re:future Lab featuring

Grégory Chatonsky

Grégory Chatonsky

Artists must be fully involved in the vision of tomorrow's world

MADELEINE SCHWINGE:

What possible impact can art have on social transformation? Can artists stimulate personal and social change? In your opinion, what is the responsibility of contemporary art and what is the role of artists in society?

GRÉGORY CHATONSKY:

This is an ambitious question, which is, in fact, quite classic in the modernist debates of the last century. At a time when the need for global change seems more urgent than ever, and our failure to achieve it leaves us in a state of deadly impotence, artists are increasingly being asked to fill this gap.
This demand seems to me to be disproportionate and leads to over-excited statements ("we have to") and repetitive disillusionment ("that's all it is"). I'm seeing more and more institutional projects on art, anthropocene and inequalities, etc. that seem to set ideological goals for art. If environmental and social issues are indeed convergent, do such projects reduce the works to mere illustrative means? In other words, we might know that we need to achieve a turning point, a new alliance, a new policy, and the works of art would serve to imagine these new possibilities in advance and to disengage us from the world we are still in.
I believe that art production cannot be a stimulating illustration of predefined societal goals. Rather, such instrumentalization constitutes the mental structure that today brings us the problem: to consider all things (art as nature) as things that do not have an end in themselves and that must be oriented towards an anthropological purpose, towards a utility, towards a desirable future. It is precisely this type of causality, which subjects everything to the will, whose responsibility is another name, that must be broken if we want works of art to leave room for an incalculable and unpredictable future.
 The paradox is that it suspends the role, function, responsibility and finality of artistic production that it can operate on the logistics of a world where everything is considered a chain of causes and effects, the first of which must be fixed by the human will and the second of which must be of benefit to our species.

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Dear G,regory

The interview was conducted in May 2020

Text and interview: Madeleine Schwinge

Translation from French: Cécile Nebbot

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