Thursday, September 8, 2011

Autonomy, Participation, And - Tiffany

Claire Pentecost's "Autonomy, Participation, And" describes the titular concepts as a performance, an exercising of freedom that extends beyond what she calls "the typically individual location of freedom and material well-being" but toward a shared autonomy. She challenges us (as artists, since she's addressing, I assume, art students) to an awareness of our place in the culture-making food chain, how our participation extends toward others. In the more provocative section of the article, she identifies an institutionalization of widespread ignorance that causes a disassociation between peoples and economies; she likens this ignorance of wide swathes of information as a severe stunting of any achievement of real autonomy.

I was particularly impressed with her assertion that the artists who remain ignorant continue to promote ignorance to the wider public. Though she doesn't name names, there's a hint that this is a condemnation not to be taken lightly. Each example given seems to expand to a global audience, specifically targeting consumption and distribution - everyone is implicated in some way. The final questions she raises can just as easily condemn as reveal, first focusing upon the artwork at hand, and one's own place within its scope ("If autonomy is the object, what do you want to do with your autonomy?"). She describes a difficult, uncomfortable practice, its payoff relying upon whether or not you're optimistic about what we might call "making a difference." It leads me to ask if these institutions that supposedly block knowledge actually exist, or if this assumption is simply a result of the overwhelming number of individuals that succumb to apathy because of the sheer volume of information. Christien Meindertsma's cataloguing of all the uses of a slaughtered pig (TED talk here:, indexed and catalogued in a book, is only one example of breaking this information down to bite-sized, beautifully graphic-designed bits - but are we able to direct the audience what action is to be taken from there, without simply depressing them and leading them right back to ignorance and apathy?

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