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Suzi Gablik nails it again

January 31, 2011

Regaled by marketing strategies for artists, websites for selling your work more effectively etc, I am always gratified to find some support for the view that this all leaves out a great portion of what art’s purpose is.  I have found staunch support for this view, once again from a long-standing heroine of mine, Suzi Gablik. I came across an article of hers recently which completely confirms my own take on the subject, so I’ll share some of it here, paraphrased.

There are two predominant schools of artists right now, the familiar autonomous artist, isolated from society, working with an art ‘in defiance of the social good and without any moral earnestness’. And secondly, artists who want art to have some socially worthy agenda outside of itself.

Old art systems and networks (dealer-curator-museum-critic) are not serving the new impulses in the arts, and they are showing signs of strain. New networks and collectives are emerging in the internet, creating a completely new context for art and artists. 

Gablik sees signs of art becoming ‘purposeful’ again. All her professional life she has been writing about alternatives to art as a commodity and has been considering art in the context of spiritual and moral values, not just commercial ones. 

Arts and ethics have been split for a long while, but now ‘a more ethical artistic vision is already functioning among us’.  She cites examples like Adbusters, and the Greenmuseum– artists who are taking a stance on some social or environmental problem and using their creativity to bring healing, understanding, and awareness into that area.

All of this clearly represents a critical shift in the definition of an art object. These networking social activities, which integrate complex strands from many disciplines into an open unity and bridge many different areas of knowledge, also require a real rewiring of institutional DNA. Specialization has been displaced by another organizing principle—decentralized creativity—in which the individual artist becomes a structural component in a society of selves that fit their contributions together in mutual enrichment.   

Gablik sees the period of ‘value free experiment coming to an end’. And that the overspecialisation and division of professional fields is being gradually absorbed by an intimate connection of all fields to each other. She sees us all moving toward an understanding that art is integrated into all aspects of life and all aspects of life are contained in art.

For the whole article click on this link  – Suzi Gablik   Beyond the Disciplines: Art without Borders.

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4 Responses to “Suzi Gablik nails it again”


  1. thanks so much for this post, I believe Suzi really helped stimulate my own practice so many years ago… reading her again just reveals how prescient and important her work is


    • Cathy, So nice you stopped by and commented. I spent a little time at your site as well and find it fascinating. You might want to drop over to my new site on wordpress, tendingtime, where I’m exploring being an artist caught ‘between stories’, (in the words of Cat, another artist in transition). There is a little interesting dialogue happening which I hope will expand to include more friends. You are welcome.
      Suzi Gablik, yes, you’ve said it so well. She was the first person who really got me thinking about these issues (what is art, how does it relate to the marketplace, how much responsibility does an artist have to her society?, to the planet? ) She was so before her time, so courageous. I owe a lot to her writings as well.


      • Wonderful Sarah,

        and love the new site, was so moved by the recent article. You mention a Cat in transition – would the surname be Lupton, if it is she has just commissioned me to do an article on earthlines – its a world of connecting aesthetics as Gablik says

        Best wishes
        Cathy

      • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

        Gee Kathy, what a small world! Yes, Cat is our mutual friend.

        Thanks for the comment and your interest in my new site.

        I’m curious how you first found your way to artcalling- if it was completely independent of knowing Cat, then it is a mind boggling coincidence (!), don’t you think?


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