The art group as activists: MAP 2013 and its passionate plan


Is everyone an artist?  A constellation of events attempts to answer that question, via rituals, trials and enmeshments.


photographs by NAN COULTER

MAP 2013 is layered and multi-faceted — and, frankly, it promises a handsome social payoff for people simply interacting in the name of art and for good causes. MAP is an acronym that stands for Make Art with Purpose and, like cartography that unfolds in space to provide orientation and direction, it is a constellation of events from Oct. ober 1 through Nov. 24. The brainchild of photographer and social-activism artist Janeil Engelstad, MAP 2013 boasts 40 events and upwards of 60 artists and speakers who take footing in some 32 sites around the Dallas and Fort Worth. area.

The allure of activist art such as that of MAP is its attempt to bind culture Activist art attempts to bind culture by raising consciousness of political issues which include, in this instance, themes of gender equity, human rights, ecological reclamation and restoration, and better, healthier overall “life.” It creates a larger social compact, which in turn rethinks art as interaction evolving over time and space rather than an inert object for delectation, and showiness, such as blue-chip sculpture or painting.

MAP 2013 undertakes its social binding across networks, connecting people to people, group to city and city to world. It will do so through art reconsidered as, for example, a question of gender identity and representation. The African American√nohyphen Museum at Fair Park will work with photographer and intermedia artist E.G. Chrichton, opening a dialogue on the African-American LGBT experience through archives and pictures. Two projects confront human-rights problems within the American prison-industrial complex: one between the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman; and another between the Dallas Video Festival and Al Reinhart, director of An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story.

Former Centraltrak resident Oto Hudec’s “Instrument for Listening,” a giant wooden megaphone, will be installed in Belo Park as a symbolic means to give voice to immigrants, refugees and indigenous people. Brennan Bechtol will head up a program in which 10 vintage bikes will be used in MAP 2013 tours, with themes of “urban revitalization” and “art and science.” And this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, as MAP 2013 offers a bevy of means to rethink art as interactive rituals, trials and enmeshments.

For lovers, though, of beauty, stunning form and art-as-sensual-pleasure, all is not lost. Outside of its do-good idealism, the aesthetic appeal of MAP is its poetics of time and space: the idea that art might be a carefully planned and considered series of lived events in everyday life; the belief that art can be about a city; the reality that art can make two sister cities smarter, better places to live. This is the aesthetic formalism of MAP 2013. Stand back, come in and integrate yourself as you watch and experience this unfolding of art as discussion, moving image, collaboration and bikes being pedaled peddled by on the street.

In short, MAP 2013 is one sign of the times among many. Like the urban reclamation and farming in the Cedars neighborhood of downtown Dallas and the ethical business practices of Soap Hope, MAP takes the reigns reins of municipal change in its own proverbial hands. as, To quote Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution, Institute, “the federal government has left the building.” In addition to aesthetic pleasure and social activism, art can also bring strong leadership in a time sorely needing it. Following from this, MAP 2013 is about an art distinctly other than that of biennials, international art fairs and the 1 percent. Longstanding, It is the art of democracy fused to democratized art — heralded in the 1960s by German conceptualist Joseph Beuys when he said, “Everyone is an artist,” and even earlier by Hungarian modernist László Moholy-Nagy when he said, “Everyone is talented.”

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