Response to Social Work, Part 2: Interview with HUSH

…there is safety for these artists living and working outside the boundaries of the art world…

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The virtually untraceable art collective HUSH has done an excellent job at creating work that is fugitive and fleeting. Contemporary art increasingly entails questioning aspects of consumerism, commoditization, and the prevailing system of values over creating something for our eyes to gaze upon. HUSH’s work—a hybrid of activism and criminal activity—provokes us to see all the aforementioned within a legal construct, yet through an artistic lens. Politics and law serve as their ready-mades. They command our intellect be involved when examining their work and to react with a critical eye.

The surreptitious nature of their art heightens its value without much effort on their part. Based on the economic model of supply and demand, HUSH’s work is priceless. Not only is it unfeasible to sell the output of what they produce, the group takes it a step further and manages to catapult any documentation of their work. It becomes irretrievable and irreproducible.

In reminding us that art does not have to become a commodity, HUSH also calls into question the necessity for a maker. Is identification necessary? Should the public or HUSH followers know these renegade, almost vigilante, artists? I say no. The only individuals who should be privy to their identities are the collaborators themselves. This enigmatic nature makes their work all the more potent and proves a serious challenge to the art world. In some ways, their effective anonymity could herald the demise of the concept of the artist. Yet, I’m sure with their continued efforts to create incendiary work that provokes and thrusts its way into our visual landscapes, they must continue to stay apparitions.

Paradoxically, there is safety for these artists living and working outside the boundaries of the art world. Their activities seem to show us that we are not as free as we would like to think. I’d like to imagine that this clever art collective sits and connives atop some constructed Bentham panopticon, keeping watch.

Originally published to Art Practical for Shotgun Reviews April 2010

Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She serves as one of the editors-in-chief for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and SF MOMA's Open Space. She has lectured at the De Young museum, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2016). She is currently a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow researching the concept of citizenship. She also serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism and board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center.

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