Posted on 12/23/2007 by Amy Fung
Gathered inside The Artery, the newest alternative venue in town, Kerr invited panelists from all of the non-profit organizations he has worked with in his photo-based project, Towards Seeing Everything. Representatives from HIV Edmonton, Changing Together, Chrysalis, Mile Zero Dance and additional reps from PACE plus Kerr and moderator Karen Lynch headed an open dialogue about the intersection of art, social awareness and how and what it is to be creative.
Kerr’s impetus to put a face to the non profit sector is literally represented in the piece for Changing Together, a NPF for newly immigrated women in Edmonton. The piece stands as polariods taken of women born outside of Canada, with a short self-written bio consisting of their first name, place of birth, and their “role” in society. By far the strongest piece in the set of four, which also consisted of a photodocumentary of a day in the life of someone with HIV, a three panel series of developmentally challenged individuals in the workplace, and an abstract collage of the body, the Changing Together piece at once calls on our categorization of race, but at the same time surprises and challenges our notions of Otherness.
The challenge of creating art to reconcile social issues is too great a task, as art at its best cannot reconcile anything, but only push and pull us into different directions. The overuse of the word “creativity” was thoroughly annoying; the badgering that we are all creative beings is one thing, but to use one’s creativity in a succinct and applicable manner is completely another issue that was not discussed beyond “how to creatively stay afloat with a small budget.” Whether we are to semantically rename non profits as “public profits” eventually comes down to the bottom line, an issue that is too deep and really calls for greater arts lobbying. Tax breaks, incentives to invest and endow, artistic standards that reflect the diversity of the city, and spaces to produce and exhibit are just the major tips of a disintegrating iceberg.
The segregation of Edmonton art from social issues, from business, and from science, is very troubling. Kerr’s project points to putting some of these things back together, but why have they been separated in the first place? This is the foremost reason why art is not valued in a city like Edmonton, because the integration of art into our daily lives has been nil. There are spots of decorative art, but that does not speak about anything to anyone. Since when has art existed as a form wholly unto itself? Art is a barometer, a document, and an interpretation of society. Any form of expression is a direct reflection of our times. The work may not always communicate anything profound, but then that is the separation between being creative and being an artist.