[Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries, reel 50; Spertus Museum Symposium]

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Footage from a symposium on the role of art in society, which was part of the Spertus Museum of Judaica's 1992 exhibition "Bridges and Boundaries." The panel members are Carol Becker, Ronne Hartfield, Claire Wolf-Krantz, and Othello Anderson. Morrie Fred hosts/moderates.

0:00Copy video clip URL Color bars

0:30Copy video clip URL B-roll shots of the audience during the symposium, as well as some of the speakers on the panel. Carol Becker is talking about the role of art within social debates, but the footage cuts at random moments, making it hard to follow the details of the ideas.

3:44Copy video clip URL The audience applauds, and Morrie Fred thanks Becker for her talk and introduces Ronne Hartfield.

4:35Copy video clip URL Hartfield begins to give her talk, and starts by discussing her connection with Becker. She also speaks about Anna Deavere Smith and the role of the artist in society. The camera continues to cut, making it difficult to fully follow the talk.

7:57Copy video clip URL A woman in the audience suggests that the art world has become so alienated that those outside the field view it as being snobby or “in an ivory tower,” and so she asks if social commentary is possible in a world that is so alienated. Becker says that the art market may have some silver lining in the fact that artists today are no longer as concerned with creating art purely for a gallery market. She talks about the growth of artists working in telecommunications today rather than “object making,” and so Becker is optimistic. She says there is an intrinsic problem in the nature of an object like a painting, which can take months to produce and then only one person can buy it, that you don’t encounter with things like books, which can be easily reproduced.

11:53Copy video clip URL Becker also clarifies that when she says art shouldn’t be easy, she doesn’t mean that it must be “necessarily difficult so that nobody gets it,” but rather that successful art will create a reaction—political, emotional, etc.—that might not be easy to immediately digest and move on. “When I’m writing, and I’m trying to be accessible, I’m not going to sacrifice the complexity of things… in a way that reduces their meaning.”

13:10Copy video clip URL Claire Wolf-Krantz says she is not after an elitist artist, because the “elite” who are only looking for a market or only talking to each other aren’t going to come to Spertus. She’s hoping to speak to people who want to look at a difficult problem in a new way.

14:11Copy video clip URL Hartfield responds, saying that artists are living in society at all times, and so they have to take part in these hierarchical structures and markets, but that artists also have “this other thing” at work which makes them different. The tape cuts, so the “other thing” is never clearly defined.

14:55Copy video clip URL Fred says he is optimistic for the art world.

15:16Copy video clip URL A man in the audience says there is “a distrust of the visual” in the Jewish tradition, and is wondering if there’s anything related to these ideas about idolatry, the reification of forms, and transformations that will come out of the dialogues present in the exhibition/symposium. Becker talks about the African traditions that are very visual but share a weariness about idolatry and forms, and so there is a bifurcation between private art and communal art. Communal art is thus not seen as idolatrous, and instead expresses a connection with the divine. However, modern African artists seem to be separating themselves from this tradition.

17:44Copy video clip URL Fred talks about the commandment, and whether it really means, “You cannot create art,” and the role of art throughout Jewish history.

18:42Copy video clip URL Another man in the audience talks about the other serious issues that need to be faced (such as the Farrakhan issue and white flight), and his disappointment at not hearing them addressed by the panel.

21:14Copy video clip URL Hartfield says that these issues are very important, she just felt like it was too large to be included in the smaller scope of this panel, which is specifically about the role of art in society. She says also thinks it’s important that artists “keep alive some avenue of discourse that threads its way not around those issues but through them.” She also says that she feels some of the artwork in the exhibition speaks to those issues but aren’t bogged down by them.

23:42Copy video clip URL Othello Anderson talks about trying to get past our material differences.

24:39Copy video clip URL Wolf-Krantz says that when you put on a show and say, “Artists can do as they wish,” then you can’t dictate all the issues and agendas, and so while the show does miss some important issues, it provides a very honest reaction to the issue from its artists, and that perhaps the full complexity of the issue is more than 12 artists can cover.

25:27Copy video clip URL Altman, who is in the audience, responds a little as well about her own piece. She also talks about her conversations with Kerry Marshall. The camera gathers more b-roll as she speaks.

28:02Copy video clip URL A man talks about racism as an adult issue, and the importance of children. He believes that perhaps the focus and the market of art should be more centered on children.

29:06Copy video clip URL Anderson shares a final thought with the audience. Part of it is cut, but he seems to read a quote about the rebel being the one who leads us to beauty.

 

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