More Art in the Public Eye 9781733099325

Presented in the context of More Art's fifteen-year history, and featuring first-person testimony, critical essays,

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More Art in the public eye

Published by More Art Press The Neighborhood Preservation Center 232 East 11 Street New York, NY 10003 646.416.6940 Designed by CENTO50 (Nicholas Sabena, Giovanni Sambo, Enrico Tarò) Editors Micaela Martegani Jeff Kasper Emma Drew Copy Editor Madeleine Compagnon Printed by Tipostampa, Turin, IT Cover photo Residents of New York, Andres Serrano (2014) Copyright 2019 More Art Distributed by Duke University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright holder. The copyright of the works of art reproduced in this catalogue are retained by the artists. Every effort has been made to trace copyright owners of third party material. Anyone claiming copyright is asked to contact More Art immediately. Names: Martegani Micaela, editor. | Kasper Jeff, editor. | Drew Emma, editor. Title: More art in the public eye / Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper, Emma Drew, editors. Description: Includes bibliographical references and index. New York, NY: More Art Press, 2019. Identifiers: LCCN 2019905431 | ISBN 978-1-7330993-0-1 (pbk.) | 978-1-7330993-2-5 (epub) Subjects: LCSH Public art--United States. | Urban beautification--United States. | Art and society. | Public art--Political aspects--United States. | Interactive art--Political aspects--United States. | Arts, American--New York (State)--New York--20th century. | Arts, American--New York (State)--New York--21st century. | Public art--New York (State)--New York. BISAC AwRT / Public Art | ART / Art & Politics Classification: LCC N8835 .M67 2019 | DDC 701/.030973--dc23.


Dedicated to our mentor, Tim Rollins (1955–2017)

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+ Foreword More Art's Mission is Our Mission Mary Jane Jacob

+ Preface

Micaela Martegani



+ Introductions A Practice of Public Art Adapted to the Present : Fifteen Years of More Art in New York City Emma Drew


A History of Socially Engaged Art and the Expanded Field of Public Art Production


Philanthropy and Socially Engaged Art, Today


Michael Birchall Michelle Coffey

+ CHAPTER 1 Working Towards an Egalitarian Society


Can a Transformative Avant-Garde Art Survive in a World of Lolcats, Doomsday Preppers, and Xenophobic Frog Memes? Do We Have a Choice?


El Club de Protesta (2011)


On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide (2014)


9-5 (2015)


Gregory Sholette

Pablo Helguera

Dread Scott

Ernesto Pujol

+ CHAPTER 2 American Imperialism As the New Normal


Against Heroism


Enemy Kitchen (2006-07)


Kirk Savage

Michael Rakowitz

Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project (2012)


NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century (2017)


Krzysztof Wodiczko Andrea Mastrovito

+ CHAPTER 3 Me, Myself, and We


Narrating Ourselves Anew




An Album: Hudson Guild (2009-10)


When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country (2011-12)


Jessica Lynne

Tony Oursler Kimsooja

Xaviera Simmons

+ CHAPTER 4 (Dis)place Called Home


Displacement is the New Dispossession: A Word from Our Neighbors


Moon Guardians (2013)


Residents of New York (2014)




Rebecca Amato

Ofri Cnaani

Andres Serrano

Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida

+ Afterword


Where We Are Going Next, Together




Crafting Your Theory of Change


What Does the Future of Socially Engagged Art Look Like?


+ Chronology of Public Projects


+ Contributors


+ Index


Micaela Martegani, Jeff Kasper

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More Art’s Mission is Our Mission Mary Jane Jacob

How did we get here? Half a century ago, curators selected and arranged art, but weren’t in the thick of its making. Things ramped up by the 1980s, when the passions and ambitions of artist and curator aligned. The resulting caucus had conceptual and logistical import for undertaking work of greater magnitude and meaning. Meanwhile the curatorial process came to incorporate raising cash, coaxing material and labor contributions, securing permissions, all manners of wrangling, and more. Contemporary art history has become an unfolding of feats—real achievements, requiring great courage, skill, or strength. What More Art adds to the mix is a singular social commitment, and a willingness to experiment with what that means in practice. It has grown from one person to an institution, yet wisely stayed small, its tightly knit operations imbued with an ethic that seems to unravel at greater scale. Yet its small size did not inhibit More Art from working big! In fact, I’d argue, it enabled it to do so. It all began by observing a specific place at a given time: Chelsea as it was burgeoning into a hub of the art world. Micaela Martegani was there, and her personal, lived IX

perceptions — a nagging, unsettling feeling — led her to found More Art. She intuited a need as she perceived the irony in the situation at her doorstep: the work shown, created by politically conscious artists from around the globe — who desire viewers to believe what they believe and to buy into (figuratively and literally) the values they espouse — seemed oblivious to the very place where it was on view. Art had simply moved into a “blank canvas” as it took over the vast available spaces from which it could profit. Those who lived nearby — Chelsea’s residents in the shadows of art’s latest gentrification — were, if not displaced, certainly not seen. So while smart art and savvy criticism had taught us that society over the ages tends to make others’ stories invisible, Micaela recognized that outside the doors of the galleries were teenagers and elders, others, whose stories mattered, too. I first met Micaela in 2002 in Aspen, at a meeting of creative professionals who sought to reignite the tradition of innovation and change engendered there by the International Design Conference in the ‘50s; this convening was entitled “What Matters Now?” Two years later, More Art was born. Its fifteen-year history comprises not only a roster of accomplished art projects; it represents one of the germinating periods of art practice that challenged as well as enabled artists to affect reality and be affected by it; that explored the edges of the emergent and multifarious methodology of collaboration; that moved education from an ancillary, added bonus of art into a genre unto itself; as partnerships matured into effectiveness; and as people and as art changed. More Art has contributed to — spearheaded, really — the redefinition of public art so vigorously engaged over the past three decades. By bringing people into new realms of experience, it gives new meaning to the words public and community. If this were the sum total of its work, it could already be said to have played a major role in the annals of art history. But that’s not the end of this story. It’s just a beginning.…



Brendan Fernandes Clean Labor 2017

Preface Micaela Martegani

It has been fifteen years since I founded More Art in New York City, and eighteen since I started having the initial, inspirational conversations about it with pioneering curator and author Mary Jane Jacob and exceptional artist Tim Rollins. Its mission was clear from the beginning; we never wavered on purpose or goals. We vacillated on one detail only, its name, and I am so glad we did—otherwise More Art today would be The Creative Caterpillar! In More Art in the Public Eye, we are not setting out to present a chronology of More Art, nor to claim history around the concept of socially engaged public art in New York City. Rather, we look back at the lived experiences in our history to gather a few lessons that will help us and, hopefully, help others working in socially engaged public art for the future. The book starts with three introductory historical essays, one about the history of the field of socially engaged art and social practice, one about the concurrent changes in the philanthropic framework that have ultimately made it possible for the field to thrive, and one about More Art’s own fifteen-year history. The rest of the book is divided into four thematic chapters, each introduced by an author framing the discourse around that topic, and encapsulating some of XII


the current major concerns. A concluding essay sheds light on our methodology, ethics, and goals as we look toward the next fifteen years. The impetus behind the creation of More Art was the rapid gentrification of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, with the widening gap between its newly arrived art galleries and its longtime residents, many of whom lived in public housing and only experienced the negative aspects of the change, specifically the exponentially rising real-estate prices and bankruptcies of local businesses. Over the years we have often addressed gentrification in our projects, a process that leads to community displacement as cleaning up often means cleaning out, and we have looked at how these cycles can be relentless, pervasive, and self-repeating—as we relate in Chapter 4. In the last fifteen to twenty years, understanding and construction of our self-identities have changed at a rapid pace, as we moved from a discourse around the “self” to the concept of “selfie,” redefining how we see ourselves in relation to others. While the rise of the hyper-individualism and narcissism of the “selfie” generation cannot be denied, there has also been steady movement in the other direction, towards a consciousness of common experiences and a championing of solidarity and inclusivity, as evidenced in the collective actions of groups, from the Movement for Black Lives to #MeToo to Disability Justice and those seeking other forms of representation for marginalized groups—as we begin to explore in Chapter 3. The book starts in the aftermath of the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, and the wars that ensued. Terrorism emboldened American imperialism and sharpened its rhetoric. The United States has continued warring to this day, in various forms, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and so on, failing time after time to play a positive role in conflict resolution in the Middle East. American imperialism means that the United States tends to defend democracy only if and when it is in its economic, strategic, and political self-interest. Or, as Noam Chomsky eloquently stated, “the dominant principle of imperial culture [is to] focus laserlike on the crimes of enemies, and on our high-minded and courageous condemnation of their crimes. But crucially, make sure never to look at ourselves,”1 as we investigate in Chapter 2. XIII

Ten years after September 11, and following the horizontal structure of the Arab Spring, a new generation experienced a shared sense of possibility with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but faced a difficult road ahead. The egalitarian aspirations of the Occupy movement, despite infusing new life into many facets of society and providing new language for the left, were seemingly swept away by the upsurge of illiberal rhetoric and white nationalism, coinciding with the rise to power of right-wing politicians around the world. A recent resurgence of the politics of civic resistance, boycott, and the right to clear and articulate free speech may help us finally move towards a more equitable society, as we optimistically envision in Chapter 1. Each chapter includes three projects. We have worked on over fifty public art projects over the past fifteen years, and the choice of the twelve projects included in the book does not imply a quality judgment. Rather, the projects are chosen as case studies, as metaphors for More Art’s way of working. For each one, we present a new interview with the artist, which provides a reassessment of the project and teases out the impact that it had on their subsequent work, often several years after it was carried out.2 In order to offer a more thorough understanding of the many moving parts involved, for each project we have also assembled a few often-unpublished documents illustrating contributions by key participants or additional educational material that was produced in conjunction with it. This book seeks to bring out the many different voices that compose a project and highlight the meta-questions behind socially engaged public art, such as: what is the value, in our capitalist society, of works that are ephemeral and do not have a quantifiable monetary value? what is the ratio of process vs. aesthetics in social practice? what are the evaluation criteria and ethics for this type of work? And what is the role that sensory pleasure plays or should play in our civic society? This book is a microcosm of how the field of socially engaged public art works, and why it is relevant. As we see it, socially engaged art puts art in the service of the social body. We maintain a healthy skepticism toward terms like “education” and even “engagement,” which suggest a top-down approach to encountering art. Instead, as an XIV


organization, we believe in producing projects that are experiential and highlight our shared humanity. In a world of constant message bombardment—not to mention perverse and inflammatory tweets—pushing and pulling us in all directions, public art often embraces nonverbal communication. In the long-held and just reverence for the written word in our society, we don’t often think of the immense power also held by other types of communication, such as silence, gestures, gazes. Some of our projects remind us of that. The power of a long-held gaze of LGBTQIA asylum seekers in Shimon Attie’s Night Watch or of homeless individuals in Andres Serrano’s Residents of New York; of a symphony of different labored breaths to address air quality in Sari Carel’s Out of Thin Air; of sharing tasks of labor and gestures of solidarity between hotel cleaning crews and dancers in Brendan Fernandes’ Clean Labor; of sitting for eight hours in silent and full awareness within the fast flow of the corporate world in Ernesto Pujol’s 9-5; or of solitarily battling high-pressure water cannons in Dread Scott’s On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide. When presenting a project, achieving a general consensus is not our primary goal. We are more interested in championing the vision of the artist and in exposing issues of injustice and inhumanity, creating debate, and inspiring alternatives. The space of civic engagement is rife with potential misunderstandings, and we do not try to hide or skirt around them; rather, we embrace the idiosyncratic multiplicity of feelings and points of views. Recently the concept of empathy has received a bad rap in progressive circles, as it has been seen as coming from a position of privilege and therefore actually leading to further inequality in society.3 Much of the problem with empathy, as critics see it, is that it can be skewed and misplaced, as people tend to empathize with what they are fed by the media—normally large tragedies—and in the process do not pay attention to the abuses that happen just around the corner. However, in a polarized and alienated society, empathy can become a carrier of active, not passive, bonds. Empathy is a much wider and more full-bodied concept than merely feeling regret over the misery of others. Etymologically it comes from Greek and is composed of en, XV

meaning “inside,” and pathos, meaning “emotion”; it literally means getting inside and identifying with the emotions of others. Therefore it also means celebrating their joys, or intimately feeling their anger and cravings for change. If seen in this light, empathy can aggregate individuals, making them come out of passive isolation towards active and constructive engagement. Empathy is a good place to start as a strategy for human connection: it works to break down the barriers between us and the perceived “other,” and identification moves us towards kindness and social care, the building blocks of collective self-emancipation. As socially engaged art is the effort of many, so is this book. Allow me a moment to acknowledge some of them. First I would like to extend our gratitude to the Lambent Foundation and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation for making sure this book came to life, and to all the artists, partners, and community members who have collaborated with us over these fifteen years, creating such incisive, affecting work that there was a book to conceive in the first place. You have been an inspiration every single day, and have made our work truly worthwhile. I would also like to thank all the authors who graciously agreed to come on board and bring different and knowledgeable voices to the project. And of course I would like to thank our esteemed editor, Emma Drew, who has worked tirelessly on every aspect of this book, editing content, conducting interviews, and writing More Art’s own history; and Madeleine Compagnon, who meticulously copy-edited all the texts in the book and made sure we sounded good. In terms of looking good, I need to thank Centocinquanta, who brought fresh energy and vision to all design aspects. I would also like to thank the many people who have helped along the way, foremost Mary Jane Jacob, an influential model from the very beginning, and our own Samantha Giarratani and Brandi Mathis. Personally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank my husband Don for his support of and participation in all the projects we have done and his patience and guidance as I have discussed this book with him for the past five years, and finally for all the editing help he has provided for me without ever making it sound like a chore; and my son Mattia, who has lived through many of these projects and embodied their ethics within his own life, and recently has provided an equal dose of constructive resistance and factual help. Finally, I want to XVI


thank Jeff Kasper, who has shaped every conceptual, ethical, visual, and physical aspect of our work and of this book. It is no exaggeration to say that without him this book would not exist.

¹ Noam Chomsky, “The Unipolar Moment and the Culture of Imperialism,” Edward Said Memorial Lecture, given at Columbia University, December 3, 2009. ² Most of the interviews were conducted in the summer and fall of 2018; the exceptions are those of Ernesto Pujol, done in fall 2016, and Krzysztof Wodiczko, from winter 2017.


An example is Paul Bloom’s Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion (New York: Ecco, 2016).


