The Center for Social Inquiry at Pitzer College and the Pitzer Art Galleries
announced an open call for art works addressing the broad theme of "CAPITALISM IN QUESTION (because it is)."
The rampant capitalism of the last decade, and its recent catastrophic crisis, has left us in a peculiar and unfamiliar space. Capitalist economic ideology and practices are suddenly under renewed scrutiny. "CAPITALISM IN QUESTION (because it is)" invites artists to explore our current economic predicament and to consider a range of alternatives to it. Visual artwork in all media—painting, installation, sculpture and photography—is encouraged.
All materials for consideration should be submitted by 7/20/2009 to:
Ciara Ennis, Director, Pitzer Art Galleries, 1050 North Mills Ave., Claremont, CA 91711 FMI: CapinQuestArt@Pitzer.Edu. Please make submissions in the following format: cd with images, dvd or powerpoint. Send artist statement and c.v.
During the 2009-2010 academic year, the Center for Social Inquiry at Pitzer College will be sponsoring a series of lectures and seminars that re-open questions about capitalism and its discontents—rather than treating capitalism, or "markets," as the all-purpose answer to social questions, as has been increasingly common since the 1980s in both American society and the larger global economy. This thematic inquiry will look backward in time to examine the most recent and earlier "busts" following capitalist "booms," and will look forward in time to consider the range of forms, both desirable and undesirable, that might emerge when the global capitalist economy "recovers" from its current collapse.
In conjunction with this program of lectures and seminars, the Center for Social Inquiry and the Pitzer Art Galleries are together issuing a call for works of art that examine and represent various moments of capitalism and its discontents, as well as the possible futures following our own moment of crisis, for exhibition at the Pitzer Art Galleries staring in January of 2010.
One aspect of this broad thematic topic that might be explored in such works is the relations, extending either in time or in space, between capitalist prosperity and capitalist discontents. Start, for example, at any physical site of prosperity and select a profitable consumer good—coffee, let us say—and follow the labor chain behind that good, across various borders and geographic formations (or across the often subtle barriers between urban neighborhoods). As a rule, sooner or later, you will find some workers who were intensely exploited in the production of that good. To quote from the March 2009 Gourmet magazine: "If you have eaten a tomato this winter, chances are very good that it was picked by a person who lives in virtual slavery." In response to this stark observation (taken from a publication that is more likely to aestheticize than politicize food), we seek art works that provide new perspectives on these spatial relations and—of equal importance—on the social forces and practices that keep these relations out of our ordinary sight.
Alternatively, start at a moment of prosperity—Autumn 2006, let us say—and move forward in time. As a rule, at some point moving into the future, you will observe a fantastic economic collapse and evaporation of money-wealth. One could equally well pick February 1637 as Autumn 2006—and then move forward in time to observe the fantastic collapse and evaporation of all of the wealth invested in tulips, rather than houses. Or—to provide a second example of the way the discontents of capitalism are to be found in future moments—one can think about the ways capitalist enterprises, at least since the industrial revolution, have never taken responsibility for environmental damage in real time, but have instead left the costs of such destruction for future generations to bear. Here again, we are interested in art that probes and re-visions these relations across time, that is, these relations between moments that are past and future to each other.
An additional set of questions is also suggested at this juncture. If the discontents of capitalism are typically some where or some time else—that is, some where or some time other than at sites of capitalist prosperity—what is it instead that we find at such sites? What characteristics does their emptiness (of these discontents) possess? What fantasies exist at such sites, about the absence or defeat of capitalism's discontents? What, in other words, are the fantasies of "financial experts," the "captains of the universe" and others of their ilk? Here again, we are interested in works of art that explore these complex questions, in whatever ways.
Finally, if we look forward in time from our moment of crisis (rather than from moments of prosperity), we can see in front of us a broad horizon of possible futures, stretching from the dystopian to the utopian and from the fantastic to the banal. Our call for art includes, as well, a call for works that explore and speculate about such futures, relative to our own the troubled moment that is our present.
There are, of course, other dimensions to capitalism and its discontents, beyond those we have suggested. We provide these questions and observations only as starting points—that is, as initial provocations to be taken, we hope, in myriad directions.