The beginning of the year is a time for manifestoes. We’ve survived another false apocalypse and we’ll find that the fiscal cliff wasn’t any more dramatic than the day-to-day tedium of recession politics we’ve long become used to. 2012 was a year of taking stock and it still not making sense, in the art world or any other. Another divisive election with uncertain meaning, a hurricane exposing both economic injustice and our capacity for generosity, a round of violence followed by epileptic, knee-jerk responses, and continuing social seizures across the world that are each in their own way asking, now, how will we live?
Our stake is in how art can speak to this basic question. Temporary exists within a landscape – a growing field interested in the independent, artist-initiated experience as a means to move forward. Our goal has always been to conceptualize a national dialogue around artist-centric projects uncoupled from urban centers and art markets. The site creates a diverse archive of sometimes short-lived spaces, cataloguing alternate ways of working and theorizing about how this activity reconfigures the dynamics at play within the art world. Working outside of established institutions and structures is often an individual, essential decision, but it is increasingly one with radiating social and economic overtones. Simple things like how a gallery organizes itself, where an artist chooses to work, how a publication runs and by whom, begin to look almost revolutionary when faced with the failed imaginations of the status quo. This impulse isn’t new, but it has taken on a sense of responsibility and reflection in recent years as other long-standing assumptions have proven both bankrupt and boring.
This is all to say that we think the site’s vision is essential, but that it is by no means solitary. We are part of a widening gyre teasing out what small-scale, artist-led, engaged action looks like by documenting it in its varied occurrences in communities across the country. In reviewing the archive from the last year, I realized that the site is a kind of organism. One profile in Albuquerque leads to another in Columbus, reviews in St. Louis to an interview with Occupy Museums, an alternative grad school in Kansas City to an alternative art fair in Chicago, vacant storefront spaces in Minneapolis, off the grid residencies in Oregon or New Mexico, interpretations of our built environment in Nevada and architectural interventions in rural Colorado – each a form-of-life spreading from the world to the web and back.
Increasingly, there is overlap in these ideas. What works in one place often finds a voice in another. Through distribution, the ideas reform and take root in whatever environment is suitable or wherever someone is willing to take the time and the risk. They are tested, clarified, hacked, reconceived. Think of how the ‘soup network’ has expanded from its artistic roots at InCUBATE to pop up in almost every region we’ve covered. What models are latent now, what new means? Whatever they are, we hope to distribute them through an ever-increasing number of profiles, interviews, and essays. Each week, each year, the archive of ideas is taking shape. We think that in this archive, other ways of making, of speaking, of living, are being expressed – often in undercurrents, slowly, but not without form. This is our manifesto – the need and urgency of the archive. This is how we make sense of how we may live – in circuits, forming other worlds within this one. As we enter the new year, the challenge for us is to expand this archive; the challenge for us all is to reimagine it and set it in motion.
James McAnally is the executive editor and co-founder of Temporary Art Review. A graduate of Washington University, James McAnally is a founder, Co-Director, and Curator of The Luminary Center for the Arts, a nonprofit artist resourcing organization based in St. Louis. In his personal practice, he works as part of the artistic collaborative US English.