By Laura Denzer
Humans live within and through structures of dependency. From atoms to biospheres, animals to industries, dependent relationships experience continuity and undergo change. Dependency on parents or other primary caretakers eventually ends (or it doesn’t), so new people must be found; friends, enemies, or new pursuits fill the void, or institutions now offer a different kind of safety. We may assume a position as guardian of another being, facility, or tradition, on which we may, in turn, come to depend on.
Addiction to substances or habits may consume our lives or simply make days tolerable. A medical dependency may keep us above ground a while longer. Choices you make, as well as the choices of others, will direct relations of power and control, determining what we hang on to, and what hangs onto us. As guest editor of Number Magazine Issue #96, I came to dependency as the thematic prompt primarily because of its ubiquity and wide interpretive berth, from the seemingly banal to the morbidly curious. It felt relevant. The current cultural and political state of the United States; opioid crisis affecting all corners and classes; the obliterating and irreversible impact of climate change in the face of political inaction; the explosion of mobile phone technology, allowing for, if not demanding, constant accessibility and interaction through social-media and online platforms; the resulting new environments and forms of presence being assimilated; and recent struggles against white patriarchal supremacy are all grounds for meditating on dependency.
The Art World, a place or thing that embodies many of the phenomena discussed above, reckons with dependency down to its structural marrow. Dependency relates to collaboration, relationships to the art of the past that has been chosen by the culture makers that came before. Artists don’t work in a vacuum and to a greater or lesser extent are always responding to other artists and their environment. More broadly, all people depend on assumptions, biases, entrenched ideologies, language, and interaction to operate in the world. Nothing is wholly new. The creations of today depend on the foundations of yesterday. Art and creative work in general can be a selective and focused play with certain dependencies. Sometimes the artist removes dependencies that are usually present; other times she adds dependencies usually absent. She may experiment to discover what happens without certain rules or assumptions that are generally taken for granted. Or she just might see what happens if some new requirement, rule, or situation is imposed.
Both intuitive and analytical investigations of dependency-structures may offer insight into what and where we are, how certain constructs came to exist, and maybe something about the nature of dependency itself. I believe it is an imperative component to one’s struggle to affect change and progress. Due to the multivalent, fluctuating, and infinitely evolving nature of dependencies, the potential for creative investigation and critique goes on, and on.