Caroline Woolard: Artist Talk

Caroline Woolard

Caroline Woolard, at right. photo / provided

Caroline Woolard's organizing, teaching, advocacy, design, and artistic work focus on the solidarity economy. The concept of the solidarity economy emerged in the global South but is known internationally by different names: the workers' economy, the social economy, the new economy, the circular economy, the regenerative economy, the local economy, and the cooperative economy. It is recognized globally as a way to unite grassroots practices like lending circles, credit unions, worker cooperatives, and community land trusts to form a powerful base of grassroots political power. The solidarity economy is a system that places people before profit, aiming to distribute power and resources equitably. Woolard believes that the objects that surround us can be as imaginative as the organizing work we are doing for the solidarity economy.

The projects Woolard hopes to produce and the ones that she admires situate themselves in relationship to their historical moment. They conjure critical questions about the politics of production and they invite us to debate an object's history and future. But the institutions that present these works are often only open during standard, if outmoded, working hours, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They rotate exhibitions every few months. How can the path the artist hopes for these objects become actualized in such limited circumstances, in such conservative spaces? Woolard believes that in addition to making objects, artists and designers must make new networks and organizations to support those objects, to allow them to circulate to broader populations with increased availability.

For this reason, Woolard continues to cocreate organizations alongside objects. These organizations move at the pace of interpersonal relationships, rather than the pace of the art and design markets, and they produce a shared discourse and transformative relationships. She uses such organizations to ask: if works of art only become visible to us through networks of people and institutions that validate and affirm projects as works of art, which people and institutions are able to confer validity and how can that conferral become more democratic?

Woolard aims to communicate across social spheres. She makes multi-year, research-based, site-specific projects that circulate in contemporary art institutions as well as in urban development, critical design, and social entrepreneurship settings. Though she is often cited as a socially-engaged artist, she considers herself to be a cultural producer whose interdisciplinary work facilitates social imagination at the intersection of art, urbanism, and political economy.

This event is part of the 2016 Cornell Council for the Arts Biennial: Abject/Object Empathies.

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