As A Blade of Grass keeps gearing up for its first grant cycle for individual artists and institutions, I’ve been thinking a lot about our mission, and why we are looking for innovation beyond the gallery context.
Tania Bruguera, putting Duchamp’s Fountain back into use at Queens Museum of Art
Contemporary art has organized itself around a specific set of avant-garde strategies in which art’s merit—you could even call it purity—is a function of its difficulty, and meaning and excellence hinge on a larger public’s limited capacity for understanding. This creates two problems. It can make contemporary art into a hermetic insider’s game that’s of limited value to a larger culture. And more insidiously, because we still call these strategies avant garde, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that last century’s strategies for visual and conceptual innovation are still innovative almost 100 years after Duchamp’s Fountain graced its pedestal.
A Blade of Grass will be giving two Art In Context Awards of up to $35,000 to artists and one grant of up to $50,000 to a non-profit institution in 2012 via an open call for applications for both artists and institutions. If you are an institution, you can send us a letter any time between now and December 16, 2011. If you are an artist, you can apply online starting October 15, 2011.
We are doing an open call because we are not quite sure what we are looking for, and we don’t want to miss anything. We see artists doing sanctioned and rogue public projects that push past contemporary art’s Inscrutability Barrier. We see artists creating and collaborating with corporations and organizations, working collectively, making alternative economies, engaging in social change, writing code, using the web and social media, publishing their own books. On the organizational front, art spaces are making political waves, directly engaging communities, enabling an ever-expanding variety of public projects. Artist collectives are evolving into organizations. Established organizations are pushing more actively into their communities.
A Blade of Grass’ primary organizing principle is that we are only seeing the tip of an iceberg. So rather than laying our dollar on a specific political or aesthetic agenda, we propose that any of these new contexts has the potential to move the dialogue past the historical notion of the vanguard that has long since congealed into a set of art-making recipes, and into new fertile ground. These contexts privilege collaboration and communication over inscrutability. They require artists to be externally focused and think in terms of economies and stakeholders. They allow both artists and viewers to redefine both the art experience and artistic success. They can even actively push at the boundaries of what art is.
These are the topsy-turvy conditions under which innovation occurs. We salute every artist and institution that’s pushing the envelope. We hope that every single person who reads this post spreads the word. We welcome your questions. And we look forward to seeing a lot of great applications from both artists and institutions!