Anthony Goicolea Neighborhood 2008

A Practice of Public Art Adapted to the Present: Fifteen Years of More Art in New York City Emma Drew

In the early 2000s, the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City had not yet reached its zenith as the epicenter of contemporary art, but its ever-quickening rise was undeniable. Since the mid-‘90s, commercial galleries had been migrating to the western district from SoHo, displaced by designer stores and ever-increasing rents. (The DIA Art Foundation led the way, relocating in 1986, followed by Matthew Marks in 1993; Paula Cooper, who had opened the first art gallery in SoHo in 1968, moved to Chelsea in 1995.) By the early years of the new century, the exodus was in full force: between 1998 and 2008, the number of galleries in Chelsea rose from 71 to 268 (in contrast, from 1990 to 2008, the number of galleries in SoHo fell from 262 to 44).¹ But it was also apparent that the influx of contemporary art and culture, not to mention cachet and wealth, did not readily extend to existing and long-time Chelsea residents. Despite the potential for the concentration of galleries to be the “best free show in town”2—with no admittance fees and technically open to all—neither artists, nor gallerists, nor prominent arts organizations gave particular thought to the possibility of connecting those communities, whose everyday neighborhood was undergoing dramatic changes, 1

with the art world establishments that were rapidly doing the changing (and capitalizing on that change).³ As such, while forming their own ecosystem, and undoubtedly contributing to the ongoing hyper-development of the area, the galleries existed strangely out of place, seemingly unattached to and unaffected by the neighborhood’s history and its current populace.⁴ More Art was founded between 2003 and 2004, during this period of change, as a working-class neighborhood was transformed into the center of the contemporary art world, in the process marginalizing many long-time, low-income residents. Artists were and still are often identified as one of the most visible initial agents of gentrification—a process that results in changes to social, economic, and architectural landscapes, which are detrimental to small business owners, low-income families, cultural communities, and artists themselves.⁵ In fact, artists and galleries are often courted or capitalized on by real-estate and urban development interests to alter the value of a place from working class to cultural hub and marketable destination; some see artists as “pawns,” rather than agents, in the game of gentrification.⁶ More Art’s beginnings, essentially as a neighborhood arts association, were thus grounded in using art to build community and counteract the displacement and erasure that occurs during processes of gentrification. Central to this mission was the belief that art can foster tolerance and mutual understanding by bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds, and the conviction that the power, independence, and freedom of art has the ability to disrupt the status quo. By bridging the gap between Chelsea residents and their new neighbors, More Art hoped to fundamentally reform the public’s relationship with contemporary art, and vice versa. The process of gentrification wrought by the art world exposed more than material inequality; it also reaffirmed the commonly held experience of contemporary art as prohibitively intellectual, off-putting, and exclusive. Any effort to change this dynamic requires more than exposure and education, but rather participatory art- and meaning-making, in which the public is a direct referent for the artists and are fully engaged in the artistic process. These projects should result in free and accessible exhibitions, in the hopes of changing the perception of contemporary art and placing it where it belongs 2


—in everyday life. Inspired by curators and artists like Mary Jane Jacob, Tim Rollins and KOS, and France Morin,⁷ More Art embarked on a mission to support community engaged production of artwork, based on sustained dialogue and collaboratively driven empowerment. More Art began with the simple but ultimately radical ambition of directly connecting artists with local residents. The hope was for everybody to partake of the creative energy galvanizing the Chelsea neighborhood. Early projects operated within the context of the limited access to art education offered by schools and public works (i.e., public housing, community centers), the legacy of repeated funding cuts at the federal and state level, as epitomized by President George W. Bush’s 2001 No Child Left Behind policy. Starting in the fall of 2004, More Art’s pilot program, Art Creates Communities, brought students from Clinton Middle School for Artists and Writers (MS 260), at the time on West 21st Street (now on West 15th), together with artists from the galleries dominating Chelsea’s westernmost blocks. The invited artists, most mid-career and all of whom had exhibited widely, were encouraged to engage their youth cohorts beyond an arts-and-crafts approach focused on process and learning, instead involving them in the planning and realization of projects that were works of art in and of themselves. Equal emphasis was placed on a wide variety of media—projects utilized painting, photography, video, performance, comic books, and storytelling. The students were involved in all phases of the artistic endeavor, starting with the theory behind the work, then the planning, execution, production (video-editing, printing of photographs, etc.), organization, and installation of the exhibition. The participating artists in the first session of Art Creates Communities, which ran from October 2004 to May 2005, were Tim Rollins, who also acted as project advisor, Luca Buvoli, Elmgreen and Dragset, Anna Gaskell, Hope Ginsburg, Gary Simmons, and Matthew Waldman. The second iteration the following school year included artists Slater Bradley, Michael Joo, Nancy Drew, and Saya Woolfalk, again with Rollins advising. A final exhibition was held at the Bohen Foundation, a visual arts organization at the time based on West 13th Street, which, in this instance, combined the functions of gallery and community center, ideally opening contemporary art to the students and their families while attracting its usual denizens. 3

Shimon Attie Night Watch 4 2018



Within the first round of Art Creates Communities, More Art’s enduring exhibition model was established: taking projects out of the gallery and into public spaces, engaging further the question of audience. Gary Simmons’s Collective Portrait (2005) began with students writing down phrases that might serve as their self-portraits on individual chalkboards. Simmons then asked students to partially erase the sentences—to encourage letting go of the “I” in favor of the “we”—after which all the boards were arranged to form one long sentence that symbolically became a collective portrait of the entire group. This sentence was printed as a billboard and displayed on 10th Avenue at 18th Street, amplifying the students’ voices, and preceding the public art billboard projects now curated by the High Line. In 2008 More Art was granted non-profit status, allowing for more concerted fundraising and infrastructure, and expanding the organization’s commitment to intervening in the urban environment of Chelsea and supporting works specific to that neighborhood. Three place-based collaborations between artists and local residents— Clinton Middle School kids, as well as second-language high-school students from the Liberty High School Academy for Newcomers on West 18th Street, and adult Chelsea residents—were commissioned that year, comprising together “The Chelsea Project.” The projects were markedly different in form: a video made with teens and pre-teens using texting and YouTube (AWGTHTGTWTA?, with Tony Oursler, pages 148-55) a statue idolizing the mash-up of heroes that neighborhood locals wished to honor (Neighborhood, with Anthony Goicolea), and a series of archival photographs of Chelsea spliced together with current family portraits (Sleeping Monster Produced by Reason, with Nicola Verlato). Each was inspired by the neighborhood’s past and present, as well as its future prospects. Displayed very much in the midst of everyday life—projected in local basketball courts, installed at a busy intersection, pasted on construction site partition-boards and scaffolding—they invoked the social and material history of Chelsea and the diverse social and economic conditions of its residents. Partnerships with non-arts organizations, community groups, and city agencies developed over the course of projects and through dedicated cooperative efforts. These 6


relationships are vital to engaging in dialogue with different populations and recruiting participants from impacted communities, as it is the long-term residents who possess deep insight into an issue, topic, or geography that affects their lives, more so than any artist or facilitator. Just as the Clinton Middle School and Liberty High School students had become eager, frequent collaborators, so did the staff and members of Hudson Guild, a community-based social services organization focused on the Chelsea neighborhood, with locations adjacent to the New York City Housing Authority Chelsea-Elliott Houses, on 26th Street, and Fulton Houses, on 17th.⁸ Through Hudson Guild, More Art artists have collaborated with middle and high school students (as did Michael Rakowitz for Enemy Kitchen, 2007, pages 96–107), senior citizens (Kimsooja for An Album: Hudson Guild, 2009, pages 156–65), and other residents of the Elliott and Fulton Houses (Xaviera Simmons for When You’re Looking At Me, You’re Looking At Country, 2010, pages 166–75; Hidemi Takagi for Hello, it’s me, 2017). The list of community partners, recurring or otherwise, has grown long, as More Art continues to build interdisciplinary networks and multi-agency coalitions. In addition to early accomplices like the Clinton School and Hudson Guild, the Lab School and United Nations International School, as well as the School of Visual Arts, Parsons School of Design, and the Friends of the High Line have enabled the conceptual underpinnings and physical manifestation of Chelsea-based projects. Several projects were designed for and staged on the High Line, the elevated train tracks turned public park slicing through the western edge of Manhattan between 13th and 34th Street at Hudson Yards. This reclamation of public space—now used for art and other programming—is yet another step in Chelsea’s consuming gentrification, and a complicated intersection of community, government, and real-estate interests.⁹ Recognizing the wide expanse of communities chronically underrepresented in public space across New York, More Art extended beyond Chelsea and the West Side of Manhattan. Its reach and footprint grew in 2012 with Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection in Union Square (pages 108–23), created with the testimony of veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the help of veterans organizations across the city. More Art went to Brooklyn for the first time in fall 2014, with Dread Scott’s On the Impossibility of Freedom in a 7

Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide (pages 56-69), followed by Sari Carel’s Borrowed Light in Sunset Park in the summer of 2015. Carel’s 2018 project Out of Thin Air was rooted in the South Bronx and exhibited in the park facing City Hall in Manhattan. Itinerant exhibitions have also been increasingly embraced, either scattered throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens (Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida, MONTH2MONTH, 2016, pages 216-27; Andrea Mastrovito, NYsferatu, 2017, pages 124-37) or in transit across the city’s waterways (Shimon Attie, Nightwatch, 2018). The expansion has meant building new connections and critically considering the ever-changing dynamics of New York City, its many publics, and the potential for impact beyond the five boroughs. The most recently completed public commission, Loro (Them) from Krzysztof Wodiczko, breaks with New York City as site in an effort to bring other municipalities into dialogue with More Art’s larger mission and to better understand how communities in different parts of the world deal with both local and global issues. Staged in Milan, Italy, in the summer of 2019, Loro focuses on the experiences of refugees—as have two other More Art projects since 2016— and addresses assimilation and cross-cultural exchange in times of crisis. The increase in geographic scope has happened alongside a widening of topics addressed and methodologies to do so. More Art’s ambition was always to provide a pathway for participants’ understandings of their own experiences, in order to inform a work of creative expression. Throughout the organization’s history, those understandings and expressions have played a crucial part in wider social and political messaging. In striving for inclusive social change, themes and subjects addressed have included gentrification, war, immigration, racism and xenophobia, homelessness, environmental rights, technology and surveillance, labor, and many other overlapping questions of self-determination, collective citizenship, and social equity in the twenty-first century. From the start, More Art sought to position itself uniquely amid the New York City landscape, somewhere between existing public arts organizations, like Creative Time and the Public Art Fund, and arts education programming with pedagogical and/or therapeutic goals. Particularly at the beginning, the types of projects More Art facilitated 8


were hard to classify—collaborative, challenging, political or social-issue oriented, driven by artists who felt there was a way to amplify community concerns in form or content through public-generated and participatory artmaking. This kind of public platform was new to audiences, critics, and sponsors, and to many of the artists, who were asked to make bold artistic gestures that would not only interrogate existing models of social efficacy and engagement but would also help envision, and build, new ones. While presenting and supporting a multitude of perspectives, commissioned projects met high standards of artistic rigor and craftsmanship—no pandering to audiences, no artworks by committee. The dearth of articulate language around such practices proved to make advocacy difficult. Even in the early 2000s, there remained a dated distinction between public art, considered by the (bureaucratic) art world as objects out in the open but devoid of social engagement— the oft-derided “plop art”—and community art, of and by the people, but often viewed as without great aesthetic or art-historical merit. Supporting artists and producing exhibitions with multipart programming was, and remains, costly. When it came to finding initial funding, More Art’s proposals, with their basis in the community, were often seen as not “high-art” enough, and unqualified for certain grants; under the auspices of educational funding, on the other hand, there was no way the projects could meet the litany of quantitative outcomes required of strictly measured educational directives. The framework to better describe and study the work artists, organizations, and communities were doing together evolved—especially with the continued proliferation of alternative art models and the further professionalization of artists and arts administrators—bringing with it new questions of social engagement, efficacy, and attendant metrics.¹0 New York was changing, too. Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New York City on October 29, 2012, flooding the subway system, causing days-long power outages, and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. The conflation of such dire circumstances—environmental disaster on the heels of a worldwide financial crash and its tumultuous wake—led the vestiges of the Occupy movement, which had first encamped in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park a year earlier (in September 2011), to form Occupy Sandy and create volunteer grassroots networks, fighting for access 9

to food and water as well as against income equality. This set the stage for revived debates about art, activism, and collaboration.¹¹ As a facilitator of art for social change, More Art realized the importance of direct action and, in collaboration with The Artist Volunteer Center, sought to further the capacity of its artists and programming to do so. As part of Andres Serrano’s 2014 project Residents of New York (pages 202-15), More Art established Engaging Artists, which is now the umbrella program for the organization’s ongoing work with early-career, underrepresented artists working in public space and community settings.¹² Serrano’s public art project was centered around largescale, on-the-street portraits of homeless individuals living near Washington Square, while Engaging Artists focused on building sustainable models for social participation, in part by encouraging artists to take part in volunteer social work and hosting a series of public symposia featuring activists, advocates, and policymakers. More Art aspired to maximize engagement between artists and community participants and to foster collaborations with grassroots social justice organizations, while maintaining relevance to current political debates and local concerns. In contemporary art at large, the expectation grew that artists working with social issues would bring people in, stressing the importance of working directly and conceptually with stakeholders. Since More Art’s founding, the contemporary art landscape has changed dramatically, thanks in no small part to the shifts in discourse, funding structures, and public awareness surrounding socially engaged public art. As the field faces new challenges posed by institutionalization and codification¹³—and must contend with the ongoing effects of citywide gentrification and cultural commodification—More Art strives to remain artist driven and social-justice bound. One-to-one activities between artists and school groups have grown into three-year development processes during which More Art supports artists by offering financial support and fundraising, strategic project management, research, community engagement, production and curation of final installations, and educational programs. The organization’s methodology is distinguished by this long-term commitment to artists, community partners, and issues, and the fact that equal weight is given to all three components in public projects. Always maintaining a focus on the human element at the core of the complex set of questions and 10


circumstances that shape public life, More Art has, since 2004, invested $1.7 million in 200 artists, seventy high-profile public art and socially engaged projects, in dozens of neighborhoods, four boroughs, and two countries, engaging over a million audience members and participants in New York City and beyond. While no longer based in Chelsea, More Art continues to shift the power dynamics between the world of contemporary art and those who have limited access to it; to produce public works that reflect the diversity of New York and challenge past representations of its marginalized residents; to add to the reach of grassroots and popular movements battling systems of oppression; to build community through art; and to inspire more people to take action in their own lives.

