Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: commencement isn’t the right word for our moment. For sure, commencement makes an impression, sounding as it does like attainment and achievement, i.e., other words we like to be around. Stretching across a page in block print or cursive letters and flanked by an institutional seal and mortar board clip art, commencement is quite the sight, fueling passion for tradition and ritual.
Instead, let’s try “continuation” on for size. After graduation, you’ll continue what you’ve been doing, albeit with new academic credentials, work that you’ll share with others, and expanded professional and personal networks. You might be doing all of this here in the Bay Area, and with greater urgency. nOur region’s scale gives us a good chance for making lasting change, finally addressing the crises that were there all along. Everyone knows that we can do better by each other, not only in the art industry but in society at large. New structures are overdue.
It’s hard to turn on a dime, to adjust to a shifting landscape when the atmosphere is suffused with anxiety. Yet this is where we are, with no more guarantee of permanence and relevance than what we had just a short time ago. An artist friend of mine who launched her career in the 1980s complains that collectors make a beeline to the work she made in that decade, bypassing her recent efforts. They’ll eventually get to the latter, I tell her. Interest and preoccupation with past projects are indications of their lasting power: the works index unanswered questions that still hang in the air.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched a house painter navigate his work site. It was across the street from my apartment; I had an unobstructed view of the building he was painting from my kitchen windows. Yet somehow I missed the arrival of the scaffolding and the crew that had set it up. Now, there was this single man in a white jumpsuit with a leaf blower, whose roar startled me. This preparatory task seemed not worth the din: nothing was swept away or gathered into a bin. Then, suddenly, sun rays struck some airborne particles, illuminating what had been there the whole time.
Jacqueline Francis is Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Visual and Critical Studies Program at CCA.