Books (we like)

Doris Sommer, The Work of Art in the World

Celebrating art and interpretation that take on social challenges, Doris Sommer steers the humanities back to engagement with the world. The reformist projects that focus her attention develop momentum and meaning as they circulate through society to inspire faith in the possible. Among the cases that she covers are top-down initiatives of political leaders, such as those launched by Antanas Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and also bottom-up movements like the Theatre of the Oppressed created by the Brazilian director, writer, and educator Augusto Boal.

Doris Sommer, The Work of Art in the World Duke University Press, 2014

Alleging that we are all cultural agents, Sommer also takes herself to task and creates Pre-Texts, an international arts-literacy project that translates high literary theory through popular creative practices. The Work of Art in the World is informed by many writers and theorists. Foremost among them is the eighteenth-century German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who remains an eloquent defender of art-making and humanistic interpretation in the construction of political freedom. Schiller’s thinking runs throughout Sommer’s modern-day call for citizens to collaborate in the endless co-creation of a more just and more beautiful world.


John Lederach, The Moral Imagination

John Paul Lederach’s work in the field of conciliation and mediation is internationally recognized. As founding Director of the Conflict Transformation Program and Institute of Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, he has provided consultation and direct mediation in a range of situations from the Miskito/Sandinista conflict in Nicaragua to Somalia, Northern Ireland, the Basque Country, and the Philippines. His influential 1997 book Building Peace has become a classic in the discipline.

John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace Oxford University Press, 2010

This new book represents his thinking and learning over the past several years. He explores the evolution of his understanding of peacebuilding by reflecting on his own experiences in the field. Peacebuilding, in his view, is both a learned skill and an art. Finding this art, he says, requires a worldview shift. Conflict professionals must envision their work as a creative act – an exercise of what Lederach terms the “moral imagination.”


Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just

Various political arguments have been put forward against beauty: that it distracts us from more important issues; that it is the handmaiden of privilege; that it masks political interests.

Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just Duckworth, 2006

In On Beauty and Being Just Elaine Scarry challenges such theories, offering not only a passionate defence of beauty from the political arguments against it, but also that beauty does indeed have a positive effect on life. Rather than serving the privileged it presses all of us towards a greater concern for justice.


Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another

Site-specific art emerged in the late 1960s in reaction to the growing commodification of art and the prevailing ideals of art’s autonomy and universality. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as site-specific art intersected with land art, process art, performance art, conceptual art, installation art, institutional critique, community-based art, and public art, its creators insisted on the inseparability of the work and its context. In recent years, however, the presumption of unrepeatability and immobility encapsulated in Richard Serra’s famous dictum “to remove the work is to destroy the work” is being challenged by new models of site specificity and changes in institutional and market forces.

Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity MIT Press, 2004

One Place after Another offers a critical history of site-specific art since the late 1960s and a theoretical framework for examining the rhetoric of aesthetic vanguardism and political progressivism associated with its many permutations. Informed by urban theory, postmodernist criticism in art and architecture, and debates concerning identity politics and the public sphere, the book addresses the siting of art as more than an artistic problem. It examines site specificity as a complex cipher of the unstable relationship between location and identity in the era of late capitalism. The book addresses the work of, among others, John Ahearn, Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, Donald Judd, Renee Green, Suzanne Lacy, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Richard Serra, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Fred Wilson.


Pablo Helguera, Education for the Socially Engaged Art

“This is an extremely timely and thoughtful reference book. Drawn from empirical and extensive experience and research, it provides a curriculum and framework for thinking about the complexity of socially engaged practices. Locating the methodologies of this work in between disciplines, Helguera draws on histories of performance, pedagogy, sociology, ethnography, linguistics, community and public practices.

