The Artist as Mediator

“Painting isn’t an aesthetic operation; it’s a form of magic designed as a mediation between this strange hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires.” – Pablo Picasso

US Department of Art & Technology, 10,000 Acts of Artistic Mediation Speech, New York, 2004

Historically, the term “avant-garde” carries the implication of the artist as social warrior, fighting and defending ideological and philosophical terrain. The artist’s exploration of inner meaning through aesthetic investigation has potency when externalized in the outer world through the expression of art, with the potential of transforming the social sphere. Ideologies are symbolic forms through which social action can take place, leading to proposals or models (sometimes in the form of manifestos) that call for change. The work of the artist thus becomes a critical lens on the changing landscape of cultural and political conditions in an increasingly technological and globalized world.

The artist, as a member of a visionary vanguard, has the capability of raising ideological issues with the intention of initiating action and transformation. In this sense, the artist is not isolated, but is rather a force that stimulates action through discursive means, through the experience of and dialectic emanating from the artwork. The artist’s aspiration of reaching and impacting a global audience is accentuated through the use of the network and other distributed forms such that the viewer can reciprocate this action, engage creatively with the artist, artwork, and audience via the many-to-many collaborative and participatory nature of the network.

The world is a global network of instant communication and artists proactively participate in it by using experimental forms of new media strategies. They explore new possibilities and reach outside the boundaries of their specific local situation and discipline; using art as a vehicle for dialogue and criticism to affect public opinion. Critical to this research are the forms of artistic mediations that voices radical social change and utopian ideology, such as the US Department of Art & Technology project, which introduced these ideas and their actions through site-specific installation, performance art, street theater, artist books, manifestoes, and online blogging.

Related essays: