Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe founders of the Center for Artistic ActivismHow To Win is a work in progress created by Steve Lambert, artist provocateur and Stephen Duncombe, theorist provocateur. We both consider ourselves engaged citizens and both think that using art and culture to transform the world is a good idea. But we are both haunted by the same question: Does it Work? …..How do we gauge the success of our projects? Hell, how do we even think about success when our goal is utopia? How to Win is a place to explore this and related questions.

Understanding Efficacy in Engaged Art

Our study explores how artists think about efficacy in bringing about real-world change through creative practice and inquire how their understanding shapes their creative and exhibition practices. A significant minority of contemporary artists in the Unites States identify themselves a desire for their art to have some impact on the viewer – a shift in perspective, a challenge in held-beliefs, or outright cultural or political change. There are numerous museum shows and art books devoted to the artist-as-citizen. Curiously, however, there is a paucity of work on how these artists think about, define, and factor into their creative and display practices the social and/or political efficacy of their artwork. In brief: Is art effective in bringing about change? How is it most effective? What constitutes efficacy? And how does one know if the art has or has not been effective?

We will be interviewing approximately 40 mid-career artists, in both the visual and performing arts. The eventual result of this project will be a series of heavily edited interviews, showcasing the artists creative production and their ideas about the efficacy of their work. In the short term these interviews will be assembled into a dynamic website; in the long term they will form the core of a book on this topic.

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