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Isil Egrikavuk

Contextual Art Practices: Artist as Catalyst

           In his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” Paulo Friere describes processes of education that can easily be applied when an artist chooses to work in dialogue with a community. He explores the existential necessity of action and reflection, which he calls praxis, to create dialogue and to name the world. What does it mean for an artist if Friere’s ideas are put into action? What does it mean if an artist functions as a catalyst in order to make art in direct contact with people or a community group? What are the outcomes and the results of this kind of work and how is it generated?

       Increasingly, art practices of this kind are being referred to as contextual, and this idea has given rise to the title of this research: “Contextual Art Practices: Artist as Catalyst.” This thesis will analyze the relationship between artist, audience, and artwork through a project created through their collaboration. What makes an artwork or a project contextual? What are its main components? “Artist as Catalyst” is going to highlight these questions by exploring the elements of public, site, and audience in relationship.  This process will be specified through a project that takes place in a drop-in center for women who are transient, homeless, and of low income. Based on dialogue and emphatic listening between the participants, it will start as a series of conversations around the issues regarding that community. The content of the project will define the outcome.  The project will also analyze the role and the social responsibility of the artist in creating critical thinking among its makers and its audience.

         What constitutes critical thinking in contextual art practices? Who becomes the maker and who becomes the audience? Through the light of the described project, this thesis is also going to touch on important questions that have arisen around contextual practice. The research for this project also draws on the readings of Herbert Marcuse and Mikhail Bakhtin, and these critical frameworks will form the core of the thesis. Other readings and contemporary project descriptions will be used in order to compare examples of contextual art practices.


         Isil Egrikavuk received her BA in Western Literature from Bosphorus University, Istanbul. At SAIC, Egrikavuk participated in Randolph Street Gallery Project and was a part of PAC/edge and Around The Coyote art festivals. Egrikavuk is a performance artist and incorporates the medium in her thesis project.


Thesis Advisor: Nicholas Lowe, Visiting Artist, Arts Administration

Thesis Reader: Brett Bloom, Instructor, Arts Administration; Member, Temporary Services

Second Reader: Zerrin Iren Boynudelik, Assistant Professor, Art Department; Chair of the Ph.D. and Graduate Program at Yildiz Technical University






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