I have nothing against politically active art per se, so I don't want to be
misconstrued here, but...
The filmmakers who became "part of the homeless" are part of an
all-to-common pattern in the arts of the past decade.  By identifying
themselves with some oppressed group, the filmmakers can take a posture as
politically committed artists who are concerned with their community (which
in some strong sense, they probably are).  But at the same time by
associating themselves with the "outsider" they reproduce a whole range of
modernist myths about the artist as heroic exile.  Of course ultimately what
happens is that the work of the anonymous oppressed (the homeless, the
insane, the abused) who play a role in the production of this politically
committed art return to anonymity and the artist returns from "exile" to
take his or her place in the gallery scene and the lecture circuit.
Now this is a lot to heap on these filmmakers who are probably good-hearted
souls, but this situation recalls the kind of "committed" art championed by
Suzi Gablik of late, and it strikes me as a committment of a most
superficial and questionable kind.
James Peterson
University of Notre Dame
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