Robert Atkins on Tue, 16 Apr 2002 02:35:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] lecture: media, activism, Sept 11th

Orange County Museum of Art, Wednesday, April 24, 7 pm, 850 San Clemente
Dr., Newport Beach=20

The Artworld, Community and Activism: A Meditation Inspired by the Events of
September 11th: a lecture by Robert Atkins

In the wake of September 11th, we are awash in government- and mass media
rhetoric about "patriotism," "sacrifice," and "change." Many of these
representations serve to further the already-defined agenda of those in
power, rather than to promote discussion and democracy. Art's role in
crisis--if it is regarded as relevant at all--is seen as entirely

Crisis creates pressures to dispense with business-as-usual, sometimes
revealing the real (cultural) fissures of the day. In terms of arts
practice, we might consider such questions as: What does community mean in a
Western culture of increasing transience, materialism and diminishing publid
space? Given the apotheosis of the artist as an individual genius for the
past 500 years, is the very idea of post-Renaissance art involving community
a contradiction in terms? Why have exemplars of community-minded, often
public art been excluded from the art-historical canon? (Consider the
performances of Suzanne Lacy, the confrontational AIDS-activist works by the
Gran Fury collective and many others, and even Joseph Beuy=B9s founding of
the Free University in 1972.) Is the Internet the last, best hope for art
attempting genuine social change? What effective community-oriented
initiatives have been created online? What catalytic or symbol-making role
can artists play in times of crisis? How can critical works find their place
in an entertainment-oriented museum culture? And in an increasingly
monolithic, mass-media age how can the arts promote the emergence of diverse
and independent voices?

This illustrated lecture will address these matters, tracing the
post-sixties history of activist art and the emergence of organizations such
as Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America and Visual
AIDS, as a backdrop for considering both current cultural conditions and
artistic practice.

Robert Atkins, a New York-based art historian, is the initiator of 911=8BTHE
SEPTEMBER 11 PROJECT: Cultural Intervention in Civic Society
( and a founder of Visual AIDS, the group that
originated Day Without Art and the Red Ribbon. He has taught at numerous
universities and art schools, including the Rhode Island School of Design,
where he currently teaches.  A former columnist for The Village Voice, he is
currently working on an anthology of his writing called "Eye/I Witness: Art
Writing as Activism, Criticism and Reportage." A contributor to more than
100 publications throughout the world, he has received awards for art
criticism from the NEA and Manufacturers Hanover Bank. He is the author of
the best-selling "ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements and
Buzzwords," its companion "ArtSpoke: A Guide to Modern Ideas, Movements and
Buzzwords 1848-1944," and "From Media to Metaphor: Art About AIDS," the book
accompanying the exhibition of the same name, the first travelling museum
show of its kind.

He is a Fellow at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon
University, media-arts editor for The Media Channel (,
editor/producer of Artery: The AIDS-Arts Forum
( From 1996-98,  he held the position of
editor-in-chief of the Arts Technology Entertainment Network, a New York
Times start-up company producing arts programming for the Internet and cable
TV. And in 1995, he founded the City University of New York-sponsored
TalkBack! A Forum for Critical Discourse
(, among the first American online
journal about online art. He has curated exhibitions for far-flung venues
including the Sao Paulo Bienal, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New
York, and the Sagacho Exhibition Space in Tokyo.

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