Pablo Helguera, Education for Socially Engaged Art Jorge Pinto Books, 2011

Rather than propose a system he exposes the temporalities necessary to make these situations possible and resonant. This is a tool that will allow us to consider the difficulties of making socially engaged art and move closer to finding a language through which we can represent and discuss its impact.” -Sally Tallant, Artistic Director, Liverpool Biennial


Nato Thompson, Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011

Over the past twenty years, an abundance of art forms have emerged that use aesthetics to affect social dynamics. These works are often produced by collectives or come out of a community context; they emphasize participation, dialogue, and action, and appear in situations ranging from theater to activism to urban planning to visual art to health care. Engaged with the texture of living, these art works often blur the line between art and life. This book offers the first global portrait of a complex and exciting mode of cultural production–one that has virtually redefined contemporary art practice. Living as Form grew out of a major exhibition at Creative Time in New York City.

Nato Thompson, Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 MIT Press, 2012

Like the exhibition, the book is a landmark survey of more than 100 projects selected by a thirty-person curatorial advisory team; each project is documented by a selection of color images. The artists include the Danish collective Superflex, who empower communities to challenge corporate interest; Turner Prize nominee Jeremy Deller, creator of socially and politically charged performance works; Women on Waves, who provide abortion services and information to women in regions where the procedure is illegal; and Santiágo Cirugeda, an architect who builds temporary structures to solve housing problems.

Living as Form contains commissioned essays from noted critics and theorists who look at this phenomenon from a global perspective and broaden the range of what constitutes this form.


Steven Conn, Do Museums Still Need Objects?

“We live in a museum age,” writes Steven Conn in Do Museums Still Need Objects? And indeed, at the turn of the twenty-first century, more people are visiting museums than ever before. There are now over 17,500 accredited museums in the United States, averaging approximately 865 million visits a year, more than two million visits a day. New museums have proliferated across the cultural landscape even as older ones have undergone transformational additions: from the Museum of Modern Art and the Morgan in New York to the High in Atlanta and the Getty in Los Angeles. If the golden age of museum-building came a century ago, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Field Museum of Natural History, and others were created, then it is fair to say that in the last generation we have witnessed a second golden age.

Steven Conn, Do Museums Still Need Objects? University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010

By closely observing the cultural, intellectual, and political roles that museums play in contemporary society, while also delving deeply into their institutional histories, historian Steven Conn demonstrates that museums are no longer seen simply as houses for collections of objects. Conn ranges across a wide variety of museum types—from art and anthropology to science and commercial museums—asking questions about the relationship between museums and knowledge, about the connection between culture and politics, about the role of museums in representing non-Western societies, and about public institutions and the changing nature of their constituencies. Elegantly written and deeply researched, Do Museums Still Need Objects?is essential reading for historians, museum professionals, and those who love to visit museums.


Bill Ivey, Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights

In this impassioned and persuasive book, Bill Ivey, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, assesses the current state of the arts in America and finds cause for alarm. Even as he celebrates our ever-emerging culture and the way it enriches our lives here at home while spreading the dream of democracy around the world, he points to a looming crisis. The expanding footprint of copyright, an unconstrained arts industry marketplace, and a government unwilling to engage culture as a serious arena for public policy have come together to undermine art, artistry, and cultural heritage—the expressive life of America.

Bill Ivey, Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights University of California Press, 2008

In eight succinct chapters, Ivey blends personal and professional memoir, policy analysis, and deeply held convictions to explore and define a coordinated vision for art, culture, and expression in American life.


 

 Kimerer L. LaMothe, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming

Kimerer L. LaMothe, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming Columbia University Press, 2015

This is a thought-provoking book by Kimerer LaMothe on bodily movement and dance. It examines our ordinary conceptions of movement, while showing the problems of the materialist paradigm and mind/body dualism, which are endemic to our culture. Why do we move the way we move? How do we look at dance? How do we see our own movement and interact with the movement of others? The author, who is a dancer and a thinker at the same time, poses many questions which can jolt us out of our stagnant and complacent ways of living and moving in the contemporary world. Autobiographic pieces in the book, reflections on her own dance, birth-giving and children, make it even more interesting, the activity of reading itself more lively and interactive. I recommend the book highly. — Yunus Tuncel, Part-time Assistant Professor

 

Source: Google Books. Web. 2015.