1 David Halle and Elisabeth Tiso, “The sociology of the new art gallery scene in Chelsea, Manhattan,” in Sublime Economy: On the Intersection of Art and Economics, eds. Jack Amariglio, Joseph W. Childers, and Stephen E. Cullenberg (New York: Routledge, 2009), 220. 2

Gallerist Barbara Gladstone as quoted by Halle and Tiso, 235. 3

Chelsea was often seen by New Yorkers at the time as “remote” and “dicey” at best. See Andy Battaglia, “How the Long Fuse on Chelsea’s Art Bomb Was Lit,” New York Magazine, June 29, 2018. The dominant narratives of Chelsea’s resettlement in the ‘90s and early aughts often focus on the relative emptiness of the area prior to the great gallery migration, save for its seedy reputation and illicit activities (drug dealing, prostitution, gun violence) or the thriving and recognized underground scene (dance clubs, gay bars, a long-standing S&M community); less has been said about its residents, who lived mostly east of 10th Avenue, many of them in public housing, or about the many small businesses in place, from auto body garages to neighborhood amenities. 4

Adding to this dynamic of dis-location, the growth of the Chelsea arts district occurred somewhat in tandem with the rise of the international art market and gallery model—like that of Gagosian or, on a slightly smaller scale, David Zwirner, both of which opened large spaces in Chelsea, in 1999 and 2002 respectively, and now own multiple buildings in the neighborhood—changing conceptions of both the place-based and the market for artists, collectors, and audiences. Emphasis shifted away

from the local and specific to the global, writ large. “For gallerists this means treating Chelsea not simply as a New York neighborhood but as one whose sidewalks extend to Shanghai, Warsaw, Mexico City, Tel Aviv and anywhere else that might produce the next artists to become collectors’ darlings.” Randy Kennedy, “Chelsea: The Art and Commerce of One Hot Block,” New York Times, November 3, 2006. 5

In this case, Chelsea has never been a residential community of artists, and so the full-circle nature of gentrification has come to affect many of the galleries and dealers themselves, especially those who do not own their spaces, certainly by extension impacting their represented artists. The past few years have seen a new migration to Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Tribeca by galleries priced out of Chelsea. See Bloomberg News, “Art Galleries are Leaving Chelsea,” Crain’s New York Business, August 28, 2015. 6 In a New York Times article about the various, at times complicated, relationships artists have to gentrification, artist Jennifer Dalton says, “We are part of the process, but also pawns.” Ronda Kaysen, “Artists and Their Muse: Gentrification,” New York Times, December 2, 2106. 7

Mary Jane Jacobs’ curatorial work with Culture in Action (1993) changed the nature of public art and its relationship to social issues as well as to audiences; several tenets of the exhibition, as articulated in the original press release—public interaction and participation and artist-driven programming as integral to the artwork; the artist’s role as an active social force; projects that


existed over an extended period of time, not just as spectator-oriented objects for brief viewing—were directly reflected in More Art’s mission. Tim Rollins, who was an early collaborator and supporter of More Art, built his practice in tandem with his co-authors, Kids of Survival, originally a group of public school students Rollins worked with in the South Bronx; Rollins and his students developed a collaborative strategy that combined lessons in reading and writing with the production of works of art. “The Quiet in the Land” is a series of communitybased art and education projects initiated by curator and historian France Morin in 1995, seeking to “reaffirm the potential of contemporary artists as catalysts of positive change.” For each project, artists work, or live and work, with a community for an extended period of time, working within both the differences that separate them and the similarities that connect them. http://www. 8 The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) provides housing for low and moderate-income residents throughout the five boroughs of New York City and administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments. 9

As made evident in its drawn-out and at times contentious redevelopment. Conceived in the 1980s, spearheaded in earnest in 1999, the High Line eventually came to fruition only after property owners along the rail-line (who had long sought to demolish the standing tracks in order to develop their properties) were compensated by being permitted to sell their air-rights to developers, who could now build taller towers (i.e., condos) once Chelsea was rezoned from manufacturing to commercial in 2005, which allowed residential building. Ground was broken in 2006, and the first phase opened to the public in 2009. 10

Efforts to bring clarity, structure, and visibility to socially engaged art as a field have taken many forms. For example, Pablo Helguera’s Education for Socially Engaged Art, published in 2011 (New York: Pinto Books), is the first “Materials and Techniques” book for social practice and provides a hands-on approach to learning about and applying the theories and ideas of the field. Open Engagement (OE), founded in 2007, is an annual, threeday, artist-led conference “dedicated to expanding the dialogue around and creating a site of care for the field of socially engaged art.” And the first academic concentration in the field dates to 2005, at California College of the Arts in San Francisco; since then scores of other BFA and MFA degree programs in social practice have been established. 11

Other worldwide events, from the Arab Spring to anti-austerity marches, similarly galvanized a reconsideration of the expectations of collective action. See Gregory Sholette’s essay in chapter one of this book for further discussion of the potential and perversity of protest and art. 12

Engaging Artists (EA) encompasses a formal artist-in-residence program, a professional development series, public art commission opportunities, mentorship, and peer networking. The program houses a residency for early-career artists with demonstrated experience in art


and social engagement, and a professional development series for emerging artists interested in public, community-based, and participatory forms. Cohorts are selected each year through an open-call process. 13 To the degree that heritage cultural institutions in NYC—such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center—have embraced socially engaged arts practices and are investing considerable resources and institutional power in the field. Large foundations such as Ford and Knight are not only supporting the work of individual artists and organizations, but are now stepping into the role of producers of this work.


A History of Socially Engaged Art and the Expanded Field of Public Art Production Michael Birchall

In considering the history of socially engaged art in the last thirty years, it becomes clear that this particular model of art practice has been adopted internationally by community groups, kunsthalles, galleries, museums, and, today, art fairs and biennials. The practices it encompasses, including a range of both short- and long-term projects, place artists in dialogue with a group of individuals; this can occur both within and outside of museum walls.1 Curators and artists collaborating on socially engaged art are increasingly focused on the production and display of diverse forms of artistic and cultural content that engages with and challenges audience expectations, in ways not captured under traditional institutional purview. Socially engaged art calls into question standard representations of what art is and can be; it actively expands the definitions of “community” and of popular traditions—everything from folk art, quilt making, and musicals to political activity in the museum, gallery, and street. Artists and curators are producing projects that challenge the traditional connotation of art as a purely aesthetic and symbolic gesture, by relying on in-depth collaborations with non-art organizations and constituents. They are producing more “practical” projects, from bakeries to alternative schools, for example, that break away from conventional models of 13

formal engagement and encourage direct response to social, economic, and political conditions.2 As socially engaged art becomes pervasive—positioned in MFA programs and institutional portfolios around the globe—a quick appraisal of its history reveals the many strains and overlapping trajectories of this expanded field of public art production. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the approach to social art was based around models of institutional critique, as carried out by artists and collectives such as Art & Language, Michael Asher, Robert Barry, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, and Douglas Huebler. This generation of artists revealed the contradictions inherent in art’s exchange on the market, and as such criticized the systems of production, display, and consumption.3 Art developed models of social engagement, co-authorship, and collaboration, often positioning the viewer in the role of active participant and/ or producer. By the early ‘60s, Allan Kaprow was organizing happenings and producing socially engaged events, which went beyond the (then) dominant practices of painting, sculpture, and other traditional forms pursued at the time by artists such as Robert Morris and Donald Judd. Joseph Beuys’ multimedia practice in the 1960s also challenged the gallery and museum system by using a combination of object making, performance, political activism, pedagogy, and shamanism. His notion of “social sculpture” was fundamental to establishing new models of artmaking,4 as curator and critic Joshua Decter has noted, “that appeared, at least, to re-think the broader social consequences of aesthetic objects—perhaps even to the extent that certain of Beuys’ artworks and/or activities assumed a post-aesthetic condition.”5 For Beuys, social sculpture was a new form of creating art and transforming society, influenced in part by Fluxus practices around collaboration, anti-art, and a do-it-yourself attitude to creative activity (Beuys hosted one of the first Fluxus Festivals in 1962, in Düsseldorf). In collaboration with Bazon Brock, Beuys championed concepts such as “direct democracy” and the idea of “Besucherschule” (or visitors’ schools, in which works of contemporary art on display were explained to the public as an act of mediation in aesthetic education), in order to expand the discourse about art per se into a discourse about art in relation to society.6 Beuys characterized art as part of the everyday, generating 14


activities for visitors to the gallery (or lecture hall, or other non-traditional art space) as well as alternative pedagogical forms, a project that continues in contemporary art to this day. Towards the end of the 1960s in New York a new form of art activism, which shares its roots with socially engaged art, emerged with the Art Workers Coalition. This group of artists, writers, and museum staff sought to increase the representation and reputation of women artists and artists of color in museums, particularly the Museum of Modern Art, and actively protested against the Vietnam War. They wished to be credited as “workers” and for their labor to be remunerated accordingly, as with any other form of work.7 The Coalition would later form the basis of and influence other activist groups, such as the Guerrilla Girls, formed in 1985, who remain dedicated to exposing the unequal position of women artists in institutional collections through the dissemination of raw data in blunt, provocative posters and billboards and organize disruptive actions at major museums. Similarly, artist collective Group Material (established in the early 1980s by Julie Ault, Tim Rollins, and Mundy McLoughlin, among others, and later joined by various other artists, including Doug Ashford and Felix Gonzalez-Torres) worked on hybrid curatorial-archival models to collate and circulate information on important, topical issues, such as the HIV/AIDS crisis, education, and democratic rights. What became apparent about these groups was their capacity for self-organization; it was this “grassroots” approach that undoubtedly influenced later generations of artists and curators who undertake collaborative approaches in their work, particularly in response to cultural and political concerns of the day. Community art has traditionally operated outside of the approbation of the mainstream art world. In the UK in the late 1960s and 1970s, community art was associated with activism and the feminist movement and became embraced as part of radical struggle. During the 1960s, many opportunities emerged for artists to work with people outside the museum and gallery infrastructures. These activities included residencies, commissions, and public art programs such as the Artists Placement Group (APG), established by a group of artists that included John Latham and Barbara Steveni in the late 1960s. APG placed 15

an emphasis on embedding artists in institutions, such as nationalized corporations like British Gas and the National Health Service. Artists became part of these large institutions with the rationale that they would become critical thinkers on the mechanisms of management and labor processes. In less formalized settings, community arts organizations were often involved in providing local constituents with training and resources for the production of murals, oral histories, videos, and photographs. These projects relied on collective creativity, as opposed to the singular authorship associated with “high art” from the European canon.8 Throughout the 1980s and 1990s in the US changes were taking place in how public art was produced and how and where the possibility of participation through art might occur.9 In 1995, the artist Suzanne Lacy remarked that public art had become a recognizable field on which conferences were organized. She noted that, “in recent years, artists, administrators, and critics alike have looked at this progression from objects in museums, to objects in public places, to site specific installations and have framed present social and political artworks within the context of this essentially formalist movement.”10 Lacy started to use the term “New Genre Public Art” to refer to practices emerging outside of museums and other art-world institutions that had an interest in practical value and political impact. That responded to local contexts and cultures; that were less focused on the creation of objects per se than on the collaborative process; and that developed the consciousness of the artist and co-participants, which to a large degree is similar to that of community arts.11 “The underlying aversion to art that claims to ‘do’ something, that does not subordinate function to craft,” she noted, “presents a resonant dilemma for new genre public artists.”12 It is important to note how various terms have been used to describe “social practice,” and that often these remain interchangeable and contentious even to this day. In 1989, Martha Rosler’s exhibition, If you lived here…, commissioned by the Dia Art Foundation, saw Rosler engage with urbanists, artists, and homeless activists in New York City, at a time when homelessness and affordable housing was becoming a widely publicized and politically charged issue across the US. Rosler’s project, which encompassed her research, three exhibitions, and four public discussions, highlighted the plight of the homeless and the gentrification process taking place in Manhattan, by showing the interrelations among the city’s 16


political, financial, real-estate, and art systems. This is perhaps one of the first bodies of work that could now be considered socially engaged, in that it expressly engaged with various disciplines and allowed for a process-based model, whereby the audience partakes in different elements at various stages of the project. In parallel with this shift, the participatory values of New Genre Public Art began to find a place within a new gallerycentered community remit in the UK, Europe, and North America. Curators and institutional directors sought to engage art in “real” non-art places, and to facilitate the participation of artists and curators in “unique” or “authentic” locales, thus increasing the chance for community engagement. The people involved in this process can, however, as scholar Miwon Kwon notes, “install new forms of urban primitivism over socially neglected minority groups.”13 There is a danger that by entering communities without their informed consent or the input of local leaders, the curator or artist assumes a position of power, by which minority groups are thus “empowered” and areas are “improved” without much say or agency on their part. A pressing issue in the expanded field of social art, as a greater number of organizations, large and small, as well as funding bodies, insinuate themselves as stakeholders, is to facilitate the possibility of a model of co-production whereby groups are both co-authors of a project and share the collaborative work with the artists as part of a collective encounter. Intellectually and culturally, community art and socially engaged practice remain interchangeable terms. The distinction between them may persist on an institutional level: community art exists outside museums, in community centers, schools, and social centers, and while socially engaged art may take place in the same locations, it is often endorsed by an art institution such as a museum, gallery, or arts organization, who directly commissions the work. The transformation that has occurred with the terminology is a result of the curatorial invitation, and, in particular, of how this practice has been adopted by museums and biennials internationally. To that end, an element of this institutionalized model is wrapped up in the internationalization of the practice, wherein an artist may undertake a project in one location and then be invited to another destination to realize a similar work. Biennials and many museum-based commissions are inherently centered 17

Sari Carel Out of18 Thin Air 2018



around a global discourse, not one situated in one particular location or community. Throughout the 1990s it is arguable that exhibitions, rather than individual works, served as the best way to frame an understanding of artistic practices. Two of the most looked-to exhibitions in the recent history of social practice, “Culture In Action,” curated by Mary Jane Jacob (Chicago, 1993–95), and “Sonsbeek 93,” curated by Valerie Smith (Arnhem, Netherlands, 1993), framed their artistic direction through strong curatorial statements.14 Both exhibitions presented to the public works that moved beyond sculpture (conventionally installed monuments or figurative works) into the active domain of socially engaged art by entering neighborhoods and other city spaces and shifting the role of the viewer from passive spectator to active art-maker.15 Smith and Jacob each worked intensely with a range of activists and artists, touring prospective locations with them and hosting conversations with local community organizations about what to produce. Consequently, a wide variety of works were produced for multiple audiences. In Chicago, this ranged from Daniel J. Martinez’s “Absurdist Parade,” Consequences of a Gesture, a parade organized between two neighborhoods that do not normally interact, to a hydroponic community garden meant to raise bacteriafree greens for people living with AIDS/HIV, produced by Chicago-based collective HaHa and Flood, a network of healthcare volunteers. Artists’ newfound commitment to working with communities across all stages of a project marked a shift in the way this particular method of collaboration was produced. We are now in a more heterogeneous space than ever before, increasingly focused less on the artists’ sole authorship and more on crediting the co-authors and collaborators of these pieces.16 Socially engaged practice, post New Genre Public Art, operates across art’s various “social turns” wherein people constitute the central artistic medium and material—such as the social turn observed by art historian Claire Bishop in the early 2000s in the work of artists such as Jeremy Deller and Tania Bruguera.17 It is inherently linked to the legacy of late-twentieth-century post-institutional community art.18 This new field of activity accordingly presents an opportunity to produce work that provides a complex negotiation between the artist, the community, and the institution.19 20


The role of the curator, or producer, or arts organization, then, in this “new community” socially engaged art, is first and foremost to enable and construct a free space of engagement for participants. That is, in mediating between the artist, the community group, and institutional support politics, the curator seeks to secure the condition for participant autonomy. One potential problem is not that artists and curators construct an ideal image of the community, but that a socially engaged project often carries with it an inflated social imperative that is further promoted by the producers themselves or, for example, funding bodies and city administrators. The crucial curatorial role is, in some cases, establishing relationships between artists and a given community group, and in turn nurturing a set of possibilities that may then generate a project on a particular theme, in line with the discussed needs of the group. The practice of the curator, in this instance, is not that dissimilar to that of the social worker engaged in community arts. Art’s position within the community tends to be an ameliorative one; overall, it is used to sustain or point to what might sustain wellbeing and improve the quality of life. As critical theorist Marc James Léger asserts, “Artists work with community subjects whose social disadvantages are individualized and whose path to social improvement is clearly marked out in relation to existing state institutions as well as free market, entrepreneurial solutions.”20 The rise (and fall) of the welfare state in Europe in the last twenty years has coincided with a rise of socially engaged practice, as increasingly the artist and the cultural worker begin to be placed in a position of generating projects, for the “social good.” In the US, the National Endowment for the Arts, has, through consecutive administrations, consistently shifted the means by which funds are granted, particularly towards private finance initiatives and the regeneration of urban spaces; the arts have increasingly been positioned, specifically in government and grant-making literature, as a means of community rehabilitation and economic development, highlighting the utilitarian aspects of the arts in contemporary society.21 This has contributed to an uncertain funding structure for visual artists, further complicating the relationship between social practice and the mainstream art world model of museums and commercial galleries.


