I have a confession to make. I have a problem with academic writing. This isn’t a secret, one of my favorite Saul Alinsky quotes is “the word ‘academic’ is a synonym for irrelevant.”
I work in academia, I am an educator, and because of this there is sometimes confusion about my positionality. I have worked with editors who aren’t happy with what I write, criticizing my style by saying, “there’s nothing intrinsically problematic about it, but it’s not pursuing the conveyed academic format.” I write this way because as someone invested in these conversations I think that if I am not into reading it what are the chances that others will be? I recently wrote a book review for a prestigious academic journal that ended with this line: “Writing about these practices (socially engaged art) needs to be as accessible as the works themselves, so they can work in tandem as allies and together help to shape the world we want to see.” While there have been many criticisms of the word “innovation” in these ongoing posts I will say that when this happens that will truly be movement forward.
I love the internet. I love list form writing (you all know you probably spend more time than you should looking at Buzzfeed top 25 lists). I love memes. I love YouTube. And maybe most gauche of all, I love Facebook. This Growing Dialogue lives here—the World Wide Web—so let me take you there. My closing response to the posts and comments on innovation in socially engaged art will be written in the language of the internet. Here is my reply, in a top 5.
1. Some of my favorite responses to A Growing Dialogue: The Latest Thing have been happening on Facebook. Here is a response to Elizabeth Grady’s post “Radical or Reactionary: The Value of Innovation in SEA” from my friend and meme genius Randall Szott:
2. I’m down with dropping negativity.
Stephen Pritchard wrote a lengthy response to the conversations fueled by a flurry of tweets including this one from @markjleach, “I’m down with dropping ideologies.”
The tone of his response was negative and also felt like a close reading of the blog was not done. My lead off post was about the very fact that I don’t believe the avant-garde was about innovation. But most telling of the lack of close reading was his name change suggestion:
In the broader conversations about socially engaged art there are many people that champion antagonism, agonism, friction, and to use Pritchard’s words, “dissensus, tension, oscillations.” I am not going to quote Bishop, or Mouffe here. What I want to put in its place instead is the idea that positivity—especially in relation to the hope that art can create meaningful social change— is an asset. The brilliant woman I want to quote to make my point is Amy Poehler:
“People who are negative tend to want to demean people’s ideas, they say what they don’t like, but they don’t really say what they want to do. Its very hard to have ideas. Its very hard to put yourself out there. Its very hard to be vulnerable, but those people that do that are the dreamers, the thinkers, and the creators, and they are the magic people of the world.”
One thing I will agree with @etiennelefleur and Grumpy Cat on is this, “leader” is not an easy word, or role!
3. Best hashtags to emerge from these conversations, also courtesy of Szott and Facebook: #artnotart #Artworldproblems
4. Screenshot of Google image search for “innovation in art”. I think we are doing it wrong.
5. hey girl, here is one more from meme genius Randall Szott. Classic.
 Quoted from email exchange from editors for Routledge, October 19, 2014.
We welcome your comments! Please feel free to use the comment box at the bottom of the page to join in the discussion.
Read more from Growing Dialogue: The Latest Thing
“Jen Delos Reyes Responds to Growing Dialogue and You Won’t Believe What She Found on the Internet” by Jen Delos Reyes – December 4, 2014
Growing Dialogue is a series of moderated online debates among thought leaders in social practice.