Curatorial Statement

Written by Crystal Baxley, Jen Delos Reyes, and Latham Zearfoss

It is not coincidental that as Open Engagement nears its ten year anniversary that we chose to examine the theme of sustainability. While we are thinking broadly about the urgent complexities of sustainability ranging from social, economic, cultural, environmental, educational, and institutional, we are also faced with the issue of our own sustainability as an artist-led project, and in turn what that means for all of us engaged in these practices. What happens to our labors of love when love is no longer enough? As a team of five un/derpaid employees we have worked to create spaces that are fluid, feminist, queer, accessible, restorative, anti-racist—that are accountable for its aims while also championing radical, visionary, difficult, revolutionary, necessary work. As we grapple with the viability of this work for ourselves we hope to also assess and assure that space and support for socially engaged artists is a reality.

How are we as artists, activists, students, educators, administrators, organizers working meaningful and sustainable change? How can we ensure that an ethics of environmental symbiosis and equality amongst all peoples is not only sustained, but updated and informed by future generations? As the world continues to, exhaustingly, (re-)invest in paradigms and institutions that are failing, how are we pushing back against an ethos that prioritizes self-survival over collective nourishment? How do we imbue our actions with foresight, so that we begin to model holistic, methodologies of care and restoration on an institutional, perhaps even global, scale? These are questions we are demanding of ourselves, but also of you.
Open Engagement 2018 seeks to explore and honor the ways that systems and actions are connected; how they fail and how they thrive. How do artists support themselves, and their communities? How do we do so with impact, in ways that push new paradigms of inclusion, nuance, safety, criticality, health, agency, justice, and purpose for all? How are artists and their institutions impacting the environment, culture, economics, technology, politics, social dynamics, and national and international law?

We welcome programming that reflects on the theme of sustainability, the sustainability of the field, as well as Open Engagement, both as a site and a form. We are looking for practical tactics and methodologies for sustainable practices, as well as expansive, theoretical propositions for maintaining radical departures from the status quo.

Let us think through the sustainability of these practices together to find ways to better nurture the field’s needs, and ensure that those engaged in this work can continue to mobilize towards a more just and liberated future.