Through the mechanisms of their artmaking, artists attempt to generate new models of political subjectivity, through which they aim to form “articulations of protest.” As theorist and artist Hito Steyerl describes, these articulations are first about finding a language for protest; and second, about the use of art in shaping the organization and demands of a protest movement. They must operate between symbolic expression and direct action—or as both. It becomes crucial to question the social function of art and consider this function beyond the gallery wall, as was the case with the Russian avant-garde in the 1930s and their desire for revolution; their social processes and technological advances became part of new political discourses.22 That being said, when socially engaged practice enters the biennial and other areas of the museum, traditional sites of consumption, it must remain critical and challenge the function of these spaces. There is little consensus in projects of this nature—those that encompass a political motivation amongst artists—as invariably they do not share common political landscapes, which, in a manner, could be compared with the Paris Commune, May ’68, or the Arab Spring.23 What remains at stake in this field of practice is the engagement artists sustain with other areas of society, operating outside of art institutions and indeed the art world, as social practice continues to move beyond the norms of artistic production and further into service providing, social commentary, activism, community organizing, urban design, and ecology. While that imperative seems clear, the means through which it may be achieved are still continuing to evolve. The projects and processes that constitute these practices are no longer new, and instead they function in a heavily mediated system of convergence between society and art. We are now entering a new phase in this form of practice, where the primary site of production for socially engaged work is not a given, as museums, biennials, activist and community-based groups, and non-profit organizations all exist as viable curatorial, production, and exhibition partners.




Michael Birchall, “Situating Participatory Art Between Process and Practice,” ARKEN Bulletin: The Art of Taking Part: Participation at the Museum, vol. 7 (2017): 56–73. 2

Trade School is a non-traditional learning community that runs on barter; i.e., people offer to teacha class about something they know and students sign up by agreeing to bring something (food, playlists, help with finding an apartment) from the teacher’s barter list. Begun in New York in 2009 by Caroline Woolard, Rich Watts, and Louise Ma, Trade School is an open platform. Other local schools can and have been started by other groups and individuals around the world. See http://tradeschool. coop/about/. Fresh Bread, by Sean Starowitz, is a pop-up bakery that travels to food deserts in Kansas City, utilizing and drawing attention to the many abandoned, unused urban spaces, and/or vacant lots around the Kansas City metro area. 3

Joshua Decter, “Culture in Action: Exhibition as Social Redistribution,” in Exhibition as Social Intervention: ‘Culture in Action’ 1993, ed. Helmut Draxler (London: Afterall Books, 2014), 14–43. 4

Social sculpture is a theory developed by Beuys in the 1970s, based on the concept that everything is art, that every aspect of life can be approached creatively, and that, as a result, everyone has the potential to be an artist. It refers to a kind of artwork that takes place in the social realm, that requires social engagement and the participation of its audience for its completion. See: 5

Decter, “Culture in Action,” 15.


Dorothee Richter and Michael Birchall, “Editorial: Social Sculptures Re-visited,” On Curating 25 (2015). 7

Julia Bryan-Wilson, Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). 8

Anna Harding, “Participation Art and the Gallery,” in Out of Here: Creative Collaborations Beyond the Gallery, ed. Claire Doherty (Birmingham: Ikon Gallery, 1998), 11–12. 9

Several high-profile incidents at the time reflected a changing, and often contentious, understanding of the role of government-funded public art. Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc was installed in 1981 in Foley Federal Plaza in Manhattan, as commissioned by the Art in Architecture program and advised by the National Endowment for the Arts; the sculpture was subsequently removed in 1989 following community protest, bitter public debate, and a federal lawsuit. Following close behind, the “Culture Wars” of the early 1990s in the US saw Republican politicians and conservative groups successfully lobbying against NEA funding for certain types of art exhibitions, considered pornographic, anti-Catholic, or otherwise indecent. As a consequence of this, “Creative America: A Report to the President” by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, was released

in 1997, “affirm[ing] that a healthy cultural life is vital to a democratic society” and recommending that Congress reinstate cut NEA budgets. 10

Suzanne Lacy, Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (Seattle: Bay Press, 1995), 24–25. Lacy continues: “They have understood the emergence of collaborative notions in art as a reflection of ‘design teams,’ modeled after architectural practices” (25). Ironically, Lacy’s dismissal of design teams prefigures their repositioning via-à-vis certain models of collaboration, and it is very much still the case that the design-based approach to socially engaged art is alive and well. For instance, the 2018 Turner Prize–nominated collective Forensic Architecture adopts a design-based approach to collaborative work, in order to uncover human rights violations. 11

For a fuller discussion of Lacy’s practices and choice of terminology, see Birchall, “Socially engaged art in the 1990s and beyond,” On Curating 25 (2015). 12

Lacy, Mapping the Terrain, 21.


Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002), 151.


Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (New York: Verso, 2012), 217. Of exhibitions from this period, Bishop notes: “The curatorial framework is tighter and stronger than the projects by individual artists, which are open-ended, unframed, and moreover made in response to a curatorial proposition.” This additionally had the effect of elevating the position of the curator to that of author, who uses a curatorial framework to present a specific set of ideas or practices to the public, in a position that is usually occupied by artists; this presages further shifts in authorship (towards the collaborative and communitybased) as well as future issues of artist and participant autonomy.


Sculpture Chicago, the commissioning group for “Culture in Action,” had previously commissioned largescale public sculpture across the city. The change of direction signaled a shift to the “social sculpture” model of Joseph Beuys. See Richter and Birchall, “Editorial: Social Sculptures Re-visited.” 16

O.K. – The Musical (2012–ongoing) produced by Christopher Kline is a good example of this, in that the artist lists and credits every collaborator involved in this long-term project. See 17

See Claire Bishop, “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents,” Artforum 44, no. 6 (February 2006): 178–83. Deller and Bruguera are discussed at length by Bishop and became well-known in the early 2000s for such practices. Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave (2001) entailed a public reenactment of a violent confrontation from the 1984 Miner’s Strike in Britain, bringing together about 800 historical reenactors and 200 former miners who had been part of the original conflict, while Bruguera’s Cátedra Arte de Conducta (2002–09) was


an ongoing pedagogical project for artists in her native Cuba, a mobile school devised to train students not just to make art but to experience and formulate a civil society. As Bishop subsequently notes (Artificial Hells, 3), this was more legitimately a return to social practices, as this essay also begins to make clear. This debate is also well discussed in Helmut Draxler, “The Turn from the Turns,” in Exhibition as Social Intervention 44-64. 18

Here I am referring to community art programs that were delivered by small-scale organizations in the US and UK, and which manifested at the end of the twentieth century. Charles Green, The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). 19

Sally Tallant, “Experiments in Integrated Programming,” in Curating and the Educational Turn, eds. Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson (London and Amsterdam: Open Editions and De Appel, 2010), 109. 20

Marc James Léger, Brave New Avant Garde: Essays on Contemporary Art and Politics (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2012), 41.



A 1997 NEA report states: “No longer restricted solely to the sanctioned arenas of culture, the arts would be literally suffused throughout the civic structure, finding a home in a variety of community service and economic development activities—from youth programs and crime prevention to job training and race relations—far afield from the traditional aesthetic function of the arts.” (Gary O. Larson, “American Canvas” (Washington, DC: National Endowment of the Arts, 1997), 127–28). See also George Yúdice, The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era (Durham, NC, and London, UK: Duke University Press, 2002) and Brian Wallis, “Public Funding,” in Alternative Art, New York, 1965-1985: A Cultural Politics Book for the Social Text Collective, ed. Julie Ault (New York and Minneapolis: Drawing Center  and University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 161–81. 22

John Roberts, “Art After Deskilling,” Historical Materialism 18 (2010): 77–96. 23

Léger, Brave New Avant Garde, 134.


Philanthropy and Socially Engaged Art, Today Michelle Coffey

I first encountered More Art in 2012, on one of those bright, dredging-out-of-winter, yearning-for-spring Saturdays in New York City. Traversing through the Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea housing projects en route to the Meatpacking District galleries, I stumbled upon Xaviera Simmons’ When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country, a collaboration with More Art in which Simmons set up a free outdoor photography studio for Fulton and Elliott-Chelsea residents, then exhibited the portraits at the Hudson Guild Art Gallery. I stood transfixed, a northern wind whipping around my ears and neck. Here was artistic practice unleashed; a community engaged; stunning portraits reflecting the dignity of local residents, who also participated as visitors to the gallery. The Lambent Foundation had just completed its second year of grantmaking. As its founding Executive Director, I was committed to reimagining the relationship between art and social justice—as is More Art. Its institutional values, practices, and programming places artists at the center of engaging New York City’s diverse neighborhoods around 25

a broad range of social issues. It soon became a guiding light for our evolving focus on the nexus of art, culture, and social change. While it is now quite normal, if not expected, for arts organizations to exhibit socially engaged art, in 2012 there was scant precedent for the depth of More Art’s institutional commitment to contemporary art and to artists whose work addresses inequality and social justice. Occasionally, “audience engagement” projects would take place, but few arts organizations took the risk of consistently offering meaningful, intentional partnerships between individual artists and local communities. Few, but not none. Indeed, for the past thirty years, since its inaugural Day Without Art, Visual AIDS has demanded attention be paid to the cultural and artistic ramifications of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Since the 1970s, Los Angeles-based Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) has expressed, through outdoor murals, its unyielding belief that all communities are worthy of art. And, beginning in 1993, Rick Lowe and six fellow African American artists have deployed their artistic vision and practice to “empower people and enrich communities” through Project Row Houses. Today, select US-based philanthropies do support socially engaged artistic practice, but in the last quarter of the twentieth century and even into the twenty-first, institutional funding was sparse for arts organizations committed to directly producing contemporary art work that intersects with the issues of our time through a framework of community engagement and empowerment. If socially engaged art was long confined to mostly smaller, “alternative” art spaces and community centers, the end of our current decade is marked by its visible shift into more mainstream cultural institutions like the Met, MoMA, and Lincoln Center. Several cultural and political phenomena have helped to direct—at times force— institutional philanthropy to become more responsive to the most innovative forces in the contemporary art world, and in the world at large. In recent decades, original and reevaluated art forms, from spoken word and hip hop to digital technologies and multidisciplinary projects, have begun to poke and push at the boundaries of the traditional Eurocentric art cannon. Artistic media and genres are 26


blurring; newer fields and practices are emerging. Political events, social movements, and climatechange–driven crises made worse by disinvestment in infrastructure, like Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, are peeling back the curtain on the ethos of dominance and exploitation foundational to our country’s existence. Debates about capitalism, police power and mass incarceration, white supremacy, patriarchy, and workplace behavior norms that just yesterday were confined to the margins are now playing out on the national stage. From Occupy Wall Street to the Movement for Black Lives, from #MeToo to the Arab Spring, from groundbreaking books like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to progressive policy wins like New York’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a rich chorus of long silenced voices is provoking the arts philanthropy sector to take notice and respond. At the same time, this trend is not as abrupt as it may appear. As with any movement for social change, its trajectory is long, and began with visionary individuals and communities. In 2000, a small, diverse group of national arts funders and cultural workers began meeting to discuss issues of equity and social justice. Often convened and led by the late Claudine Brown of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, they gathered to create spaces for shared learning, advocacy discussions, leadership development opportunities, and field-building trainings. Participants represented a wide range of grantmaking institutions from both the public and private sectors, alongside cultural practitioners (artists, cultural producers, research consultants), and intermediary organizational partners such as Alternate Roots. These early discussions among aligned colleagues eventually led Grantmakers in the Arts, the national affinity group of public and private arts funders, to identify racial equity as a critical issue in the philanthropic sector. Since 2008, Grantmakers in the Arts has sponsored research and offered racial equity webinars and training to the arts funding sector. In 2010, Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, released its influential report and resource, “Trend or Tipping Point: Art & Social Change Grantmaking.” The following year, the National Committee For Responsive Philanthropy released “Fusing Arts, Culture 27

Anthony Goicolea Neighborhood 28 2008



and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy,” calling for funders to reflect on our policies and practices in light of demographic, aesthetic, and economic trends. This gathering of philanthropic allies represented a striking intergenerational collective of individual “cultural brokers,” committed in their own practices to ushering in and mentoring newer diverse voices around the philanthropic table. Claudine Brown, formerly of Nathan Cummings and the Smithsonian, Marian Godfrey, formerly of Pew Charitable Trust, Roberto Bedoya, formerly of Tuma Pima Arts Council and currently Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Oakland, Joan Shigekawa of the Rockefeller Foundation and the NEA, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto of the Rockefeller Foundation, Ted Berger, formerly of New York Foundation for the Arts—each recognized and welcomed the demographic and cultural shifts afoot and helped shape a more intentional entry path, space, and mentoring environment for the next generation of leaders. The legacy of these pioneers are the philanthropic program leadership—among them a marked increase in women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks—who today are creating grantmaking portfolios and foundation criteria that directly support cultural organizations addressing and/or responding to social justice issues. Looking ahead, my vision is for boards and other institutional leaders whose life experience and perspectives on art are similarly informed by intersectionality in socioeconomic circumstance, immigration status, gender expression, physical ability, and race. Arts funders are also beginning to follow the lead of social justice philanthropies working more collaboratively to solve or simply move the needle on a myriad of humanrights–based issues, including deep reform to public education and criminal justice, gender inequality, and LGBTQ rights. In 2014, a collective of New York City arts funders initiated the New York Cultural Agenda Fund, housed at the New York Community Trust. This joint effort supports research, technical assistance, blogs, convenings, and grantmaking to advance equity by ensuring that communityarts groups, groups led by people of color, and culturally and economically diverse artists are as valued for their contributions to the City’s culture as larger institutions historically have been.



Above all, the funding priorities of the arts philanthropy sector shifted over the past decade in response to the powerful, visionary, committed work of individual artists and cultural organizations. While the relationship between funder and grantee has necessarily complex dynamics, we are beginning to forge a model for a relationship of shared values, shared learning, and a mutual desire to create a more just and beautiful world. On that cold spring morning in 2012 when I stumbled upon Xaviera’s work, my path was forever changed. I continue to follow More Art’s guiding light and direction to this day.


