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"The Work of Art in the World is a ringing manifesto for public art as an agent of democratic change. Doris Sommer traces the connections between art, activism, and social transformation in communities from Buenos Aires to the South Bronx, framing the surprising and stirring art practices that she describes in relation to the vital traditions of aesthetics and democratic political theory. Her aim is to stimulate civic discussion and communicative action; her book is revelatory, alive, and inspiring."—Kathleen Woodward, author of Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of the Emotions
"This remarkable book is both a unique introduction to, and an informed and passionate argument for, socially engaged art. Doris Sommer not only illuminates the objectives, methods, forms, effects, and context of civic art but also radically expands the ways we see and think about art in general."—Krzysztof Wodiczko, artist and Professor of Art, Design, and the Public Domain at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
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Celebrating art and interpretation that take on social challenges, Doris Sommer steers the humanities back to engagement with the world. The reformist projects that focus her attention develop momentum and meaning as they circulate through society to inspire faith in the possible. Among the cases that she covers are top-down initiatives of political leaders, such as those launched by Antanas Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and also bottom-up movements like the Theatre of the Oppressed created by the Brazilian director, writer, and educator Augusto Boal. Alleging that we are all cultural agents, Sommer also takes herself to task and creates Pre-Texts, an international arts-literacy project that translates high literary theory through popular creative practices. The Work of Art in the World is informed by many writers and theorists. Foremost among them is the eighteenth-century German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who remains an eloquent defender of art-making and humanistic interpretation in the construction of political freedom. Schiller's thinking runs throughout Sommer's modern-day call for citizens to collaborate in the endless co-creation of a more just and more beautiful world.