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142 the minnesota review Get the Message? A Decade ofArtfor Social Change by Lucy Lippard. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1984. 343 pp. $16.95 (paper). Get the Message! is a scrapbook of most of Lucy Lippard's major articles, lectures, performance pieces, and reviews from roughly 1970 through 1982. As such, it is simultaneously a record of her own development and change as a socialist-feminist in the New York art world; a whirlwind tour of the most important politically progressive artists, artworks and art practices within hailing distance (i.e., as far away as Cuba, China, Australia, and Nicaragua); and a set of forays, some occasional, some extended, back into the old vexed questions on how art and activisim can meet to their mutual benefit. On each of these counts, the collection is worth having; on the third, as an intervention into the struggles of and for a politically radical yet popular art, it is indispensable for virtually anyone doing creative work in the U.S.A. today. What makes Get the Message! so valuable (and, sad to say, so distinct) within contemporary art criticism is first and foremost Lippard's own exemplary activism. In 1970, with the other members of the short-lived Art Workers Coalition, she was marching against the Vietnam War and seeking ways to expose and break ruling-class control of the major museums; in 1981, with other members of PADD (Political Art Documentation/Distribution ), an organization she helped to found, she was demonstrating against the U.S. war in Central America and working together with folks from the South Bronx to protest, expose, and shut down Fort Apache: The Bronx, a defamatory racist film in liberal sheep's clothing. At the same time, she has remained deeply involved in a wide array of politicalaesthetic projects and struggles within the art world, perhaps most notably though her coeditorship of Heresies, "a feminist publication on art and politics" which has pulled off the unlikely feat of making itself both the most interesting, exciting art-politics magazine around, while staying the most accessible to boot. Lippard's detractors are fond of charging that her involvement in all these causes and projects makes for rushed, fuzzy thinking and scatter-shot judgements in her articles and reviews. Thanks to their own unself-conscious equation of detachment with objectivity and formalism with rigor, they fail to note or appreciate the integrity of a frankly partisan criticism which reverses the direction of the customary rutted route from (often implicit, usually modernist) aesthetic and sodai assumptions and values to the individual work which is to be analyzed and judged in light of those norms. For Lippard, the work under discussion , together with the specific social and institutional context in which that work appears, poses questions and demands revisions of the standard sex-, race-, and class- biased conventions , practices and structures of the art world-as-usual. At first, in the earliest articles in this collection, her perception of the fit between high modernism and the ruling-class control of the art world breeds an emphasis less on doing than on refusing: "It's how you give and withhold your art that is political" (16). But in a few more years, her own activism plus a tsunami of feminist art have pushed her far beyond these initial, comparatively tame propositions and proposals, towards some altogether more obstreperous and fruitful formulations : Feminism's greatest contribution to the future of art has probably been precisely its lack of contribution to modernism. (149) Political art also means community organizing and development, working with people to whom art would normally mean nothing, working with them in their own rather than in an art context. (30) I would insist that one of the reasons so many women artists have engaged so effectively in social-change and/or outreach art is women's political identification with oppressed and disenfranchised people. This is not to say we have to approve the historic reasons for that identification. However, we should be questioning why we are discouraged from thinking about them. Because such identification is also a significant reviews 143 factor in the replacement of colonization and condescension with exchange and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 142-144
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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