Cultural Pilgrimages and Metaphoric Journeys – Suzanne Lacy

In this essay Lacy talks about the prevalent social issues around the globe and the response of the artists to that. Critics and people have termed this as a ‘new genre of public art’ as it relies on the intention than the form which adheres to the traditional and nontraditional media as a tool for engaging and interacting with the public. The ‘new genre’ as defined by Lacy incorporates all forms of pure art, a combination of them as well as it plays around with them. The new genre public artists are evolving new modes of visual ideas by keeping the sensitivity of the social and economic condition. Patricia C Phillips defines an artwork as the relationship between the public art and the audience.

Public Art falls under the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States as the Art in Public Places Program. Lacy talks on Art in Public Places: by specifying that ‘art in public places was seen as a means of reclaiming and humanizing the urban environment’. She talks of the selection panels of the NEA and the changes of policies from the sixties to the recent times. Early seventies gave birth to ‘site-specific art’ which was commissioned and designed for a specific place considering the physical and visual demographics. Eighties laid down the fundamentals and encouraged conferences and a team for public art.

Art in the Public Interest: Under this topic she talks on how public art was influenced but the different social movements such as feminist, ethnic, Marxist, media artists and other activists. These movements had effects on the public arts and paved roads for critical thinking. She investigates these activities in different time periods and their effects on the cultural side, the media, the artists and the art scene. She deduces that despite the varied activist movements of time the nature of art as a mode of communication and articulation of specific audiences formed the basis for the new genre of the public art.

Recent History: Calls to Action: Lacy emphasizes that the foundation of the new genre of the public art rests on the audience, the relationship, communication and the political intention. She elaborates the four factors responsible for them

  1. Increased racial discrimination and violence in the eighties
  2. The political conservatism of the eighties and nineties for women
  3. Linked to the both the above points
  4. Environmental and health crisis

This essay mentions that the new genre public art is not only about the subject matter, or site but also about the aesthetic expression of the activated value systems.

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One comment

  1. Aleks

    Archana – thanks for this. You’ve identified some important passages in the text. I hope that we can expand on this in class to better understand the overarching nature of Lacy’s argument. What do you mean by “pure art”? What are “activated value systems”? And how does Lacy’s text engage with some of the ideas already covered in the course?

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