The politics of art in America

As the 2011 Venice Biennale is about to open I reflect on my erasure of the 2005 US Pavilion (Empire runs its Course) as a statement of America’s diminished standing in the world during the chaotic, post-apocalyptic, post 9-11 years. That year Ed Ruscha represented the US, a choice that had little or nothing to do with the political climate (except perhaps within the art world itself).

Now in the post-Bush years, the State Department has selected Allora & Calzadilla from Puerto Rico, who actually contribute to the international dialogue with their performance installations that speaks to symbols of power. “Track and field” situates a fully functional treadmill on top of a 60 ton tank turned upside down and powered by a runner.

God Bless America!

And as Dan Cameron relates in his recent article in art-it magazine:

“the emphasis on relatively untested artists using such distinctive artistic practices (and collaborators) to make a unified project that undercuts the recent efforts of the US to bully the rest of the world through military force (either real or presumed) indicates that progress and change are not only possible, but essential to how art functions within a social context.”

Yes, only the artist can change the world, one foot first in front of the next…