The newly published book Art as Social Practice: Technologies for Change (Routledge, March 2022) features a chapter by Stamps Professor Rebekah Modrak. With a focus on socially engaged art practices in the twenty-first century, Art as Social Practice, edited by xtine burrough and Judy Walgren, explores how artists use their creative practices to raise consciousness, form communities, create change, and bring forth social impact through new technologies and digital practices.
Art as Social Practice features a foreword by artist Suzanne Lacy. Section introductions by authors/artists Anne Balsamo, Harrell Fletcher, Natalie Loveless, Karen Moss, and Stephanie Rothenberg present chapters that feature in-depth case studies by established and emerging contemporary artists including Kim Abeles, Christopher Blay, Joseph DeLappe, Mary Beth Heffernan, Chris Johnson, Rebekah Modrak, Praba Pilar, Tabita Rezaire, and Sylvain Souklaye.
Artists offer firsthand insight into how they activate methods used in socially engaged art projects from the twentieth century and incorporate new technologies to create twenty-first century, socially engaged, digital art practices. Works highlighted in this book span collaborative image-making, immersive experiences, telematic art, time machines, artificial intelligence, and physical computing. These reflective case studies reveal how the artists collaborate with participants and communities, and have found ways to expand, transform, reimagine, and create new platforms for meaningful exchange in both physical and virtual spaces.
Modrak’s chapter, Can This Be a Community When You’re Trying To Sell Me A Luxury Watch?,proposes online commerce as a terrain that exists somewhere between reality and fiction, a virtual space understood by many consumers as real, built by commercial fantasies, made tangible with physical goods. Modrak explores the digital spaces where consumer culture has diminished our notion of community, replacing social worlds rooted in a sense of place, shared values, and social bonds with a collective identification for a mass-produced thing and a “community of consumption.” The chapter examines corporate attempts to build “community,” foregrounds Modrak’s interventions into problematic communities of e‑commerce, and proposes strategies for “community-engaged art practices” that trouble consumer culture’s fantastical claims, unethical representations, and harmful stereotypes.