The Baton Passed 


… In the wider scheme of things, of course, much of the world has greater concerns than delayed academic publications or exhibitions. COVID-19 affected communities of color disproportionately in white-majority or white-dominant countries. In similar ways, the so-called underdeveloped nations find themselves grimly and emphatically outpaced in the world’s race to be vaccinated. The oversupply of vaccinations in some countries contrasts, uncomfortably, with a corresponding undersupply in other parts of the world, particularly in countries across the continent of Africa. While those of us in pampered and privileged parts of the world obsess about booster shots and whether or not children should be vaccinated, the poorest nations find themselves excluded from the luxury of these conversations. Such is the extent to which the effects of the coronavirus, as new as it was, reflected the familiar age-old disparities of access to resources.

Short-term challenges and disruptions aside, it’s way too early to know what the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be on us as scholars, as artists, as arts professionals, but above all, of course, on us as humanity. We’ve been reluctant to face up to the harsh realities and encroaching devastation caused by climate change. We’ve seemed similarly reluctant to face up to the ways in which we are implicated in the harsh realities and unfortunate consequences of disparities in access to healthcare, both within and beyond the United States. My abiding hope though, as incoming editor-in-chief of Art Journal, is that over the course of my three-year tenure we might begin to see greater, more tangible evidence of the ability of contemporary art practice and contemporary scholarship to more adequately recognize the increasingly parlous state of the world around us—and to do so in ways that come to be reflected in the nuances of our respective primary fields of endeavor. This is not to wish into existence curatorial activity or art or scholarship that has as its primary focus responses to immediate and urgent challenges such as climate change, disparities in the impact of COVID-19, or even racism. Rather, it is to hope that our professional practices will decreasingly have the appearance of being inoculated from the world around us. If we understand scholarship and art production as manifestations of social practice, it becomes inevitable that our individual and collective desire for, and commitment to, social action will be reflected in the work we do.

This is the first issue of Art Journal that editorial assistant Olivia Weber and I have helped to bring into existence. Needless to say, we have been guided and influenced by our respective predecessors, Amanda Chen and Jordana Moore Saggese, and the ways in which they have ensured that Art Journal continues to strengthen, deepen, and broaden its commitment to social change by encouraging and advocating for scholarship noticeably connected to the world around us. In my short amount of time as editor-in-chief, I have been greatly impressed by the range and caliber of texts that have come to us as potential contributions to the journal. An insistent aspect of this scholarship is its palpable desire and intention to make a difference. Which is to say, to challenge the particularly problematic aspects of art history that have tended to present it as the socially disconnected and aloof preserve of a tautological privileged elite.

The above extracts are from Eddie Chambers’ “The Baton Passed”, Art Journal, Spring 2022 81:1, 5-6