Have you ever wondered about those curatorial briefs that nominate ‘social impact’ in their selection criteria?
It’s a handle applied to artworks to make them easier to deal with, a simple shortcut to appraising a work : good – has social impact, bad – no social impact. But social impact and social comment are not the same, and they are both independent of quality. While it may be reasonable to say that one of the roles of art is that it has a social impact, (as all artworks reflect and comment on the culture from which they arise) to judge a work by social impact is a nonsense, as it is most likely neither evident nor quantifiable. Yet this a key curatorial practice in contemporary art and a measuring stick of many a selection committee who are bullied by funding bodies into making exhorbitant claims about the utility of their exhibitions.