How can art have a social impact in today’s world? How can it affect people on an emotional level, both within and beyond the realm of the specialized art audience? I am particularly interested in the intermediary areas between visual art and everyday culture, because here art has to question and redefine itself constantly in relation to social developments. I perceive a specific place for art in the realm where new worlds are being created. The sphere of digital and electronic art – one of the focal points of my work – holds the great utopia and the promise of radically expanding the notion of the artwork and challenging the exclusive authority of the artist. This redefinition is crucial in a media-driven society which, while it is becoming increasingly pluralist with the development of the Internet – to an extent that was previously unimaginable – is at the same time establishing invisible control mechanisms.
Having previously curated media art projects such as “Connected Cities. Kunstprozesse im urbanen Netz” (Connected Cities. Processes of art in the urban network), “InterAct” and “Unter der Haut. Transformationen des Biologischen in der zeitgenössischen Kunst” (Under the skin. Biological transformations in contemporary art) at the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, I went on to develop a public art programme in Duisburg. The artistic positions of Jenny Holzer, Les Levine and Ken Lum provided an ideal starting point, as their strategies of appropriating spectacular media (Holzer) or the visual means of advertising (Levine, Lum) create effective forms with which to convey critical messages and even uncomfortable truths within the public sphere. Moving beyond these forms of presentation, I am currently working on alternative formats in which public space can once again become a sphere of activity for different segments of the population. One such project was “PubliCity. Constructing the Truth”, where, for example, bleak urban areas were charged with new communicative energy by raumlaborberlin, and artists such as Jochen Gerz or Danica Dakic initiated dialogues between distinctly different social groups.
Based on the experience I have gained through working on these projects, I believe that the dramatic transformation of urban public space in recent years necessitates a fundamental revision of artistic practices – if art does not want to become as arbitrary and noncommital in this context as some of its museum-based forms. With “Paradoxien des Öffentlichen” (Paradoxes of the Public) I therefore developed a hybrid format consisting of a discursive platform (forum), a participation structure (competition) and forms of production and presentation (exhibition). In an alternative manner to the classical curatorial process, it began with an open call to artists across the world who adopt an interdisciplinary approach and focus on urban space from the point of view and perception of its users: public space as a realm of consumption, a transitory realm and a data space.
Just as art continually questions its own methods and strategies, curatorial practice must also be examined regularly in terms of its social effectiveness and adapted to reflect changing social and media conditions.
Söke Dinkla (2008)