Cultural Democracy
, Issue number 33, Summer 1986
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Cultural Democracy
ISSN 0730 9503


Charles Frederick

Rich and poor, race, class, sex, and sexual identity, rural and urban, elitism and militarism. We called the 1985 conference of ACD "Imaginaction” and we planned it to be a way to get all of us to look farther afield, to confront directly the cultural, political, and material divisions that weaken this country and rob from us all our full humanity. After all, these divisions in a fundamental way are the dominating culture of the U.S. and curdle within us all in hidden places whether or not we are the easily apparent victims.

To reach a new imagination of our potential unity, we had to experience concretely the force and significance of the differences in this country. To take this on is risk feelings of alienation. but without this struggle we will never know how to celebrate truthfully our diversity and our imagination will be hypocritical. We needed to break out of our habitual ACD network, inviting people from a more disparate range of communities to share their work, and maybe to invite them to work with us, all of us changing ourselves by changing whom we work with and, hence, what we know. The nine articles that follow were whittled out of the three days worth of presentation and response that resulted from this intention.

What is left with me most strongly from these pieces is the recognition that when we talk about a new and different imagination. 'we are not merely mouthing a slogan. God. it is often so frustrating to carryon the work we have chosen with all of its political and social responsibilities. So difficult to trust our vision when we do not have full confidence in our art. And that frustration cannot be satisfied just with correct political and social awareness. Correct politics are joyless politics and contradict the complexity of human experience.

The fundamental faculty of the artist or cultural worker is imagination and its sensual expression. More even than resolving the problems of bread and bombs, we want the freedom to imagine the most powerful possible - even impossible - human reality, crafted in forms beautiful. Elaborate, and true. This is our work,

What these articles tell, over and over again, is that none of us is alone in this wish. We may be caught in a temporary warp of history, but its overall motion is with us. We are part of the new future that is only beginning its articulation, nowhere near yet to its fulfillment but we are part of its imagining. Something is dead or dying, however mighty it may be, and we have recognized that. We have found it within our own imaginations and have joined with others, the other deprived and disenfranchised peoples - the vast majority of the world to imagine something else. And we have begun to find the specific craft, means and forms to release the imagination of a new world. the first step to bringing it fully into existence. This is how we will find the confidence in our art. a confidence resting against standards of evaluation as innovative as our understanding-that the most powerful imagination in the world is in the potential of the disenfranchised. not the powerful, in the world beginning, not the one already in place.

Sometimes from this identity and authority we create our work alone. in a studio or at a desk. Sometimes it happens in the new artistic craft of facilitating the collective expression of a community, transforming a pattern of relations within a community, something never before called "art.  Something far too democratic and participatory. Something far too subtle for the market.

Imagination, and its collective expression, culture, is the most profound and most intense activity that signifies us as human. What I get from these articles is that we on the periphery are moving in. The new imagination, this time recognized as a universal human faculty, a democratic phenomenon, is rising, getting stronger - a garden overrunning the old dead embers of the center.

[printshop graphic by Lincoln Cushing]
["Deconstruction" graphic by Bill Crook]

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