Working Towards an Egalitarian Society


Jenny Marketou Sunspotting a Walking Forest 2012


Can a Transformative Avant-Garde Art Survive in a World of Lolcats, Doomsday Preppers, and Xenophobic Frog Memes? Do We Have a Choice? 1

Gregory Sholette A mohawk-topped black man defiantly marches forward across a public plaza as a weaponized water cannon blasts him back, creating a visceral spectacle recalling civil rights confrontations in 1960s Birmingham, Alabama, but the year is really 2014, and the place is New York City. A series of free workshops teaches eager participants the art and history of protest songs, all the while repurposing such musical dissent to accommodate issues of contemporary resistance. A mysterious huddle of white-clad scriveners silently documents the routine behavior of urban passersby, including those everyday acts of drudgery, pleasure, and resistance that theorist Michel de Certeau described as the “murmuring voice of societies.”2 Who are these persons, agents, performers? What do they want? And how did they and their projects materialize in the city’s public spaces? Three projects by three artists—Dread Scott, Pablo Helguera, and Ernesto Pujol—all set against a backdrop of routine unfreedom, were each developed in an effort to foster creative collaborations between communities and artists. It is an objective especially suited to our times, when the very term “art” is radically shifting, twisting, inverting, if 35

not undergoing an outright self-expulsion by moving out of its familiar dwelling places to occupy the public sphere at an ever-accelerating tempo. Unavoidably, as art joins in the everyday social world, its status as a privileged realm, set apart from the ubiquitous materialistic pursuits of consumer society, is likewise receding from view. This essay argues that this trade-off is one that artists and critics have yet to really confront, especially if they wish to remain relevant in a world of Lolcats, Doomsday preppers, and xenophobic frog memes.3 We are witnessing today the full-on return of socially engaged cultural activism, not only amongst embedded movement artists and community-based cultural workers, but by professionally trained, MFA-bearing artists who refuse the conventional opposition separating art from politics, from current events, and from life in general. Decades of work by artists such as Scott, Helguera, and Pujol (and many others) now serves as inspiration for this emerging cultural shift that concurrently loops back to energize their own creative practices. This new wave of cultural activism ranges from the deconstructive installations and raucous performances of Debtfair, who collectively call out the intolerable burden of overextended credit obligations suffered by students, artists, and workers, to the visually bracing public interventions of Decolonize This Place, who stage confrontations over issues such as anthropological bigotry at the American Museum of Natural History and the ethical challenges represented by board members of the Whitney Museum.4 Since the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, the activist coalition Black Lives Matter has mobilized many artists who are infuriated by police shootings of unarmed African American people. Meanwhile, in the UK, the group Liberate Tate managed to wean the London-based museum off British Petroleum’s addictive feed of petrodollars. Especially since the 2008 financial crash, we have seen a surge of creative hybrid art and activist experiments that address fair labor practices within the multimillion dollar art world, by groups such as Working Artists for the Greater Economy (WAGE), Occupy Museums (Debt Fair, mentioned above, is a facet of their work), and the multilevel tactical interventions of Gulf Labor/Global Ultra Luxury Faction 36


(GULF), who have targeted Guggenheim museums in New York and Venice, Italy, with boycotts, occupations, and charges of abuse towards migrant laborers in Abu Dhabi, the site of a future Guggenheim outpost, presently on hold. Recently the staff of the New Museum successfully voted to form a union, despite overt efforts by administrators to stop them. Still, what makes this return of a highly politicized cultural consciousness so very robust and far-reaching today? After all, the post-war fusion of art and politics was fully mapped out between 1968 and 1984, from the uprisings of the New Left across the globe, to post-colonial and identity liberation movements, to mass resistance against Ronald Reagan’s push to invade Nicaragua and station tactical nuclear missiles in Turkey. Is it this historical precedent? Or a certain pedagogical influence from one generation to another? Advances in communications technology? Or is it something new and unprecedented in our present moment? And why is this burst of socially committed culture taking place as the very category of art as autonomous object is dissolving from view, but also as the regressive forces of nationalism, racism, and misogyny are dangerously gaining in strength across the globe? Let’s begin with a hypothetical genealogy of activist art, one that for practical reasons is focused primarily on post-1968 New York City.5 This alternative art-historical chronicle flows forward from the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the Art Workers Coalition, Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, and Guerilla Art Action Group in the late 1960s, through such informal collectives as Artists Meeting for Cultural Change and the Real Estate Show in the 1970s. Group Material, Political Art Documentation/ Distribution, the Guerilla Girls, Gran Fury, and Critical Art Ensemble emerged in the next decade, followed by the rise of “tactical media” in the 1990s and 2000s with Electronic Disturbance Theater, Center for the Tactical Magic, and RTmark and The Yes Men, whose digital mimesis, “intelligent sabotage,” and corporate “identity correction” characterizes much of this work.6 Though these antecedents aggregate into a definite and determinate argument, they do not fully explain current circumstances.


Pedagogy also plays a role in our brief analysis. Since the turn of the last century, we find an ever-expanding explosion of seemingly spontaneous collectivism and cultural activism amongst younger artists, graduates of MFA programs taught by studio faculty who made it their mission to intentionally pry open standard formalist art-historical narratives, in order to insert social and political motivation into traditional art-for-art’s-sake curricula. And yet the influence of these progressive art educators does not fully account for the accelerating wave of militant cultural activism over the past couple of decades. Dare we consider technology as its primary booster? Permeating the 1990s and early 2000s was an alluring techtopian enchantment brought about by increasingly accessible social communication networks. When coupled with the implosion of the sclerotic socialist eastern bloc, as well as with the charismatic cyber-tactics of Mexico’s EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), it suddenly seemed that “Another World is Possible.”7 Adopted in 2001 by the first World Social Forum for civil society and social justice in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the phrase also became a mantra for the counter-globalization movement reaching from Seattle to Genoa. Improvising with only half-hearted irony on this speculative futurity, cultural theorist Gene Ray proposed in 2004 that “Another (Art) World is Possible,” carefully though clearly surfing the wave of optimism launched by new globally connected communications media.8 And it was unquestionably a remarkable moment. For a time it seemed possible to speak about an alternative mode of globalization that would be fundamentally different from the blanket monetization of the planet dreamt of by transnational corporations. In just such an ecstatic vein, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig opined buoyantly: [digital] technology could enable a whole generation to create—remixed films, new forms of music, digital art, a new kind of storytelling, writing, a new technology for poetry, criticism, political activism—and then, through the infrastructure of the Internet, share that creativity with others.9 But before long, post-9/11 Patriot Act restrictions tarnished the Wild West allure of early cyberspace, which was further 38


crippled by increasing legalization, consolidation, and rapid commercialization of Internet platforms. The dream of direct digital democracy did not die so much as deflate, only to be reanimated as increasingly specialized, even sectarian, subscriber sites, internally horizontal, yes, but thoroughly disconnected from any lingering promise of an open-source, global infrastructure where everyone could share their unbridled creativity (above all think here of Facebook). Next came the cold gray “new” reality of the jobless future, an existential shockwave from the 2008 financial collapse that all but demolished the liberatory expectations of the “creative class,” at least as anticipated by neoliberal urban management guru Richard Florida.10 Still, resistance abhors an aspirational vacuum. Like a sonic boom following a speeding jet, several years after the global financial collapse came the angry, bold, as well as joyful resistance that erupted in 2011 into urban squares, as citizens of the so-called “creative class” congealed into occupying, unemployed armies from Tahrir Square, Cairo to Puerta del Sol square in downtown Madrid and to Zuccotti Park in New York City. The spark soon spread across the US and Europe, into Russia and to Hong Kong and other parts of the Middle East. Brimming with improvised speeches, DIY music, social choreography and the “human mic,” these occupations shared an overarching sense of collective expectation, each city’s encampment germinating its own low-tech dissident culture made up of handmade cardboard signs taped together or trimmed down, or simply folded into manageable dimensions to maximize protest visibility. This corporeal dissidence was also streamed online, thus mixing up digital media’s advantages with actual bodies in the street, as if suggesting that some small part of the 1990s techtopia was still alive, though now curiously taking a backseat to a host of obsolete protest media, from picket signs and banner drops to defiant public processions physically blocking traffic. Still, this marriage of low- and high-tech forms was not unprecedented—one need only recall the motto of early-twentieth-century avant-garde Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin: “not the old, not the new, but the necessary.” And yet, at this point in our hypothetical genealogy of cultural activism, we began to see stirrings of something unexpected, if not entirely novel, because 39

Michael Joo Bohdi 40 Obfuscatus (Allegiance) 2006–07; 2009



these swarms of semi-organized resistance also contained a strain of regressive cultural opposition that commingled and competed with progressive protesters for visibility and dominance within the media-enhanced theater of discontent. While the left and right most often expressed opposite positions (though at other times shared nearly identical views regarding questions of governance, democracy, identity, and most of all globalization), this paradoxical phenomena of commingling was perhaps most palpably present in February 2014 during the so-called EuroMaidan uprising in Kiev, Ukraine, when the population occupied and barricaded the city’s central plaza in protest of the government’s shift away from ties with the European Union and towards Putin’s Russia. In that embattled town square, known locally as Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, liberals, conservatives, and several far-right parties briefly cohabited. All of this took place despite the occupiers’ contradictory ambitions regarding neoliberal markets vs. social democracy, and the establishment of secular governance vs. a form of Christian nationalist authority.11 As strange as that was, today when we look to Brexit and the 2016 US election results, we can see that there is a continuum moving forward from EuroMaidan to the current political situation, as anti-globalist forces, once viewed primarily as a phenomenon on the political left, meld with, or are replaced by, conservative, but also extreme-right, protestors. Put differently, this seeming historical and political anomaly has its own ludicrous logic. Further muddying post-Internet expectations for the spontaneous emergence of a pro-humanist cybercommons has been the recent phenomenon of bigoted, alt-right websites including 4chan, and the even more grotesque and misogynist 8chan. All the same, even such racist, nationalist, or post-human imaginaries do not forgo all utopian longing, and offer some degree of physiological comfort to the chronically alienated individual. The need to push back against chronic unfreedom has thankfully given birth to countless politically progressive online platforms, but also millions of spritely Instagram posts featuring amusing household pets, impudent children, and electrocomical faux pas spoken by Alexa and her AI kin, along with the inverted dystopian conspiracies such as pedophilic 42


pizza parlors and fake gun survivors paid to denounce the National Rifle Association.12 Silly, paranoid, fascist—these defense mechanisms may all be a far cry indeed from the promised dawn of the digital neo-enlightenment foreseen by Lessig and other techtopian dreamers almost two decades ago (though it now feels more like a century has passed since then). Still, the unconcealable contradictions that today result from dramatic climate-change–induced weather, staggering income asymmetries, structural xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racism, but also the dreaded emergence of a total surveillance state are always only a swipe or click away, thanks to the more than seven billion mobile devices that link our neural pathways together in the glimmering global matrix of fear, hope, longing, and connectivity, where instantaneous clickable consumption offers partial, though only temporary, satisfaction.13 Within this multi-pixelated contemporary world, we can no longer count on art’s once radical autonomy to set its practice apart from other forms of production, exploitation, and fear. When everything is spectacularized, monetized, and brandable, the realm of fine art is left undefended against the voracious appetite of affective capital. We have entered the era of what I call Bare Art.14 It is an unsettling moment when the institutions and practices of high culture continue to subsist as such, and yet where art is now bereft of mystery, depth, aura, and all those curious traits that once made art appear to operate in an exceptional state, autonomous and detached from the vulgarities of the marketplace. Nevertheless—and this is one more paradoxical wrinkle in this game—high art’s peculiar social license to misbehave, to imitate or even mock reality, to blur genres and disciplines has not vanished, but instead has been simultaneously amplified and decentralized as this contrarian aesthetic value is now imputed to almost everything that jumps, pops, and flows across our glow-screen–bedazzled collective attention span. And it is precisely from this weakened state that new strengths must emerge. The practices of Scott, Helguera, and Pujol, together with many more socially engaged activist artists and collectives, operate within this fully illuminated space of Bare Art. 43

Everything is now out there in plain sight, right alongside the profusion of every other cultural output including Pepe the Frog memes, Lolcat posts, and Doomsday prepper videos. Art has lost its centuries-old ideological privilege, and yet has gained in this process a front-row seat in a contentious struggle to rethink the way expressive, imaginative, and artistic value is generated, for whom, why, and to what ends. Finally we encounter the missing ingredient regarding the explosion of art activism today. It is not the exceptional position of high culture within society that has made this proliferation possible, but instead art’s earthbound plummet into the everyday. This is of course precisely what the earlytwentieth-century avant-garde had proposed just about one hundred years ago. Though it now arrives with a twist. Artist Krzysztof Wodiczko brilliantly argues that the very possibility of a transformative avant-garde art, if it is to exist today, requires simultaneously “deconstructing and constructing participation through language, but also bodies, histories, affects, etc.”15 And perhaps we already bear witness to this process, not only with the work of Scott, Helguera, and Pujol, but also with such near-spontaneous social protest formations as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and Viacrucis del Migrante (Migrant Caravan). It seems we have arrived at a moment of great possibilities, and equally great risks, where art is both the name for a particular act of defiance, and the name of a sixty-some-billion-dollar industry tracked by leading investment funds.16 If Wodiczko is correct, and I hope he is, then we who are both true defenders and relentless critics of contemporary art must act like a cadre of hooded ninjas, or sorcerers, upholding past ideals, while coldly confronting the most abject contradictions, like irradiated apostles of an uncertain future. This is an uncomfortable, maybe even untenable, position that we will learn to live with, as mass collective agency once again impulsively erupts into public places and media spaces. Informed by oppositional lessons learned from a long-suppressed history from below, inspired by a host of once-marginalized pedagogues, and armed with a disruptive tactical technology that reanimates a socially engaged artistic agency by any means necessary, let us celebrate a haunted necromantic vanguardism that casts impossible dark-matter shadows across the brazen and bright world of bare art. 44


I am borrowing the term “transformative avantgarde” from artist Krzysztof Wodiczko. See: Transformative Avant-Garde and Other Writings: Krzysztof Wodiczko (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2016). 2

Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), foreword.


A Lolcat, or LOL cat, is a captioned image meme of a housecat engaged in humorous behavior, Doomsday preppers are individuals preparing for a civilizationending catastrophe by building often extravagant survival shelters, and the racist version of Pepe the Frog is an Internetmeme that has been hacked and adopted by the tech-savvy, neo-fascist alt-right movement. 4

Debtfair is an ongoing artistic campaign from the collective Occupy Museums, which aims to expose the relationship between economic inequality in the art market and artists’ growing debt burdens. See Decolonize This Place is a self-described “action-oriented movement centering around Indigenous struggle, Black liberation, free Palestine, global wage workers and de-gentrification.” See Since 2016, Decolonize This Place has organized an annual Indigenous Peoples Day/Anti-Columbus Day tour of the American Museum of Natural History. Starting in December 2018, they began an ongoing protest-campaign aimed at the Whitney Museum, demanding the removal of Warren B. Kanders, the chief executive of Safariland, a company that makes tear gas canisters and other products used against asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border, from its board of trustees. 5

I regret that brevity requires my narrative remain narrow in scope, bypassing earlier precedents such as the Artists Union of the 1930s, as well as examples outside New York including the 1966 Peace Tower, Womanhouse in Los Angeles in 1972, Rasheed Araeen’s postcolonial performances in 1970s London, or the co-founding of the German Green Party in 1979 by artist Joseph Beuys. Thankfully, in recent years, a wave of younger researchers is busily uncovering a vast and little-known urhistory of shadowed artistic energy involving scores of feminists, artists of color, and political dissidents who often worked in now forgotten collectives, all the while laying the groundwork for much of what we take for granted in the contemporary art world itself (See my book, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, Pluto Press, 2010). 6

“Identity correction” is how Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos describe their interventions in the movie The Yes Men (2003), while “intelligent sabotage” was first used to describe the work of The Yes Men’s previous incarnation as RTmark but applies equally well to both groups. See Tim Jordan and Paul Taylor, Hacktivism and Cyberwars: Rebels with a Cause? (New York:Routledge, 2004), 86. 7

Brian Holmes, “Unleashing the Collective Phantoms. Flexible Personality, Networked Resistance,” European Institute for Progressive Cultural Politics,

January 2002. A PDF is available at: transversal/1202/holmes/en. 8

Gene Ray, “Another (art) world is possible: Theorising Oppositional Convergence,” Third Text vol. 18, issue 6 (2004): 562–72.  A PDF is available at: https://www. 9

Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Random House, 2001), 9.


By now Richard L. Florida and his theory of the creative class has generated many books, as well as many detractors. His most notable publication remains The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life (New York: Basic Books, 2002). 11

Sholette, “On the Maidan Uprising and ‘Imaginary Archive’ in Kiev,” Hyperallergic, July 16,2014. 12

So-called Pizzagate was a viral conspiracy theory claiming human trafficking, a child-sex ring, Hillary Clinton and a Washington DC pizza parlor were all connected, while the organized anti-gun survivors of the Parkland High School shooting were accused by alt-right networks of being paid crisis actors.


