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Title: Recalling Renegade Library and other Social Practice Methodologies from the late 1990s
Authors: Klassen, Lois
Issue Date: 13-Jul-2016
Abstract: Shuffling through the pseudo­bureaucratic residue from the 1998 exhibition, Renegade Library: An Exhibition of Collaborative Mail Art in Book Form (Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba), it appears that what was once a decidedly anti­institutional social art project, is today an artifact of late twentieth century research­creation. Though the starting point of Renegade Library was metaphorically and literally miles from any institutional research setting, the project grew from aesthetic and relational issues that had yet to be described as the “social turn” in late twentieth century art (Bishop, 2006). Just preceding social media, a flush of interest in post­Fluxus mail art in artist­run settings of the 1980s and 90s, signaled an emphasis in the materializing of social relations and participation in art. Renegade Library along with other open exhibition and publishing projects from this time built on the original collective practices of artist run culture in Canada and elsewhere. This presentation reviews the methodologies of community­based research and activism that were well practiced by the late 1990s. As research texts, today these projects can be situated within a growing set of resources and debates surrounding socially engaged art practices. ​As such, their aesthetic and performative inclusion of care, repair, maintenance, reciprocity, and institutional critique reflect hybrid ethical formations that continue characterize socially engaged art. Following Shannon Jackson’s analysis of socially engaged art practices (2011), the performance of mail art is a little know, albeit key text, for situating socially engaged art practices within a research­creation context.
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