So much art is a treasure trove of references and allusions. It can sometimes feel like a scavenger hunt to look at works of art and it is so exciting when you get it! It’s like having an inside joke with the artist, even if you have never met them. Reading the interviews in this issue for example, you may notice a few people make the deliberate choice to forego capitalization in their names or the titles of their work. Rest assured this didn’t just get missed by us, the editors. This is reminiscent of bell hooks’ decision to spell her name in all lowercase, because “when the feminist movement was at its zenith in the late ‘60s and early ’70s, there was a lot of moving away from the idea of the person. It was: Let’s talk about the ideas behind the work, and the people matter less.” Was Sister Corita Kent making the decision to use lowercase letters in her titles for similar political reasons? Maybe Roz Crews’ performance piece titled with lowercase, tell us how you became so close to art, was an homage to Kent.
This idea that hooks referenced is an important notion in Social Practice, and a highlight in some of the interviews in this issue too. When talking about Sister Corita Kent’s work, Nellie Scott tells Gillian Rappaport, “The objects are not unimportant, but the message, the meaning, and the collective coming together is priority one. And the byproduct of this incredible collaboration is almost like eye candy.” This deemphasis on the object is echoed by Kenny Walls who tells his twin sister Kiara Walls, “I think that’s the power of art, whether it’s music, writing, it forces you to create the idea as well. You become the creator of that idea.”
Because our particular area of artmaking is niche, many people working this way pull from the same set of references. We often have a shared set of values. Art, and especially socially engaged art, is such a small world, but it also opens you up to how big the world is. It is a tiny tool through which to look at something huge. When we find others who see the world the same way, it is a treasure. As artist Wendy Ewald told us in a recent workshop, “I don’t usually get to meet people who think so similarly.”
The interview can be a way of finding out how people think and hopefully finding some who think the way you do. From shared family memories tied to place, as in Luz Blumenfeld’s talk with their grandmother, Aqui, to forming friendships through plants and co-mentoring youth, like in Lillyanne Pham’s conversation with ridhi d’cruz and Jackie Santa Lucia, there is a joy to be found in reading a shared language between others, as well as having that shared language, shared with you.
An interview can also be a method of learning an unfamiliar language. Like Justin Maxon, who asks others to reflect on experiences he wouldn’t be able to understand by himself. Or Laura Glazer, whose admiration and curiosity about an art piece led her to publish a book about what she learned from the artist, Ms. Melodie Adams. She now asks others, “What do you want everyone to know?” We hope the Spring Issue of the SoFA Journal connects your curiosity and questions with a couple methods for exploration.
We hope you’ll enjoy.
The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a publication dedicated to supporting, documenting and contextualising social forms of art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal takes an eclectic look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions and the public. The Journal supports and discusses projects that offer critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.
Created within the Portland State University Art & Social Practice Masters In Fine Arts. Program, SoFA Journal is now fully online.
Conversations on Everything is an expanding collection of interviews produced as part of SoFA Journal. Through the potent format of casual interviews as artistic research, insight is harvested from artists, curators, people of other fields and everyday humans. These conversations study social forms of art as a field that lives between and within both art and life.
Sponsored by the Portland State University Art and Social Practice MFA Program