Why are Gallery Walls White and Why Do We Know the Answer?

This prompt brings to mind Material Return, an enterprise of The Industrial Commons (TIC), and its movement ecology which hinges on the principals of a circular economy. All three theories of change (Personal Transformation, Changing dominant institutions, Setting a New Shared Ownership Agenda) are employed along the way, whether it’s the internal culture of the business, the presentation of the enterprise to potential clients and investors, or the mechanisms for growth employed.

I find that in thinking about my role as storyteller for the enterprises of TIC I always lean toward the first domain: “If only they would see, they would understand.” I often rely on the personal transformation to act as the catalyst for greater systemic transformation, but I believe my strategies could be honed. 

It wasn’t until the rise of conceptual artists such as Mel Bochner, Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, and Joseph Kosuth that the art world began to self actualize. The presentation of an idea, resplendently exhibited in a gallery, imparts certain assumptions about its worth. Long story short, galleries and museums no longer have the luxury of ignoring these assumptions (or it would be very embarrassing if they did). Much of contemporary public art is in response to this new understanding of public space, participation, and viewership. However, this self actualization didn’t happen seamlessly, it required countless artists drawing attention to this issue, which was otherwise disguised. 

There is no shorthand for setting a new shared ownership agenda in motion, but a strategy for developing creative capacity across a network of partners to catalyze a new mode of being, may be a step in the right direction.

One thought on “Why are Gallery Walls White and Why Do We Know the Answer?

  1. Kathryn, thank you for your post. I am fascinated what it means to be the “storyteller for the enterprises of TIC,” and I certainly resonate with the feeling that “if only they would see, they would understand.” You relate this feeling to the belief that personal transformation can/will lead to systemic transformation. You then suggest your strategies “could be honed.” In your experience, when has personal transformation led to systemic transformation? When have you shown someone something, they understood, they personally changed, and that led to transforming systems? What strategies might increase your likelihood of changing systems? I am not at all suggesting that personal change cannot lead to systemic change. I am asking these questions because I hear you saying you value story and personal change but that you might desire more systemic change and are not seeing your desired results thus wanting new strategies. Your image of circular, closed loop economy as “Material Return” is fascinating and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.


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