For a sobering overview of this phenomenon, see “Art, Anti-Globalization, and the Neo-Authoritarian Turn,” FIELD Journal of Socially Engaged Art, Issue 12/13 (Spring 2019) 14

Theorist Giorgio Agamben uses the term “Bare Life” to describe a human being deprived of all socially constructed legal rights and thus reduced to a state he calls homo sacer: no longer human but a purely biological entity. What I am calling “Bare Art” is a condition that emerges when art’s traditional autonomy, mystique, and romance boils away, leaving the world of high culture stripped down and subsumed by the forces of modern capitalism and its political ideology. I expand on this in my book Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism (London: Pluto Press, 2017). 15

Unpublished excerpts from a 2013 exchange between myself and Wodiczko. 16

Katya Kazakina, “Global Art Sales Rose to $63.7 Billion Last Year,” Bloomberg News, March 13, 2018

Pablo Helguera

El Club de Protesta 2011



El Club de Protesta fostered the creation of an association and activity center devoted to repurposing the protest song and fostering public engagement, by exploring the tradition of songwriting with political or social content from Latin America and the United States. Going back to music written during the French occupation of Mexico and the American labor songs of the mid-twentieth century, the tradition of the protest song centered on the appropriation of popular songs and the rewriting of lyrics by successive generations, in accordance with their specific political moment. Following this model for The Protest Club, artist Pablo Helguera, joined by musician and composer Carlo Nicolau, led a series of collaborative, intergenerational, Spanish-English bilingual workshops with members of local communities, organized in collaboration with the Chelsea-based community center Hudson Guild. Songs were studied as historical forms of expression, often connected to significant social movements, and lyrics were adapted to present political situations. Dealing primarily with the Latin and North American traditions of the protest song and with current issues surrounding immigration, these sessions culminated in public concerts featuring both professional musicians and Club participants on the High Line and the Hudson Guild Theatre. In conjunction with the project, The Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies of the CUNY Graduate Center presented “The Legacy of Protest Song in Mexico,” during which Helguera discussed the legacy of the protest song in Latin America, its relevance in Mexico, and the potential of revitalizing protest songs to address local and current issues. Panel participants included historian Eric Zolov and curator Aldo Sanchez. The panel predated the public art commission and served as a research base for the project. The Protest Club continues today as a performance troupe constituted of Helguera, Sebastian Cruz, and Alejandro Flores. Workshop participants and performers included Susan Lippman, Sue Machlin, Amy McCarthy, Donna Panton, Robert Soret, Helen Rosenbaum, and musicians Pablo Helguera, Carlo Nicolau, Sebastian Cruz, and Eleanor Dubinsky.


Pablo Helguera El Club48 de Protesta 2011



Pablo Helguera El Club de Protesta 2011

Pablo Helguera Interview


The Protest Club moves across the boundaries between different languages, cultures, and generations, as well as those between art and activism. How does it manage that—what are the mechanisms by which it explores those divides? More broadly, what does boundary breaking have to do with public projects? I first should note that El Club de Protesta took place in the summer of 2011, a few weeks before the protests of Occupy Wall Street erupted. At that time, when the city was still feeling the deep impact of the recession of 2008, the contrasts between the great wealth in New York and those who are economically disadvantaged was felt more than ever. Those divisions were really visible everywhere. To say that I was breaking boundaries, however, feels excessive. Unfortunately, I did not break down the boundaries between rich and poor, nor has it been done by any other artist, as far as I know. What I do (and what many artists do in


their practice) is to first recognize the socio-economic or cultural boundaries that exist among us, then try to work with them. In this project, my intention was to work with the residents of a low-income housing community center with little or no musical training, recognizing that they had lots to contribute in terms of describing their experience. Recognizing these boundaries, however, also means engaging in contradictions; it’s been noted that the songs are traditional and contemporary, both timeless and anachronistic. The project’s mission statement also acknowledges “the fact that [art] is exclusive and progressive.” Can you talk about these intersections of seemingly disparate courses? The facts are the following: protest music is a folk art form; it is generally fairly accessible in form and message, and most people can understand it and sing it. That

said, professional musical performance is something that can only be developed and learned over time through practice (i.e. most people don’t know how to play guitar or have not performed on stage in front of an audience). And art as a profession (as a long process by which one gains expertise at it) is like any other exclusive discipline; it is also true that artmaking commonly involves critical thinking and the desire to break existing molds. But I also believe that there are a lot of people with rich experiences that can contribute to the process of song composition, if they are only given the means to do so. With this in mind, working with a group of seniors with no previous musical experience, we wanted to let them know about the history of protest music and pair them with professional musicians who helped putting music to their words. It was an exhilarating process, and to I believe it was a very empowering

Pablo Helguera El Club de Protesta 2011


Pablo Helguera El Club de Protesta 2011



experience for the participants. What were the challenges in rewriting and adapting the protest songs with the group—in making them their own—and how was that experience or approach relevant to your own socially engaged art practice? How did the project confront or expand ideas of authorship and ownership? There is a long tradition in protest music that consists in taking a well-known popular song and changing its lyrics to reflect a current situation. This way when you are singing the song in a large group or crowd many people recognize the tune and only have to insert the revised, usually parodic, lyrics. This was the case for example of the song “La Llorona,” an old Mexican folk song that relates to the legend of a woman who lost her children and forever haunts small towns looking for them. The song has been adapted to talk about a wide variety of political issues—a famous version existed during the student movement in Mexico in 1968. So we took these and other songs as musical structures into which to insert lyrics written by the participants that reflected the Great Recession. In other cases, some participants outright wrote whole songs that they wanted us to set to music. In those cases, the participants became authors of their own songs; in the others, the songs had a collective authorship. I am not the author of those pieces—instead, my role was more of a writing workshop instructor. But I do think that artists need to claim authorship for the participatory structures they create. Claiming authorship is as much the result of pointing out who generated the research and ideas that constitute the project as showing accountability for it.

engaged art and for public art projects, in particular those perhaps less bound by institutional auspices? I suppose you can say that the invitation to sing a protest song in public requires the participant to become accountable for their participation. In other words, there is accountability inasmuch as there is participation in a democratic process. However, I would say that it is not my intention to transmit the responsibility of the action to the participant; I am interested in creating a context in which they will be inspired and comfortable, and feel free to contribute. As to the institutional structure, back in 2002, I came to the conclusion that instead of trying to fit my work within an institutional framework, I would create institutional frameworks as art. The institution limits artmaking because it is governed by preexisting ideas, values, and processes that determine its survival. So it is better in my mind to create institutions that are specifically designed to support the artistic ideas that might emerge.

The songs themselves demanded a kind of accountability from political actors and social circumstances, and gave the participants a chance to act, to take on a civic responsibility and engage. What does the idea of accountability mean for socially


Protest Club lyrics from July 19, 2011 concert

LA LLORONA DEL ESTUDIANTE adapted from 1968 Mexican student movement protest song Nos llaman agitadores, llorona A todos los estudiantes; Resultan muy habladores, llorona Toditos los gobernantes Ay de mí llorona, llorona, Llorona sin corazón, Aunque la vida nos cueste, llorona, Que muera la represión. Ayer estaba todo tranquilo, llorona Y de repente todo cambió Nos robaron el trabajo, llorona, Y todo el cielo lloró Se llevan el oro y la plata, llorona Mientras tus hijos no cometen Lucen sus joyas y cantan, llorona Mientras los cerros se mueren En huelga todos estamos, llorana Y eso significa union, Y exigiomos los derechos, llorona De nuestra constitución. Ay de mí llorona, llorona, Llorona en conclusion, Luchando siempre luchando, llorona Hasta la revolución.



SEND THE OLD MEN TO WAR written by Donna Panton, workshop participant Send the old men to war Send the old men to war Their power is corrupted Their pride overrated Send the old men to war Keep the young folk at home Keep the young folk at home Provide jobs, education We all build this nation Keep the young folk at home Send the old men to war Send the old men to war They've unraveled nations Destroyed generations Send the old men to war Keep the Keep the They are In peace Keep the

young folk at home young folk at home our bright future we will prosper young folk at home

Send the old men to war Send the old men to war Their power is corrupted Their pride overrated Send the old men to war.


Dread Scott

On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide 2014



On the Impossibility of Freedom is a one-time performance engaging with the legacy of racism in the United States and pointing to the continuing struggles faced by minorities across the nation. The performance featured Dread Scott’s attempt to walk forward across the Manhattan Bridge Archway while battered by a professionally controlled high-pressure water jet from a fire hose. The performance obliquely referenced the 1963 Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham, Alabama, during which city officials used high-pressure water cannons to disperse non-violent protesters and bystanders in an effort to maintain segregation and legalized discrimination, although it made no direct oral, textual, or contextual reference to those events. The piece also reflects on present-day fights against racism and the tactics used to uphold systemized oppression, as demonstrated by the protests and subsequent militarized police response in Ferguson, Missouri, following the killing of Michael Brown, which took place just two months before Scott’s performance. During the performance, as Scott, dressed in black street clothes, approached the hose, he at times held his hands up, stumbled, fell, turned his back on the stream, and leaned into it, slashed at the water, and continually bared his teeth in response to the pressure and spray. The performance lasted just over twenty minutes, and ended with the exhausted artist standing.


Dread Scott On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide 2014

Dread Scott Interview


The performance ends up hovering between a reenactment and a metaphor; it’s abstracted from a historical event but happening in a very direct, physical way. What is the power of something that is both symbol and action, that exists between past and present? How might this dynamic relate to our viewing of history? A lot of my work has looked at how the past both sets the stage for the present but also exists in the present in new forms. I do think that in America there’s a lack of historic context and a lot of historic amnesia. Some of it is sort of ignorance that’s [based on the fact that] people haven’t been educated, but part of it is a willful ignorance. So when war happens, it’s like, Well, the bad guys shot us, and, well, maybe they did but what did you do the week before that? Looking at how the past sets the stage for the present is actually a really important part of my methodological approach.


But what is important about works like this, in addition to saying that we are part of a history and that our present is part of and connected to that history, is to ask how do things from the past—both horrors from the past but also radical attempts to be progressive and radical—exist in the present? Recently I’ve been really trying to look at how people have looked at freedom and how they have tried to get free—how do you make work about that? There’s a really good history of artists that are looking at the horrible things that people have done to each other. There’s not as much history, outside of revolutionary societies, of people actually looking at what is freedom. How do we transform that? On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide is looking at the fact that it is impossible for people to get free in this country—a country that was founded on

slavery and genocide—but people have tried and they’ve made radical change. It was the youth, high-school kids, in Birmingham; that’s mostly who was out in that particular segment of the Civil Rights Movement. They had a belief that legalized discrimination was wrong and they were gonna change it and so they stood up. The piece really connects that past with the present. One thing that was kind of coincidental was that the audience for the performance included an entire class from Gotham Academy, a school in Bed-Stuy, a historically poor, historically Black neighborhood, high-school kids who wanted to come see a Dread Scott performance. It’s a performing arts school, but they don’t get to see a lot of live performance. It struck me, when I was performing and when I talked with them later, that all these kids had a deep understanding that they could be the next Mike Brown, that their lives could be

Dread Scott On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide 2014


Dread Scott On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide 2014



ended by a cop, for no reason—for having their hands up, for not having their hands up, for having their hands in their pocket, for running, for not running, for talking back, for not talking back, for playing loud music, for not playing loud music—for anything. They had a deeply ingrained sense that in this system their lives count for absolutely nothing. But most of them didn’t know how they could be the next Freedom Fighter, they didn’t know. And so the performance was trying to engage that question. For these kids the ‘60s is textbooks. The point is not “let’s recreate the ‘60s, they were brilliant,” but more that there are lessons to be learned from looking at the ‘60s. This performance was really trying to reference this past that you have a vague memory or understanding of, and then embody the present in that. This performance was not just about Birmingham, it was about the broader struggle of people trying to be free from oppression. There is the particular Birmingham, where this government was trying to enforce legalized discrimination and was attacking not only protestors but bystanders. This performance had the understanding of that history, but there weren’t signs of people calling for an end to segregation, there were no chants, there wasn’t groups of people. There was one person. In the ‘60s there were a lot of people who were out and it lasted days; this was one 23-minute performance. But it did draw those connections and parallels. It was symbolic but it was rooted in that past. And yes, people can study the past but it wasn’t a call to study per se, it was more an ideological and moral question. Freedom is worth fighting for, but if you do [fight] you may get battered in the process. But then you get back up, you keep coming. This work is about freedom and strength, but also impossibility and limitations. Your action is Sisyphean. What does the idea of futility or resilience have to do, if

anything, with revolutionary acts, including artmaking? I don’t think it’s futile. I do think I’ve been on the losing side of a lot of social justice struggles. But it’s not important that we lose, it’s important that we fight. I don’t think we’ve reached the end of history. Fundamental change comes from below. It’s not great leaders, it’s ordinary people who do extraordinary things, and it’s the people who can actually bring people together for fundamental change. You can’t do that without the belief that you can do that; it doesn’t mean that you’ll do it just because you have that belief. Many times you’ll be wrong. We’re sitting here talking in Trump’s America. Trump is a fascist, it’s beyond run-of-the-mill imperialism, he’s reforming society... This is the context in which this conversation is happening, which is a few years after this performance took place. Does art about things like this have anything to do with whether people can drive a regime like that from power and have the vision to say, “we refuse to tolerate this, this is unacceptable and we desire to be free”? In the title On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, there’s a bit of a conceit there: it says “in a country founded on slavery and genocide.” I don’t think people can actually be free in a society based on exploitation and oppression, with this history. I think people can fight for freedom, I think people can make significant changes, but to actually be free I think we need to get rid of a society that is based on exploiting people. The piece is a call for people to think about actually having the courage, the tenacity, the vision to resist, even if you might not win a particular battle. It is the just struggle, what needs to be done. I think that one of the ways—and this gets back a bit to the symbolic—that we know this history is largely through photographs, which are black-and-white


Dread Scott On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide 62 2014



photographs. There’s this way in which a color photograph, which is the main way that my work is seen, does not actually just reside in the past but comes back and talks to the present and our moment. It’s not about futility, it’s about actually moving forward and bringing these ideas to life as art, but also for people who see the art. We do need to be free and we need people thinking about what we do and what’s worth risking and what’s worth living and, in some cases, dying for. On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide has a powerful visual, iconic presence—the images live on after the performance. How does imageability—vision as well as visual clarity—play into political movements and/ or artistic activism? I think artists better have a clear vision; it helps, that’s our job. Yes, there’s learning and experimentation and not knowing everything in advance, but I do think ultimately that visual art is a question of images. It doesn’t mean every image has to be representationadl but it is a question of making images that are powerful hopefully beyond just the artist. I do think about that. Drawing on iconic images from the ‘60s is part of that— there’s a reason they’re iconic and I do attempt to utilize that. I think now about some of the imagery that’s emerged out of Black Lives Matter. There is a generation of people who are thinking about symbols and vision in ways that allow people who are not the leaders or the theoreticians to actually embrace a movement. And when it comes to art that has social change as part of its mission and not just the museum or gallery context, it’s important that the work be accessible on one level so that people can say, I could be the person who puts the flower in the gun.1 The idea of exposure, in many forms—the subjugation of the body to distress or


ridicule, the uncovering of systemic injustices and audience preconceptions —seems key to your practice. Exposure in social or political contexts often means discomfort. Can you talk about exposure in terms of vulnerability and confrontation in your work? In some cases I’m willing to expose the audience to the foundations and relations of this society in ways that you can often insulate yourself from. With On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, it’s like, most people think racism is bad, most people know that Civil Rights demonstrators went through difficult situations in the ‘60s, and most people know Black kids get shot by cops— everybody kind of knows that. In this case you were being exposed to a different way you could live, even if you don’t choose to do it at that moment, at that time. You’re like, Wait a minute, why do I accept that 1,100 people are going to be killed by cops every year in America? Why do I accept that that's disproportionally Black and Latino people? I do think that live performance takes an audience places, because it’s both live and not theater, and there is a reality that's there. I’m sure most people seeing the performance didn’t think I’d actually be maimed, but you didn’t quite know. I think that live art or visual art performance does challenge and put people in the audience in a relationship with reality that’s different than theater, which I like, just to be really blunt. Most performance art is terrible, but when it’s really good it's amazing. And I think more theater is good than visual art performance, but very little theater is as mind-blowing as good performance is. I guess there’s probably some personal bias there, but I don’t think it’s just me. The phenomenological experience of seeing someone blasted with a fire hose is like, Will he be ok? how long will this go on? I’m with him, I’m going on


performance are gonna probably think racism is bad, exploitation sucks. And then it’s, Well, ok, with On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide, I do agree that people should have civil rights and I do think that Mike Brown shouldn’t be shot. I really respect my audience. Somebody who has taken the time to come see me do something or see my artwork? That’s a rare privilege that few people in this society have. I’ve been lucky enough to both make art but also to have some people want to look at it, and who wouldn’t be thankful for that? I really respect the time and commitment that people make when they look at and engage with my work. But in terms of how that comes out in the work… I don’t think that my work condescends to people. I think with my work, while some people clearly won’t like it, that’s ok. But the people that in broad brushstrokes are on the same side of the barricades as me, I don’t think people feel that I’m talking down to them. That’s the intent but I think that does come through in the work—even when I’m doing something literally, it’s not simplistic. Some of the questions that my work addresses can be simplified, but they’re not simplistic.

