What is Artistic Surrogacy?
1: of, relating to, or characteristic of art or artistsartistic subjectsan artistic success
2: showing imaginative skill in arrangement or executionartistic photography
1a: one appointed to act in place of another : DEPUTY
b: a local judicial officer in some states (such as New York) who has jurisdiction over the probate of wills, the settlement of estates, and the appointment and supervision of guardians
2: Surrogate Mother
3: one that serves as a substitute
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 issues related to the barriers that artists - most notably marginalized artists - face that inhibit them from participating in the artistic landscape set forth by dominant cultural and industrial paradigms.
Barriers to Travel and the Dissemination of Work:
Institutional barriers - 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 perpetuating competitive platforms for representation often leaves 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 representative of the actual composition of arts communities? How can cross-cultural collaboration (not only to be read as international collaborations) through a spirit of mutual respect, care and desire for learning about others help to alter the topography of the arts landscape?
Gendered barriers - (mostly) women who are caretakers (of children, or other family members) find it more difficult to participate in the arts than their male counterparts who take on statistically less responsibility when it comes to familial duties. Often, this barrier which includes a decreased ability to travel, make time for uninterrupted work, and create brain space for new ideas, has implications for “successful” art careers, where one’s merit is 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 and non-binary people in the arts?
Geographic barriers - those who live in isolated areas where access to air travel, digital platforms, and institutional connections may be precarious are often those also overlooked by presenting organizations, would-be collaborators, and audiences at large. Those living in locales lacking artistic infrastructure may also find that acquiring 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 living in more isolated, less resourced areas?
** I want to challenge the images that comes to mind when conjuring an idea of what “under-resourced,” or “isolated” looks like. Through mass media, we are conditioned to believe that isolated, under-resourced places are only those considered “third world.” Not only is the term, “third-world” inaccurate and derogatory, the notion that only these places are cut off from the mainstream is inaccurate and dangerous as it ignores the challenges that poor and working-class communities in “developed” nations and communities face.
Financial barriers - As funding for the arts continues to be precarious, many who don’t already have access to discretionary funds for art making find it difficult to juggle necessary life 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?
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 ground and air travel required to participate 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?
"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.