Carol Becker


On her book Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production

Cover Interview of November 10, 2009

The wide angle

The book really does reflect my years of thinking and training as an intellectual—as a public intellectual.  Each of the essays evolved in response to a place and then to an opportunity to write and then “give” the essays in a public context.  Sometimes I read them as lectures or keynotes many times before the final essay is developed.  They are the product of an engaged intellectual life.

I put ideas out into the public arena and get feedback in the form of conversation, public and private dialogues.  I then rework the writing.  Often the essays were first published in one context—a performance studies journal or art magazine, or a cultural studies publication—and then refined and developed again until they were perfected for the book.  They have done their time in a crucible of interaction.

I studied with philosopher Herbert Marcuse when I was a student at University of California, San Diego.  So, although I was educated to be a professor of English and American literature, in fact, I became a cultural theorist very much influenced by the work and thinking of the Frankfurt School.  I think that orientation is apparent in the way in which I go about understanding the world and also in the inherent optimism of my thinking.

I am also trained as a literary critic who became a writer about art; therefore, so much of what I write about concerns art and artists.  I am also deeply an educator—and have spent years teaching and administrating art schools.  Watching the new generation of cultural workers in art and design emerge has deeply affected how I think about the cultural arena.  I am constantly surrounded by young people who will be the artists of the next decades. This allows me to track the evolution of consciousness through art, culture, and design.

But I am not an art or design historian.  In truth, I have invented my own approach to art and culture, with a deep orientation to progressive political thinking.  I admire Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Zygmunt Bauman, Rebecca Solnit, and William Blake, all of who express wonderful ideas in fascinating ways.  I would feel very fortunate for my writing ever to be associated with theirs.