Setting the stage: Theaster Gates through the lens of performanceShow full item record
|Setting the stage: Theaster Gates through the lens of performance
|Garza, Auriel May
|Master of Arts
|Since 2006, Theaster Gates has been renovating and repurposing abandoned buildings in the poor and predominately African American community of Grand Crossing on Chicago's South Side. Gates's spaces, now collectively known as the Dorchester Projects, act as cultural centers in an area that, since the 1960s, has experienced a long history of disinvestment especially in terms of cultural resources. Today, the Dorchester includes a library, slide archive and soul food kitchen and is host to vast archives of art history glass lanternslides, vinyl records, and art and architecture books. Gates enlists artists and members of the local community to collaborate in the creation of these revitalized spaces. Their programming and design are guided both by the artist's vision and the needs of the local community. The Dorchester offers a variety of programming ranging from artist residencies, to community service days, art-making workshops, and backyard barbecues. Whether through the cultivation of a community garden, the sharing of a meal, or the making of an artwork, visitors learn to take an active role in the creation of cultural space in Grand Crossing. The framing of events at the Dorchester is reminiscent of writings by Allan Kaprow on his creation of Happenings in the late 1950s and early 60s. Much like Gates's projects, Kaprow's planned but loosely scripted events left room for improvisation while eliminating the boundary between the audience and the artwork. Gates's work also compares well to that of Joseph Beuys who first coined the term "social sculpture"? to describe art's potential to positively change the world through human interaction.
In his early exhibitions, Gates began using elements of performance as a means to promote cultural exchange through shared experiences. An analysis of these early works as they relate to the history of performance art prepares us to discern Gates's accomplishments with the Dorchester Projects. I intend to argue that Gates's primary goal is to provide an experimental arena that enables audiences to create and participate in transformative and largely un-choreographed arts-oriented experiences that enrich the local community and empower them to realize their effect upon society at large.
|Colpitt, Frances J.
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- Masters Theses