IS IT ART, didactic science or social work?

Joanna Peace (UK)

Joanna Peace (UK)

Currently in the contemporary art world there is a preoccupation that art needs to be “purposeful”. Whether this agenda is coming from the artists, curators, funders or producers, it has become increasingly apparent that, quoting curator Patricia Watts from EcoArtSpace: “we are in a major transition period where idle contemplation is not necessary for our survival.” We are experiencing a major wake-up call, a shift in perception. This is huge! I don’t have a doctorate degree in art history, but something tells me we’re at the verge of a new “ism”.

As curator and activist I agree that navel-gazing is no longer appealing, but at the same time, I know from experience that beauty can move mountains. So, today’s art has been asked to step up, to not only delight but also question the way we do things and contribute to the betterment of humanity, both conceptually and physically … I think this is extremely exciting! Of course, this quest is never easy: there are those who are making community gardens and calling it art, and others who criticize projects like ours for being a bunch of hippies that know nothing about environmental science. I think that questioning, experimenting across disciplines and learning is a really good start.

The artists that joined us in residence at Guapamacátaro this year were definitely aware of all these issues and actively engaged the arts and ecology paradox. There were processes and findings that achieved this balance more successfully than others, but product is ultimately not the goal of our program—cultivation is.

Culture is acquired by study and application; cultivation is developed by training and exposure. Source: