As globalization has intensified in recent years, the role of the artist has become increasingly central to the design and creation of new information technologies and new media. But does globalization truly benefit contemporary artists and the communities they forge?
Janine Marchessault (right), York’s Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media & Globalization, is exploring this important question, examining how artists in different cities have contributed to the development of new cultural and informational landscapes. Looking at everything from urban parks to ephemeral performances in neighbourhoods to virtual spaces on the Internet, she is developing an archival project where graduate students can document new cultural formations and community-based cultures.
One space Marchessault is currently investigating – 401 Richmond St. in Toronto (below left) – demonstrates how artists’ groups in the city are responding to government funding reductions. They have reclaimed an old warehouse to support a highly collaborative network of galleries, designers, small presses and production houses. “By looking at how artists are creating and adapting urban spaces (both real and virtual), we can get a good indication of the value that art making brings to cities,” explains Marchessault. “This is the notion of the ‘creative city’ that we read about everywhere. The danger with this idea is that artists become relegated to the ‘urban beautification committee’ that promotes tourism while in truth they are part of a re-articulation of urban civil society through the politics of locality.”
And while highlighting how globalization has benefitted some artists, Marchessault’s work also provides an important critique of corporate capitalism, as well as the digital divide between those that have access to new media technologies and those that don’t.
As editor of the journal Public, Marchessault is producing a special issue on “Locality”, co-edited with Saara Liinamaa and Christine Shaw, two doctoral students from York’s graduate studies program in Social & Political Thought. Marchessault has recently completed a book on Marshall McLuhan called Cosmic Media.
Funding for Marchessault’s work comes from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.
This article was submitted to YFile by Jason Guriel, a graduate student working in the Office of the Vice-President of Research & Innovation.