art which imitated nature to an art which imitates art” has two art-historical implications. The first is that over the ages, art has transcended the limitations of mimicry and figuration to become richer and more interesting. The second, however, is that art has gradually removed itself from the world and has all but disappeared in a self-referential cocoon—a refuge from pragmatics, politics, and other coordinates of the real. If art is indeed separable and separate from everything else, we should be able to account for its special status and for the consequences of its remove. This is especially needed in a time when issues of social injustice, ecological disaster, and geopolitical entropy loom so large in artworks and the conversations they engender.
Can art change the world, or does it survey the downfalls of civilization from afar? Is social practice socially relevant? Are symbolic gestures political? Does the imaginative become transformative?
ICA LA’s Boxing Philosophical series invites independent scholar and artist Kandis Williams and curator Bill Kelley Jr. to consider these important questions with philosopher Rossen Ventzislavov, who returns to the series as moderator/instigator.
This timely debate is presented with the context of the museum’s current exhibitions Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush; B. Wurtz: This Has No Name; and Adrian Piper: What It’s Like, What It Is, #3.
Kandis Williams received her B.F.A. in 2008 from the Cooper Union School of Art, New York. Williams is an artist, choreographer, and independent scholar with an active curatorial and writing practice. She runs Cassandra Press with artists Jordan Nassar and Taylor Doran. Williams lives between Los Angeles and Berlin.
Bill Kelley, Jr. is an educator, curator and writer based in Los Angeles. His current research focuses on collaborative and collective art practices in the Americas. Bill has written for such journals as Afterall, P.E.A.R., and Log Journal. He served as co-curator of the 2011 Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (MDE11) and was the former Director and Co-Editor of the online bilingual journal LatinArt.com. He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Latin American and Latino art history at California State University Bakersfield (CSUB). Bill has co-edited an anthology with Grant Kester of collaborative art practices in the Americas entitled: Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art 1995-2010 (Duke University Press, 2017). He has most recently edited the bilingual volume Talking to Action: Art, Pedagogy and Activism in the Americas (University of Chicago Press 2017).
Rossen Ventzislavov, moderator, is a philosopher and cultural critic focusing on aesthetics, architectural theory, literature, popular music, and performance art. His work has appeared in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, New Literary History, Deleuze Studies, Contemporary Aesthetics, and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. He is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy at Woodbury University.