It has recently been proposed that we, as a society, are entering a “post-post-9/11” era. While this does appeal to me in a certain sense (as in, I may not have to endure the aroma of untold, unshod pairs of feet every time I travel), I find the impetus for such a proclamation totally irresponsible. I don’t know if I am suffering from an ideological hangover, but I do think this is premature postulation. A significant rhetorical change has certainly come with Brand Obama, but real social change occurs at a glacial pace—a never-ending source of frustration for politicos and provocateurs alike—and it is the latter that most concerns me.
The nature of provocation has certainly changed since my youth, a time of Act Up, the Culture Wars, “Take Back the Night” marches and the UT-16. Today, sophists breed like rabbits in the blogosphere, and outright radicality exists online, several removes from lived experience and real emotions. So what form must dissent take to be effective in the context of contemporary art in this “post-everything” age? The answer is as always: by whatever means necessary. Today’s provocateurs need not be overtly political; they simply must exist. This issue of Art Lies is dedicated to those who make the aesthetic and occasionally amoral choice to dissent—to disrupt societal norms, whether via the quiet splice of an image or a supersonic boom.
Everything changes and nothing changes. This is the burden of the present and all eras—but that can have fringe benefits. Such an existential paradox makes this current moment the most fertile ground for disruption since the halcyon days of the Reagan era (a dissenter’s wet dream). It is high time to draw on our rich and subversive history as artists/thinkers/critics, lest we forget the past. There are any number of issues that cry out for soapboxes, bully pulpits and fuse lighters. For those who truly possess the will to provoke, the present appetite for change could be nothing less than a free-for-all.
Anjali Gupta, Editor