Here is my final article in a 5 part series on Chicago arts for the Belgian art magazine H-Art
This series of five articles will be an introduction to Chicago, Illinois USA and its local critical cultural experimentation, written from the perspective of a magazine editor and curator committed to navigating the city in all its complexity. In previous articles in this series I have overviewed local art history, arts publishing, artists working in groups and running spaces, and surveyed the state of local cultural institutions.
Critical Culture in Chicago – Article #5: Artists Making Community
by Daniel Tucker
I’m always hearing arts organizations talk about “outreach.”
In 1999 Malcolm Gladwell published an article in the New Yorker magazine that described Lois Weisberg, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for city government here in Chicago, as a “connector.” While this article popularized the term, the concept has been utilized in sociology and the research of social networks for many years longer. And as a concept, it’s pretty straight forward – there are people in this world who know lots of people, are good at making introductions between people, and generally behave socially in a similar way as a “node” does on an communications network – connecting and redistributing connectivity.
Connecting people in service of building community is particularly impoverished at this historical moment. This is due in part to the new and unresolved networking potential of the Internet, yet there are certainly other material and psychic reasons for gradual fragmentation and alienation that are much more complex than communications technologies. While it can be easier than ever to accumulate “friends” through online social networking or mass distribute information via the web, those of us interested in artistic practices that have potential to affect and alter social relations know that getting together in the same room as others to dialogue about and enact our passions and commitments is as necessary now as ever.
With this final text in the five part series, I will focus on introducing individuals that do the hard work of building community in Chicago – in person. They don’t have fixed organizational affiliations and they float around town engaging and touching many projects, communities and spaces. This is intended to be an introduction to their work based on my observation of local cultural production over the last nine years. I must acknowledge that there are many other people involved in this work, that community is the result of more people’s participation than just those that organize and promote its existence and do projects to foster it, and that these are a few strong examples among many occurring simultaneously and historically here in Chicago.