"Art and Commitment" was a four-day public conversation involving artists, scholars, and communities across the arts held in the West Bank Arts Quarter on December 2-5, 2004. The symposium explored the social role of contemporary art through collaborative and interdisciplinary modes of art practice and scholarship.
At the outset of the Cold War debates around the place of art in the public sphere looked at art as a site of formal resistance and social action. According to this Modernist notion, art functions best when it commits to itself as a distinctive way of knowing and mode of enquiry. Its social relevance is marked by separation and difference, its territory defined by resistance to dominant social norms and challenges to the middle class, who were seen as dominated by commercial and industrial interests and compelled by a concern for material gain, respectability, and a tendency toward mediocrity.
Now, 50 years later some argue that the avant-garde of the Modernist era is no longer appropriate for our time. "Art and Commitment" looks to the present moment to reflect on the role of the arts in society and in the academy after the radical transformations of the last decade: the reconfiguration of systems of social and geo-political power, the rise of global techno-capitalism, and the penetration of market-driven logic into artistic and cultural production. How can the notion of "committed art" meet the challenges of our time?
Collaborative and interdisciplinary exchange among the arts, humanities, and sciences is a mark of our increasingly interdependent and interconnected world. With a special focus on the arts themselves this symposium suggests that the virtue of these collaborations lies not only in linking different artistic disciplines, but also in linking them with everyday life through strategies for commitment that bring to the fore art's role in politics and public life.
As a result of our present socially conservative and profit-motivated culture the social value of art has been increasingly reduced to thoughtless entertainment and the value of education to job training. At this moment in history it is imperative to reaffirm the arts and arts scholarship as critically rigorous, emotionally charged, and socially responsive cultural practices.
Art and Commitment Planning Committee