that journey, I hope he’s not hurt... For me as a performance artist, in that case, it was—transcendent is not the right word— very emotional. I was very much drawing on the energy, particularly of the youth from the Bed-Stuy school. It was really a connection with them; it was being performed for them. I was doing things that I didn’t know I would do in advance or know how it would affect me. I was trying to channel the spirit of the people who stood up to water cannons in the 1960s but also, Mike Brown had recently been killed and I knew that was there in the room (or on the bridge). The live performance is important. What people see when somebody is doing something transgressive like burning money 2 or when somebody is standing up to a fire hose, is something you knew that people had done, yet you didn’t know that people could do. It actually is powerful for me to be challenging that. People are both being exposed to that but are also able to be inspired by that. You’ve spoken of a level of confidence that you have in your viewers—particularly of public projects. How do you think this comes across in the work, and what do you hope to instill? I have a confidence and respect that a lot of my audience agrees with me, which is not necessarily the way to make art—the way to judge art is not “I agree,” it’s different than that—but most people volunteering to come to a Dread Scott


Flower Power is an iconic photograph taken by Bernie Boston during the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam’s March on The Pentagon in 1967; it shows a Vietnam War protester placing a carnation into the barrel of a rifle held by a soldier. Scott is also obliquely referring to Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge, a photograph taken at a protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016, of Ieshia Evans, standing still in a flowing dress with her arms crossed, in front of a line of heavily armed police while two armored officers rush forward to put her in handcuffs. The protest began in the aftermath of the shooting by police

of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the image, taken by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters and soon a viral phenomenon on social media, became associated with the Black Lives Matters movement. 2

Money to Burn is a performance by Dread Scott that was enacted on Wall Street in 2010. Starting with $250, Scott burned money—singles, fives, tens, and twenties, one bill at a time, while encouraging traders and others on the street to join him with their own money.


In attendance at Scott’s performance was a group of over 200 high-school students from Gotham Professional Arts Academy in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historically AfricanAmerican neighborhood in Brooklyn. Over the course of the following weeks, the students organized a series of town hall meetings to address recent national and personal instances of racial tension and social injustice; several students submitted written responses and reflections to post on More Art’s website.


+ We all face issues in our day-to-day lives, but being an African American like myself, we may sometimes face racism, stereotypes, violence within the community, and lack of understanding about ourselves and the history being taught to us. Born into a world of chaos, and division amongst race, color, ethnic background, and many other things in the world, it becomes a fight for survival not only physically but mentally, and emotionally. After seeing the performance, and a month later hearing that Darren Wilson, the murderer of Michael Brown, was not getting indicted, I decided to do something positive. The negative energy became too much and I saw the youth and my generation around me with no hope in their eyes. It affected me because I knew that giving up was not an option. With the help of some teachers, students, and other leaders, I created a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the Dread Scott performance and find out people’s reactions to the Michael Brown case, and the injustices towards black and brown people. Some of the reactions left me speechless and somewhat frustrated because my generation wanted things to change but believed that everything would always remain the same. Although I knew that I couldn’t change everyone’s way of thinking, I began participating in protests and the “Millions March” because it meant a lot to me to make a change and let others know that things can change. Learning about what’s going on is important, but being educated should not only happen in school. We should be learning how to protect ourselves from this abuse not physically but mentally, and know that racism is not yet over. We also need to learn that we do not need to fall victim to the stereotypes put against us black and brown people. […] We can change this if we continue to educate and motivate each other, and [know] that great things can happen when our voices are heard in a positive way.

Saragine Edouard “The Art of Storytelling,” December 15, 2014 (posted on January 12, 2015)


drawing by Tuvary Joseph


+ As people of color, if there was ever a time to speak out about racial issues and violence in our society, it is now. We are finally witnessing movements all over the country attacking the racial issues of police brutality and incarceration, but a number of us still have this tendency to shrug it off and feel that it’s not worth addressing. For far too long, we have continuously ignored the racial prejudices and injustices that have been crippling our community and killing our people. […] For the people who believe these issues aren’t worth addressing, they don’t see that they are part of the problem. Ignoring the issue doesn’t mean that you are resistant to these injustices, it just makes you more susceptible because racial stereotypes, violence and prejudices affect every person of color, in one way, shape, or form. If that doesn’t open the eyes of those who doubt, then it’s really important for us to open a space to have discussions on these urgent matters and promote change. We as youth can do a number of things to promote change in our community. To start, we need to organize clubs, support groups and classes in our schools that revolve around the subject of racism. Not only topics about violence from police but issues such as the new Jim Crow and the stop and frisk campaign. To tackle an issue as big as racism in today’s society we first must open our eyes and become aware of it. With that awareness comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power. Opening dialogue between opposing sides and educating each other on what’s really happening behind the scenes of our racist society is the first step to promote change.

Jezel Melanie Lopez, January 2, 2015 (posted on January 26, 2015)


Ernesto Pujol

9—5 2015



9-5 is a three-day group performance by social choreographer Ernesto Pujol that pays homage to city office workers. Social choreography is interested in how political and social conditions are inscribed and can be generated in performative practices; it often revolves around the orchestration of apparently spontaneous, collective movement and engages with the production and maintenance of public spaces. This site­-specific performance was tailored to the contemporary architecture of Brookfield Place, a commuter hub, office building, and luxury shopping center. Eleven performers dressed in white arrived by public transportation each day, silently moving to their positions within the glass atrium at the east side of the Brookfield Place Pavilion. Sitting with notebooks at individual desks between the glass partitions of the malls’ windows, which mirrored the quintessential corporate office workspace, each performer wrote silently throughout the day about what and who they saw. Pujol sought to evoke the repetitiousness of all labor through this silent meditative gesture, while also fostering a deeper recognition of the human condition, a practice Pujol terms “seeing.” The performers were artists, yoga teachers, meditation teachers, young performance artists, and people interested in reflection and mindfulness. The durational performance took place during a corporate workweek, from Monday, October 26, to Wednesday, October 28, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., eight hours per day, such that the piece was experienced for a combined total of twentyfour hours. Performers went home daily to bathe, rest, and sleep but they had to remain silent. When at Brookfield Place, they stayed at their desks, except to relieve any discomfort, but were able to subtly interact nonverbally, through eye contact or smiling. More Art docents were available to handle the curiosity of the public, and Brookfield building security personnel to ensure the performers’ safety. Performers included Dillon de Give, Young Sun Han, Kate Harding, Sara Jimenez, Micaela Martegani, Bess Matassa, Ernesto Pujol, James Rich, Caitlin Turski, Matthew Watson, Joy Whalen, Jayoung Young, and Valarie Samulski.


Ernesto Pujol 9-5 2015

All images © Nisa Ojalvo 2019

Ernesto Pujol Interview


As you have mentioned in past interviews, your experience as a Trappist monk continues to inform your performance work. Could you talk about how this experience influenced 9-5? In particular, we are curious about the connection between the anonymity of a cloistered life and that of corporate life. The monk wears a robe, the corporate worker a suit. The monk is silent, the corporate worker speaks only in prescribed terms. Was this on your mind in conceiving the piece? My experience as a former, cloistered, conMy experience as a former cloistered, contemplative monk trained me in an economy of the body, with emphasis on the poetic containment of the body. The body was formalized, uniformed, and ritualized—beautifully. To an outside viewer, monastic life is very performative; it is an aesthetic experience. Its purpose is to imbue every act with symbolic meaning, eliminating meaningless gestures. Every gesture amounts to a nonverbal word


about consciousness. Gestures speak for us. That is the ancient training I bring to my contemporary performative work. And yes, monastic life is anonymous, but that is because it engages in the value of humility. The ego is vanquished as the monk seeks to become an empty vessel for the universe to fill. The monk is strong, the contemplative has character; but it is the strength of consciousness in the world, which cuts through illusion like a knife. Corporate life is different. Its anonymity can be experienced as dehumanizing, and competitiveness among office workers is encouraged, even when they are on the same team. Indeed, I was reflecting on all those elements when I conceptualized the 9-5 performance, seeking visual elements from both cultures: the monastic and the corporate. I wanted to explore corporate culture with my performers, seeking and witnessing a deeper layer of meaning, the fragility of the human condition hidden within it, empathizing with those people.

For me, performance is a way to seek understanding and connectedness. Were you apprehensive about performing this work in an environment so steeped in corporate culture? How did you think it was received? I never prejudge an audience; I never undeI never prejudge an audience; I never underestimate an audience. I don’t even think in dualistic terms of the polarity of artists and audiences, old and new. I only think of people. We are people. Some of us stand to speak; some of us sit to listen. We take turns, moving and being still, making and being seen, or remaining invisible. There is no other way to work with community. White-collar workers are an educated group. They can identify historical and modern art; but perhaps they may experience a more challenging time when identifying contemporary, symbolic, poetic gestures as art. But even

Ernesto Pujol 9-5 2015


Ernesto Pujol 9-5 74 2015



Ernesto Pujol 9-5 2015



if they do, they may not like it, particularly if it’s perceived as a commentary on their past lives and ongoing choices. When I approached the corporate community in Wall Street, I did everything I could to make sure that they did not feel judged. I was not there to judge bankers and brokers. I was there to observe, listen, and feel. I was there to objectively gather visual information and perform a portrait of them, the portrait of who they secretly are, a people filled with hopes and dreams, fears and concerns, just like you and me. I think that the piece was well received, that, as the days went by, we became a part of the place. There was surprise, there was awkwardness, and there was humor. By our last hour, people were waving goodbye to us. It was real, and it was moving. The open conversation that followed a week later revealed much curiosity about the performance. People were very kind. Some wanted our ephemeral piece to leave a lasting tribute, perhaps some sort of wallpaper with selections from the performers writings, many of which were about love. You often speak about vulnerability as a key component of your work—and more broadly, of leading an ethical existence. Could you talk about how this kind of vulnerability appears in 9-5? Many communities feel under siege, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level. They feel threatened. So I believe that the only way to walk into a community is to do so from a vulnerable point of view. Otherwise, artists and curators can be perceived as arrogantly invading, colonizing, and exploiting. We must disarm if we wish for others to disarm. Our transparency invites the transparency of others. For 9-5, I planned for the performers to take public transportation, just like everyone else; to arrive by subway or train, just like the corporate workers. There was no fanfare around our entrance or exit,

no applause, no special treatment. Our vulnerability consisted in our sameness, in a democracy of gesture. The performers arrived in full public view with personal, plain bags containing notebooks, pens, and lunches. They had to climb the lobby’s long escalators, mixing with the office workers. They had to set up their work stations with prosaic movements: lifting folding chairs and tables, setting up their individual glass cubicles, putting down their water bottles and implements; then, sitting down, beginning to write, pausing to see, listen, think, and write some more. They got up for lunch and bathroom breaks. They were not angels or 9/11 ghosts, though they were uniformed in bright whites. The realities of office culture and the needs of the body were integrated into the piece. It was real work, to come and go, to sit for three days, to write pages and pages—volumes. And there was the added fragile fact that people could look over our shoulders and talk to us, even as we remained silent and simply smiled back. Indeed, many people tried to peek at what we were writing, getting physically close, without the benefit of the architectural boundaries that often protect performers. Our bodies were truly available—fully present. And we let them approach; we sustained the healthy tension of being witnessed, but not consumed as entertainment. It was the performative embodiment of the vulnerability of labor and life.


The performers’ main task was to record who and what they saw during their days of silence and sitting, thereby creating a literature of pedestrian life in the city, a record of the moments of everyday life that often go unnoticed. The below are excerpted from their writings. The rumble and punctuated flat echoes of a building, moving scaffolding, men in hats, … climbing. A man slapping a wide broom on the floor of the second-floor balcony. The beeping of a large vehicle outside the glass panes. The soft treble of a walkie-talkie having been turned down so as not to disturb. Beeps inside the building. Someone laughs somewhere down the hall. A man in his early 60’s ascends the escalator well after the morning rush. He has an ease in the space and a stride that isn't hurried. It is a moderate pace … open to spontaneous possibility, while remaining focused on where it is taking him. He is clearly in charge of himself… [as] well practiced habit. It is a way that does not feel timid, [that feels] open to humanity.

Kate Harding


+ Don’t be afraid to catch my eye. This is for the both of us. What if you had to figure it out for yourself? What if you had to sit with it for a very long time? You can look around for explanations, but what if this remained a question? What if we started there?

Bess Matassa

Our minds are joined. A businessman waving his hands to performers, his mind and my mind are joined. A visitor asking [the] staff about our performance and taking one catalog, his mind and my mind are joined. A woman who saw our performance and bluntly said “That’s scary,” her mind and my mind are joined. A businessman watching his cell phone while he’s talking on the escalator didn’t notice our performance, his mind and my mind are joined. A man having a coffee break during lunchtime and watching our performance from upstairs, his mind and my mind are joined.

Jayoung Yoon

When walking here today, I was struck by the rush of people. Currents of bodies flowing in and out of little entrances and exits. Like the currents and waves of an ocean… Everyone knowing how to fall in line, which direction to go. Falling into place. What struck me was that everyone’s eyes were face forward, towards their destination, informing the other bodies around them where they were moving. … day-to-day life—career, relationships, emergencies, expectations— felt like a costume and performance that I had decided to remove [myself from] for a few days… they are a skin I wear, a part of my life…. but without them, I still exist.

Sara Jimenez


Day 3: … four uniformed cleaning men, each holding a mop or broomstick as they ride down the escalator in single file, one man directly behind the other. The sameness of their dress and how they hold their tools mimic our own structure of organization and labor. Rather, we have mimicked them. A man speaks in quick, emphatic phrases on his phone. He sounds stressed and irritated about a particular situation involving a large sum of money. He has a woman companion patiently waiting for the phone call to end. When it does, they speak a few words to each other and then lock in a heartfelt goodbye kiss. This is the first romantic kiss I have witnessed in the pavilion. They separate to go about the rest of their day, independently.

