Dialogue at the Threshold: The Artist Between Museum and Community
Artists Suzanne Lacy and Ann Hamilton use forms of language to produce experiences that challenge the individual’s perception. While differing in methods and outcomes, Lacy and Hamilton construct environments that allow individuals to participate in communicative exchanges. Hamilton creates multi-sensorial installations that rely on acts of communication through reading, speaking, and listening. As a socially engaged artist, Lacy facilitates dialogue between individuals through large-scale performances that confront social issues in public space. This thesis argues that twentyfirst century art museums, specifically The Brooklyn Museum and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, capitalize on the methods of artists such as Lacy and Hamilton, respectively, to create authentic communicative exchanges with neighboring communities. The Brooklyn Museum and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts have recognized the forms of language present within Lacy and Hamilton’s works as opportunities to generate social experiences that can extend the art institution’s authority beyond the usual museum visitor to a larger, diverse population in order to remain socially relevant in the twenty-first century. I argue that Hamilton’s stylus (2011), commissioned by the Pulitzer, and Lacy’s Between the Door and the Street (2013), produced in partnership with Creative Time and the Brooklyn Museum, were intended to provide opportunities for community outreach, on the part of the museums, to ultimately strengthen the relationships between the institutions and marginalized groups through the means of communicative acts. Through the activation of touch and voice, Hamilton directed the participation of the viewer to form a relationship between the viewer’s body and the space of the installation. I argue that forms of language were used not to produce a discursive space, but instead draw attention to the instability of language. Distinct from Hamilton, Lacy facilitated a public dialogical intervention around gender issues that challenged participants while creating an intimate, discursive platform regardless of the large scale of the project. Despite institutional intentions, I contend that these practices resulted in highly intimate relationships for the individual rather than develop merely public ties between the museum and marginalized communities.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- The museum as social worker ; the strides of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Pulitzer Foundation for Building a Diverse Audience -- Forming relationships: audience engagement in the works of Ann Hamilton and Suzanne Lacy -- Communication as form: dialogue in Stylus and Between the Door and the Street -- Conclusion