Loraine Leeson, 'Chapter 6: Process and Product' , Art Process: Change: inside a socially Situated Practice ( Routledge, 2017)
What resonates most powerfully for me, my life experiences and art practice in Dr Loraine Leeson's seminal Art: Process: Change: Inside a Socially Situated Practice is found within the selected reading in Chapter 6, Process and Product. This is a very powerful intellectual and observational notion and question which screams out to me: “To what extent then, and under what conditions, is art able to build community?”
As an exile from Iran where I faced severe gender, personal and political persecution and a member of a loosely-associated Persian monarchist diaspora, it's destiny for me to analyze this question in particular. While I tend to sympathise with the position of Dr Leeson that individual works themselves are unlikely to create community themselves, the underpinning narratives and experiences expressed in a work can serve to reconnect community around common experiences, joy, oppression and culture.. My art practice, exploring, expounding an diagramming the multi-traumatic and multi-cultural experiences and themes of exile, oppression of women and of political loyalties, cultural preservation in a new land, love of family and eternal hope are narratives that as an aggregate, individually or in combinations of one or more can intellectually transport viewership of works to similar wavelengths, recollections and experiences.
Art may not be able to build community in totality per se, but can play an important role in reconnecting and remembering among those of a common cultural/situational heritage, and certainly display strong symptoms of community building. Even outside of the gallery setting, both folk and commercial art have often aimed to inspire, attract and motivate viewers with images that speak to their cultural frame of reference, experiences and regional themes.
In terms of medium and delivery of a narrative to audiences, Dr Leeson makes reference to the Volco project she was involved with. Volco, a “virtual planet in cyberspace created by more than a thousand children” that ran from 2002-2009 across several countries and schools involving teachers and their respective institutions as well, is instructive in that with technological development, not only can it transform what we as artists have the technical capability to create and deliver, but how we engage and communicate in potential collaborative or community interactions.
Efforts can also serve to explore how an artist can interact with multiple age groups, cultures and institutions to engage in collaborative efforts, sustain projects and provide educational/pedagogical value and the development of art appreciation through pragmatic hands-on involvement.
Dr Leeson notes that this process is, however, rarely flawless, noted also by community art development subject matter expert François Matarasso – but perhaps it is in the subjectivity of the responses that we may both communicate narrative and learn more about each other. In a community/collaborative effort, this has the potential to be a profound learning experience.