Tim Rollins

Posted in Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on June 13, 2004

The Civil Arts Inquiry currently being undertaken at the City Arts Centre, Dublin, by it’s new Director, Declan McGonagle, is an innovative piece of social/arts development.
One of the treasures on the site is the transcript of a talk given by Tim Rollins – ‘Art in the building of the beloved community’. I had not come across Rollins before, but he is clearly one of the real practitioners of arts in communities. It seems to me that he is interested in the same radical agenda as Rob Fairley and Room 13 in Caol Primary School in Fort William, Scotland.
Tim Rollins talk, sadly without visuals though he refers to the slides he is talking about, conveys his energy and enthusiasm. It demonstrates the need to work slowly, and to be present over a long period of time. It also highlights the importance of pushing very hard. Inspirational.
Interestingly he talks about two phrases – ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ He outlines the background to these – Martin Luther King Jnr. used them to focus his argument about the American left during the Civil Rights period. The danger of ‘what if?’, according to King, was that it stopped you doing things. The attitude required is ‘why not?’.
I had picked up on ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ from the work of Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison, American environmental artists. They use in their work a dialogue between the ‘witness’ and the ‘lagoonmaker’. They use questions and phrases such as ‘what if?’, ‘why not?’ and ‘if not here then somewhere else’ in the Dragon, as means to challenge communities and bureaucracies.

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  1. […] of the earliest entries in this blog, back in 2004, resulted from reading a text by Tim Rollins that formed part of the […]

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