Block Group, Fountain, 2010
The Coming Community
The Search for Community in Contemporary Art
January 29 - May 22, 2011
Curators: Yeala Hazut and Lee Weinberg
The narratives that shape personal life stories contribute to the consolidation of individual identity, and infuse life with meaning. Similarly, collective cultural, historical or mythological narratives shape the identity of communities.
The term "community" is drawing growing attention in the context of contemporary art, where it is examined in a range of cultural contexts. The artists featured in this exhibition study this theme from different perspectives: some document specific communities, at times from an almost ethnographic perspective; other artists invent imagined communities in order to examine the construction of social groups; and yet others actively engage in the life of various communities. These different approaches raise questions concerning the collective narratives underlying various communities, while examining the possibility of recreating the social sphere through the creation of art objects. These works thus re-address the artist's role in contemporary society, and the relationship between art institutions and communities.
The exhibition reflects a dynamic reality, in which social arrangements and identities are constantly disassembled and recreated in accordance with changing sociopolitical, economic, ecological, and identity-related circumstances. In the current age, relations between nations and governments, as well as between groups and their leaders, are characterized by a crisis of trust, and by a growing tendency to disengage from a larger collective identity. Digital communications and the Internet play a central role in encouraging this trend, and in creating unique shared narratives that are detached from a specific geographic context. In contrast to earlier historical models, such groups are not structured in a hierarchical manner; rather, they are based on social networks. Such structures and alternative communal narratives enable community members to resist the dictates of society, and to escape a reality in which the individual has limited control over his lifestyle and capital.
The title of the exhibition "The Coming Community" is borrowed from the title of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben's book, which offers an imagined future for Western society. Agamben suggests that the total assimilation of life into a world of representations and simulations created by the media and consumer society may enable the emergence of a new possibility. He argues that precisely in such a society, which has lost its shared language and distinct identity, one may experience a sense of unconditional belonging based on the essence of human existence, rather than on a specific identity. This optimistic tone resonates, albeit much less strongly, in the works featured in this exhibition.