Innovation as symptom?

I liked Jethro Brice’s proposal that innovation be considered the symptom of a condition – he proposed “of an engaged process” – rather than a goal. This would point to a condition where everything is continuously in flux and shifting and everything is indeed “new” provided one’s process or frame of mind takes those shifting grounds into account and adjusts and adapts to them. This would require an extraordinary degree of flexibility and responsiveness where every decision taken is already critically questioned as it is made, taken back, tailored, fiddled with and changed.


Elsewhere[1], we have engaged with the concept of speculation. Rather than limit the definition of speculation to more or less immediate and financial gratification, it struck us as useful if we define speculation as a methodology, a way to approach a continuously shifting terrain. In the face of radical uncertainty, the speculative – the awareness that things could be different – offers a framework for action and debate. What that leads to is an embrace of simultaneity, that in the moment of action several options are equally valid at the same time and none can be dismissed nor embraced exclusively. Such simultaneity seems to run counter to innovation but only if we consider innovation as an absolute standard. The moment innovation is defined as a process – as Jethro does – it signals not a ranking but a deep investment in a given situation and the specific.

For SEA, this would mean a non-dogmatic, non-linear approach that cannot be duplicated or taught. In describing such successful projects one might be able to cull certain principles of action but never a rule that could be transferred to other situations. This seems to hold great potential for a way to be in the world that does justice to its multiplicities and incongruities. Alas, it makes for challenging evaluation procedures!

[1] In a series of public programs on Speculation at the Vera List Center in 2010-2012, some of which are captured in the forthcoming publication Speculation, Now.


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Read more from Growing Dialogue: The Latest Thing

“Interrogating Innovation in Socially Engaged Art” by Elizabeth Grady – September 22, 2014

“I’m down with dropping ideologies.” via Twitter – September 23, 2014

“What Are We Trying to Get Ahead of?: Leaving the Idea of the Avant-Garde Behind” by Jen Delos Reyes – September 24, 2014

“’Innovation’ in art and capital” by E. C. Feiss – September 30, 2014

“Notations on Innovations” by Carin Kuoni – October 3, 2014

“Re/new” by Robert Sember – October 7, 2014

“Radical or Reactionary: The Value of Innovation in SEA” by Elizabeth Grady – October 9, 2014

“What’s New Pussycat?: Socially Engaged Art and the Institution” by Jen Delos Reyes – October 15, 2014

“Is socially engaged art ‘innovative’? (A word game with scrapheap prizes.)” by Stephen Pritchard – October 20, 2014

“Innovation as symptom?” by Carin Kuoni – October 31, 2014

“Unmaking Innovation: A Return to the New” by Elizabeth Grady – November 10, 2014

“Change as Form” by Robert Sember – December 1, 2014

“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.

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