The precarious nature of artists, in general, means that we will often work in less-than-desirable contexts. Virginia Woolf wrote that artists only need a room of their own and a small stipend in order to produce good art. Miss Woolf was a genius of her time, but I think this is a dated, flawed approach. Virginia did not mention that she also needed an agent, a publishing company, paper mills to produce the paper, inks with which to print her words, paper binders, a distributor, etc., to produce her excellent books. Artists don’t exist in isolation: they need infrastructure. Howard S. Becker’s study Art Worlds (1982) illustrates this perfectly.(21) I would argue his point is especially true of artists who work within socially engaged contexts, because they don’t make beautiful modernist objects to put in galleries, but rather explore complex social relations and situations to develop context-specific and sited works of interaction and dialogue. If the interactions between things and people make up the very work, how an artist is expected to function within an infrastructurally ‘cold spot’ of culture (according to CPP) then becomes problematic.
21 – Becker, H.S. (1982). Art Worlds. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.