Seeing and envisioning: camera-based practice, democratic praxis, and socially engaged arts in Toronto
thesisposted on 24.05.2021, 11:37 by Kris Erickson
This project explores the varied ways cameras have become integrated into contemporary socially engaged arts practices. The emergent, participatory, and inclusive characteristics of these diverse practices are increasingly common in contemporary art and culture, with cooperative processes, community activism, formal experimentation, and public involvement being regarded, now more than ever, as legitimate strategies for developing artistic form and content. This project considers the innovative uses of cameras in these practices, arguing that such uses are not simply convenient or instrumental, but are often critical mediations between visual realism and cultural expressivity. The dissertation begins to address a gap in research on material practices in the cultural production of art by elaborating a theory of socially engaged camera arts. Drawn from ethnographic research in the Toronto community arts/socially engaged arts ecology, this theory begins to describe how camera practices seem to be moving beyond traditional image production practices in order to support and even help envision broader repertoires of practice in processes of social and cultural action. The dissertation develops three interrelated theoretical frames - expansion, organization and pedagogy - to insist on the key place of socially engaged camera arts, and camera arts in general, in the iterative, activist-led revitalization of community cultural infrastructures.