Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cultural Engineering: Action Items

The contents of Issue 5, "Action Items," broaden the scope of the Cultural Engineering project beyond the walls of the Arts Court. However, their interconnectedness suggests that a pattern could be perceived no matter what level of magnification you took to look at this city. It is perhaps unsurprising that the exhortation to think globally and act locally is attributed to an urban planner. The artists in this issue are also thinking locally to act globally.

Meredith Snider, Acts of Decolonization in Space & Time, 2016, digital video.

Action items, in management lingo, are specific tasks assigned to individuals at the end of a meeting. These actions are intended to advance the cause of the group, whatever that may be, and each person is expected to report back about the end result. One video in this issue, Tim Smith’s “Scale,” astonishingly illustrates the manner in which large undertakings are actually the end result of many people accomplishing numerous particular tasks. One uninterrupted take zooms out from a single construction worker and shows his place in the larger construction site and its orchestrated activities. Meredith Snider's contributions reflect the ways that the dominant colonial culture is embedded in the very landscape of the country, down to the “micro-spaces” of the city. This issue’s guest artist, Eric Archambault, presents his video “Autopia,” a meditation on transportation infrastructure and the impact of private development.

As passersby, we tend to focus only on the outsized items, such as construction cranes, and lose sight of the specific part that individuals play. From a variety of perspectives, the artists in this issue reveal the singular actions that in varying degrees constitute the warp and weft of the city. Link to the fifth issue here.

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