This panel takes the ambiguities of Palestinian art-making as an entry point into the study of art's role in constituting community, subjectivity, and political imaginations especially in contexts of state failure. How can art affect the political imagination, institutional change, and citizenship?
Empirical studies have not tested recent forays by artists, philosophers, and political theorists to foreground contemporary art's ground-up impact on politics. Artists are increasingly tasked with proposing alternative imaginaries rather than their traditional representational missions, but how do audiences actually relate to the art they produce? How can art affect the political imagination, institutional change, and citizenship? To provide a comparative look at art as a site of institutional innovation beyond the "West," the panel focuses on historically informed ethnographies of aesthetic encounters, where art objects meet audiences and realign possible interactions and imaginations. If the arts promote social change, how does this happen differently in specific locations? These questions are vital in today's transnationalized art worlds that pit artists, artworks, and audiences in new configurations with atypical resources, rapidly transforming networks at their disposal, and new obstacles in their way. The panel launches from a consideration of Palestinian contemporary art because it is paradigmatic of predicaments art from the Global South negotiates. We know of the "game of expectations and desires" that controls the visibility of artistic practices originating in the Global South as they circulate transnationally, but what about their fate "at home," when home itself is a contested place? How can we understand art that creates "home" as much as it represents it? This project takes the ambiguities of Palestinian art-making as an entry into the study of art's role in constituting community, subjectivity, and political imaginations especially in contexts of state failure.