La mimesis dell’esperienza quotidiana. L’influenza del pensiero di John Dewey nella socially engaged art statunitense


  • Emanuele Rinaldo Meschini Università di Bologna


Parole chiave:

experience, community, Dewey, socially engaged art, public art.


The text aims to analyze the concept of “mimesis” as an artistic practice of transformation of the ordinary within the so-called “socially engaged” and “community-based art practices” in the United States since the 1990s. As a theoretical reference, the text explores the concept of experience expressed by the American philosopher John Dewey in his Art as Experience (1934), subsequently taken up by various curators and artists such as Mary Jane Jacob, Mark Dion and Pablo Helguera.

Since the 1990s, within the world of contemporary art a social and participatory trend has developed founding its place of action in the urban space and with marginalized communities as active participants. Given the collaborative attitudes, these actions soon took the name of practices moving away, even in a theoretical way, from public art and from any other type of authorial intervention in the public space. In the 2000s the critical discourse moved to the field of the value of social action (Kester, Bishop), or how to judge or not the artistry of a process that does not produce authorial works, has no spectators and takes place outside the artistic system proper. This is because these practices are based on an interdisciplinary theory which, moving from pedagogical and activist foundations, found in the thought of John Dewey its first moment of conjunction with artistic theory to the point of being recognized as a direct source for several artists and curators who worked between the 90s and 2000s. The geographical centre of this discourse is the United States as the role played by progressive education formalized in the early 1900s laid the foundations for an educational model that has also permeated artistic practice.

Riferimenti bibliografici

Bellatalla, L., John Dewey e la cultura italiana del Novecento, ETS, Pisa 1999.

Boas, G., Communication in Dewey Aesthetics, in “Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism”, XIII, n. 2 (1959).

Cavallari, G. (a cura di), John Dewey. Scritti politici, Donzelli, Roma 2003.

Dewey, J., Arte come Esperienza, a cura di G. Matteucci, Aesthetica, Palermo 2007.

Dewey, J., Rifare la filosofia, a cura di A. Massarenti, Donzelli, Roma 1998.

Di Giacomo, G., Zambianchi, C. (a cura di), Alle origini dell'opera d'arte contemporanea, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2008.

Dion, M., Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist, Ruth Erickson, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 2017.

Gilroy, P., The Black Atlantic. L'identità nera tra modernità e doppia coscienza, Meltemi, Sesto San Gioavnni 2018

Granese, A., Introduzione a Dewey, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1981.

Jacob, M.J., Dewey for Artists, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago-Londra 2018.

Kester, G.H., Aesthetic Evangelists: Conversion and Empowerment in Contemporary Community Art, in “After Image”, vol. 22, nn. 7-8 (1995).

M. Kwon, One Place after another. Site-specific art and locational identity, The MIT Press, Cambridge-London 2002.

Lamb, P.M., The Laboratory School: An Historical Perspective, in “The Journal of Educational Research”, vol. 56, n. 2 (1962).

Meschini, E.R., Comunità, spazio, monumento. Ricontestualizzazione delle pratiche artistiche nella sfera urbana, Mimesis, Milano 2021.

Provenzoi E.F. Jr., History as Experiment: The Role of the Laboratory School in the Development of John Dewey's Philosophy of History, in “The History Teacher”, vol. 12, n. 3 (1979).

Russo, L. (a cura di), Esperienza estetica. A partire da John Dewey, Aesthetica Preprint, Palermo 2007.

Statinsky, A., Support Networks (Chicago Social Practice History Series), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2014.

Vaughan, K., Progressive Education and Racial Justice: Examining the Work of John Dewey, in “Education and Culture”, vol. 34, n. 2 (2018).

Westbrook, R.B., John Dewey e la democrazia americana, Armando Editore, Roma 2011.

Zorach, R., Art Against the Law (Chicago Social Practices History Series), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2014.






Mimesis come conditio humana, edited by Valeria Maggiore and Salvatore Tedesco