Instrumentalisation: a convenient mask

A Restless Art

For as long as I can remember, the accusation of instrumentalising art has been flung at community artists, as a way of discrediting their work and its challenge to dominant practice. It’s always seemed wrong to me – not just in the sense of being an incorrect analysis of what we do, but philosophically and politically wrong. People make it to defend the tastes and practices they prefer against critique. Because it’s endorsed by the most powerful interests in the art world, it has often been politically effective. But it has never been more than a self-serving myth, a mask to hide power.

What is meant by instrumentalisation is that art is being used to serve a purpose other than the creation of art. In so far as it has any theoretical basis, it is a version of ‘art for art’s sake‘, the late 19th century appeal to…

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