What is Artistic Surrogacy?
Artistic Surrogacy is a method of sharing artistic concepts through performances, presentations, experiences, and objects which are shared, in that one person’s (or several persons) ideas are placed in the hands of another (or a group) to be executed with care in the absence of the originator (s). While choreography is like this - where dancers are the vessel of the choreographer - artistic surrogacy is different, in that the work can take place between people of different training, different artistic genres, even. The goal of artistic surrogacy is to find creative ways of embodying and bringing to life work that is not inherently yours, with respect to differences in demographic, culture, training, geography, etc., of the collaborators. In essence, artistic surrogacy is a way of transmitting ideas across borders, across bodies, in ways that uphold the core values of the work, while leaving room for translational growth.
Artistic Surrogacy Rationale:
The concept of artistic surrogacy is inspired by several issues related to artist travel, both actual travel, and perceptions related to artist travel. In the collective imagination, it is often assumed that if one is successful in the arts, one travels. It is also often assumed that local artists are not as valuable as artists who come from elsewhere, compelling many artists to travel to be in spaces where they and their work are not as familiar to audiences in those spaces. Beyond issues of such perceptions, artists find very real barriers to travel which ultimately inhibit them from participating in the artistic landscape set forth by current dominant paradigms. While issues of travel and the need for a body to physically inhabit a specific space could be easily surmounted through digital media alone, it is important to note that live performance and face-to-face interaction are important facets of our cultural tapestry; ones that offer both performers and audience members opportunities for connection, empathy, and reminders of the physical spaces we inhabit in the midst of a digitized era. Artistic surrogacy seeks to mitigate issues of travel for artists who wish to creatively send their work out into the world and collaborate with artists not in their geographic vicinity. Artistic surrogacy seeks to create instances where artists living in less resourced areas can share their ideas and their work. If successful, artistic surrogacy would work to bolster local arts activity and variety, and help change paradigms of how the arts are perceived and experienced by everyone involved. Ultimately, artistic surrogacy opens the doors to a democratic exchange of ideas with opportunities for artists to reframe and expand the boundaries of their own work and practice, while working toward the health of the artistic community as a whole, and by extension, the world in which we live.
Barriers to travel and the Dissemination of Work:
-- Institutional considerations - arts institutions, educational institutions, and other types of institutions have historically, and continue to amplify the voices and work of artists who fit dominant societal narratives, or fulfill requirements for funding quotas. This model of presenting entities perpetuating competitive platforms for representation often leave artists from marginalized and/or under-resourced backgrounds out of the representational landscape. How can artists working together help to create a more inclusive artistic landscape? How can cross-cultural (not to be read as only international collaborations) collaboration through a spirit of mutual respect, care and desire for learning about others help to create a new artistic experience?
-- Environmental considerations - travel - air travel especially, is damaging to the environment. Studies show that the impact of air travel includes heat, sound, gas and other chemicals. How would reducing the amount of car and air travel in the arts contribute to environmental repair? How can artists be agents of change by demonstrating creative solutions to issues related to lifestyle and the environment?
-- Gendered considerations - (mostly) women who are caretakers (of children, or other family members) find it more difficult to travel than their male counterparts who take on statistically less responsibility when it comes to familial duties. Often, this barrier to travel has implications for successful art careers, where one’s merit is often based on how widely one’s work is presented. How can artists mitigate issues of gender inequality in the arts? How can artists help shift attitudes with regard to notions of success, and women in the arts?
-- Geographic considerations - those who live in isolated areas where access to travel might be difficult are often those also looked over by presenting organizations, would-be collaborators, and audiences at large. Those living in places lacking artistic infrastructure may also find that finding collaborators and suitable arts spaces at home can be difficult. How can artists be creative about including those who are less resourced in the artistic landscape? How can artists help shift people’s thinking about others in more isolated, less resourced areas of the world?
-- Financial considerations - travel is expensive! As funding for the arts continues to be precarious, many who don’t already have access to discretionary funds for travel find it difficult to juggle necessary expenses with artistic ones. How can artists make commentary on the financial landscape of the arts in constructive ways? How can artists challenge the current financial landscape?
"A Treatise on Generational Trauma," a portion of the first Artistic Surrogacy experiment with artist/healers Ekua Adisa and Kate Morales, with Cara Hagan as surrogate.