Young Sun Han



Ernesto Pujol 81 9-5 2015

Performance Instructions by Ernesto Pujol

I. Preparations Sunday night: Prepare your white clothing, black shoes, and utensils. Make sure they’re all laid out and you’re not missing anything. Go to sleep in silence. Monday morning: Wake up in silence. Silent breakfast. Silent dressing. Take public transportation to the site. Arrive without anxiety, without hurry. Observe what is happening in the atrium/lobby. Please do not rush. Practice slowness. Slowness is your sanctuary. Inhabit slowness. From within slowness you will make no mistakes because every gesture will be considered through a multitude of micro-pauses in-between actions.

II. Performing Yield Let others Let others Let others Let others Yield

pass pick a chair pick a place pick a table

Select a chair Select a cubicle and place it Place your things on it Select a table Place it Seat yourself Arrange yourself Become sculpture Close your eyes Take a deep breath


+ Open your eyes and look around (Repeat this if necessary) Take a deep breath with eyes wide open Begin to see Slowly, begin to write what you see Do not think Write automatically Let your unconscious flow See and breathe See and write Pause See more Let the hours flow Watch the human flow Watch the light flow Be generous Write like a river Let your stream of consciousness flow Do not judge what you write You have 3 days to work on your writing Do not judge your sight You have 3 days to deepen your sight Make sure that your body is part of your seeing Do not disconnect from your body Your body is an organ of perception Use the bathroom Drink water Eat Take a short walk Take as many walks as you need But do not spend the day walking, avoiding Do not avoid stillness Do not avoid seeing At 4:55 p.m., at 5 minutes to 5 p.m. Begin to gather yourself Close your book


Put away your book and pen Pack your lunch leftovers But please do not rush Make sure all you brought is gathered Stand up Fold your table and take it to the stack Return and take your chair to the stack Pick up your things, gracefully, and walk away, silently Go home to eat and rest in silence Back at home Please do not begin to discuss the performance Please do not call people or answer calls from people to talk about it Let the performance dwell in you for the night The performance is not over This is only a long pause within the performance Remain in silence (as much as you can) You have the rest of your life to talk about this experience Please do not begin to analyze and critique it now Let it be pure experience Review it in your mind Review it in your body Review it in your dreams Reflect Adjust what needs adjustment Consider what needs perfecting To achieve the perfect imperfect Return on Tuesday Repeat the same ritual: Of slowness Of breath Of sight Of writing Of formality Go home again in silence on Tuesday And return in silence again on Wednesday Repeat the same ritual But knowing it’s the last time Your seeing is made public


+ Treasure these last hours

Back home on Wednesday night Rest your mind Rest your body Rest your sight Let the book rest Please do not begin to speak until Thursday morning And consider: How are you going to end your 3-days of silence? Who will you end it with? What will be your first words? III. Performing Body Listen to your body. Throughout the performance, please listen to your body. This is not an endurance trial. Your body is not mean to suffer, to be in pain. Your body is meant to perceive, through all its organs, with all its cells. Your body is an organ of perception. Even when you close your eyes and shut your ears, your body perceives. Throughout the performance, I see very formal bodies in a very formal group of bodies. I see bodies moving slowly, not as a caricature or parody of slow motion, but because these bodies are deeply present. Every step and gesture is considered. Can the body be a manifestation of your conscious deep presence? Can it communicate this without words? You will sit and watch your sitting. You will watch each other’s sitting. We will watch ourselves sitting. You are your first audience. We are our first audience. Even if no one ever saw us, we would see ourselves and each other. We have been each other and we will be each other. But this is not for us. This is for the city. The city is our ultimate audience. This is for them.



American Imperialism as the New Normal

Against Heroism Kirk Savage

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a packed audience at Riverside Church, in New York. His speech that day forever changed his legacy: appalled by the US’ military intervention in Vietnam, he took to the pulpit to draw together the decades-old civil rights movement with the much newer antiwar movement. In the process he put these two powerful social movements in common cause against “a far deeper malady within the American spirit” and toward what he called “a radical revolution of values.”1 “Our only hope today,” he declared, “lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when ‘every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.’” The war King assailed in Riverside Church ended some eight years later, in a defeat for the US, but the nation’s commitment to warfare has not abated since then. King’s three interconnected evils—poverty, racism, and militarism— continue to plague the world. And not surprisingly, these evils inhabit the status quo of public art in subtle and 88


not-so-subtle ways. Their historical traces are etched into the public art landscape across the US, where they are commemorated, condoned, excused, and even celebrated. Nearly everywhere we turn, monuments, museums, plaques, and art donations honor slave owners, robber barons, Indian fighters, conquistadors, and imperialists. Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History in New York pass by a statue of Teddy Roosevelt, with gun and ammo belt at his waist, striding forward on a powerful horse, blazing his nation’s path to progress. In his wake march two figures representing the subordinate peoples of the North American continent: a Plains Indian warrior and a nearly naked African. Conquered and pacified, these two peoples now march quietly with the white hero to assist him in his next challenge of discovery and conquest. Erected on the eve of World War II, this fantastical bronze team would seem, in hindsight, to be leading the nation straight toward the humanitarian and spiritual disaster that moved King to denounce war nearly three decades later in a church three miles uptown from the museum. The Roosevelt statue has been repeatedly attacked, vandalized, and proposed for removal. Several other public symbols of white supremacy have been toppled in the aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville, in August 2017, when a neo-Nazi rally in defense of a Robert E. Lee monument ended in the murder of a woman who had come to protest their racism. Yet there are still thousands of monuments to soldiers, hundreds of Columbuses, and scores of segregationists, land speculators, pioneers, and other purveyors of American “progress” honored in public space. These are the men who were chosen to model American citizenship and heroism. Sometimes they were conscripted unwillingly: Robert E. Lee argued against Confederate monuments and believed that the memory of the war should be obliterated. Monumental heroes, as Nietzsche once argued, are wrenched from their actual histories and made to stand on their own. But this does not happen by some kind of natural process. In virtually every case, public monuments are raised by white elites who attach their own present-day agendas to supposed heroes abstracted from history. To erect a monument in public space takes power and authority. The monuments themselves defend that power and justify that authority. 89

Shimon Attie Night Watch 90 2018


Because these heroes were monumentalized—made of “imperishable” materials so as to become “timeless” in their seats of honor—their legacy continues to dominate us. Their monuments do not function as mere signs in the landscape, like billboards and storefronts competing for attention. The heroic monument’s exalted status demands more of us, asking for our allegiance, our respect. Each time we pass by, the monument tacitly calls for a choice: do we accept and obey its supremacy, or do we reject and resist it? In this one-sided version of the public realm, the stories of the peoples who resisted these would-be heroes have had little, if any, space. Those who have struggled against slavery, displacement, and erasure have found little room in the landscape of monumental history. While that has begun to change, we still have a long way to go before we see the mountains brought low and the valleys exalted. The effects of war reach across generations. One soldier’s PTSD will change the lives of his parents, his children, and his children’s children. Families in war zones, who face death, rape, hunger, and forced migration, will experience even greater collective trauma for generations. The US has been at war for centuries with whole peoples inside its borders—particularly those represented by the two bronze figures beneath Teddy Roosevelt. How could the long war by the US against indigenous and black people fail to wreak trauma on their descendant communities? It is there in plain sight, in the suicide rates of Native American youth, in the mass incarceration of black citizens in their own land.2 Wars against internal and external enemies are the great engines that have created most of the world’s monuments. It is little wonder that the heroic landscape of public art that still surrounds us amounts to a gaping intergenerational wound. Those who are scorned and marginalized in this landscape suffer terrible consequences. Even those it honors often have their own unrecognized traumas brought on by the violence and dehumanization that is the business of war. In the twenty-first century, public art has an important role to play in remediating the heroic landscape and repairing its wounds. We often hear that the answer is to make new heroes and new monuments, to replace one set of icons with another. But another answer is to break with 91

monumentality altogether, and with its reigning illusion of timelessness. Ephemerality has become a new mode for artists seeking meaningful connection with communities that have been marginalized and ignored in the public realm.3 In one sense this alternative mode of public address simply faces facts: communities themselves are always shifting and transforming as their needs and politics change. In another sense the mode is intrinsically political, resisting monumentality’s relentless ambition to perpetuate the existing social order and to justify or hide its inequities. The artists featured in this section all work in their own distinct mediums, but each one is grounded in a process of dialogue with communities that have been excluded from meaningful participation in the public art realm. Whether these are recent immigrants and refugees, New York City youth, or veterans in treatment for post-traumatic stress, the artists build a process by which these diverse communities can bear witness to their own experiences and their own perspectives. That discussion, shaped by people speaking directly to the challenges of their present moment, in turn molds the artwork and its impact on the wider public encountering it. With no pretension to timelessness, this art takes its strength from a direct encounter with the particularities of time and place that condition our knowledge of the world. And yet, it is striking how well each of these works continues to speak to us years after they were made. If anything, the problems these artists and communities spoke to in their own time—racism, displacement, never-ending war—have only intensified since then. Their momentary acts of witness stretch across the years and demand recognition and empathy in the here and now. Art is the in-between space in which we can reckon with one another. Unlike the timelessness of monumental history, the timeliness of these micro-histories remains as engaging as ever. 1

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam,” at documents/beyond-vietnam.


“For African Americans,” Ta Nehisi Coates has written, “war commenced not in 1861, but in 1661, when the Virginia Colony began passing America’s first black codes, the charter documents of a slave society that rendered blacks a permanent servile class and whites a mass aristocracy.” Coates, “Why


Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?” The Atlantic (November 30, 2011). 3

Results have blossomed in cities such as New Orleans and Philadelphia, in the ongoing projects of Paper Monuments and Monument Lab. For Paper Monuments see: news-notes/2018/9/10/representing-new-orleans; for Monument Lab: monument-lab-project-2017.

Anna Gaskell 93Erasers 2005

Michael Rakowitz

Enemy Kitchen 2006-07



Enemy Kitchen is a multipart project built around the Baghdadi recipes Michael Rakowitz compiled with the help of his IraqiJewish mother, then taught to different audiences. Rakowitz began facilitating workshops and cooking lessons with students and other groups in Baltimore and New York in 2003. In 2006, he led a tenweek class on cooking Iraqi cuisine with a group of middle- and high-school students of color from the New York City Housing Authority’s Fulton and Elliot Houses in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, who participated in after-school and summer programs at the Hudson Guild Community Center.1 Some students had relatives in the US Army stationed in Iraq but had had little exposure to Iraqi culture, beyond a stream of distant images shown on TV news. The classes were held following a period of intense sectarian violence in Iraq and on the heels of President George W. Bush’s troop surge, when many school administrations were reluctant to address the war head on. In preparing and consuming the food, an environment was forged in which the word “Iraq” could be openly discussed, and the dishes became an agent in subtly bridging different cultures. Enemy Kitchen functioned as a social sculpture. While cooking and eating, the students engaged each other on the topic of the war and drew parallels to their own lives, at times making comparisons in relation to how they perceive the conflict. Towards the end of the workshop, the students began to syncretize Iraqi cuisine with their own cultural recipes, insisting on instructing Rakowitz and culminating in the creation of Iraqi Fried Chicken. In later manifestations, Enemy Kitchen has taken shape as a food truck. For this, Rakowitz employs US veterans, many of whom are involved with Iraq Veterans Against The War, as sous-chefs, line cooks, and window attendants, serving the public Iraqi specialties cooked by local Iraqi chefs.2


The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) provides housing for low and moderateincome residents throughout the five boroughs of New York City and administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments. The Hudson Guild Community Center is a multiservice community agency serving those who live, work, and attend school in Chelsea, with a focus on those in need.


Rakowitz brought Enemy Kitchen with him when he moved to Chicago later in 2006. This mobile iteration of the project, housed in a refurbished ice-cream truck, was launched in 2012, as part of the Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art.” It was most recently reactivated as part of Rakowitz’s 2017 retrospective, “Backstroke of the West,” at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.


One stated goal of Enemy Kitchen was to undo people’s experience with or image of Iraq as only defined by war and oil. This project was put to use in speaking back against dominant narratives, as well as in making the invisible visible and in declaring and confounding identity. With that said, can you discuss the roles of defiance and empathy in your work?

Enemy Kitchen logo

Michael Rakowitz Interview


When I began paraSITE, it came out of identifying something that could be called protest architecture, defiant architecture, or oppositional architecture.1 I worked very closely at grad school with Krzysztof Wodiczko, who is really the forefather of so many of these projects that fall under this rubric of socially engaged and activist, interventionist practices. When I was at MIT, I had been thinking a lot about the notion of homelessness and the wider application of that term, as somebody who grew up in an Arab-Jewish household with this experience of exile front and center. Whenever any of the


narratives of Iraq were conveyed by my grandparents, it was very much a kind of a way into understanding and becoming very active in Palestinian solidarity. Right before I went to Jordan to participate in the residency which would ultimately seed paraSITE, I found a book about Palestinian refugee camps that showed a family using recycled materials to more or less replicate the facade of the house that they had once lived in, which had been bulldozed by the Israelis as a kind of a punishment. I saw that as being this moment of defiance and a way of making a ghost that nobody ever wanted to see appear and haunt. I started to think about that very much in the realm of what eventually became paraSITE and having homeless people become more visible than invisible. As an American who grew up in New York and around the city, [I saw] that these narratives of dispossession and dehumanization and isolation can be

found right here as well. There’s a not so invisible line that connects the experience of somebody who is an economic or social refugee in the United States with one who has been made stateless in the Middle East. I think that you can see in Enemy Kitchen that I was really trying to figure out ways to once again work with these concepts and these inspirations, which came out of my family’s experience, from a devotion to Arab-Jewish identity, and also to show dispossession as something that could happen here. I felt like creating a moment of defiance was most needed here. It wasn’t possible to push back against the US military through anything more than a protest. But what I could do was [consider] something that my mother had pointed out, when the first war began in 1991 with Iraq, which was that there were no Iraqi restaurants in New York. That comment really opened up an amazing set thoughts and connections that I was fascinated by.

Michael Rakowitz Enemy Kitchen 2006–07


Michael Rakowitz Enemy Kitchen 2006–07



Like, you can’t walk for too long in Paris before you come across a North African market or a Moroccan restaurant, and that has so much to do with this cultural puncture that’s created as a result of war. And shouldn’t it be the ghosts that appear in the United States then, [shouldn’t it be] that Iraqi restaurants start to pop up as a result of that? I started this project in 2003, with my mother, by telling her that I remembered what she had said about the lack of Iraqi restaurants, but also with this understanding of what I had seen in late September 2001. After they started letting people back into the lower part of Manhattan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, there was a line of people at St. Marks Place that went around the corner several times, of hundreds of people lining up to eat at a restaurant called Khyber Pass, which is an Afghani restaurant. I thought it was so beautiful— this was all they could think to do. It was a way of protesting, a way of broadcasting their support and their love for the family that owned the restaurant, and also it was like this communion, this taking in of the food of the “enemy.” I started to really think about ways to work with those things that my mother and her mother gave our family, which was the transmission of these recipes. Some of them were specific to the Jewish community but you’ll find that most of them are about Iraq in general; it just points out that there was no real difference between those communities until nationalism became part of the conversation. And so, to answer the question, that’s where defiance comes in. I think there’s something that happens with a protest, where it can be a really cathartic moment where people can express anger and outrage, but I was always interested in bringing people in. I’m somebody who was reared on site-specific art, on installation art, so I'm always thinking about how to create modes of utterance and space. And so I thought

about the smell I would come home to every day after school, of cumin, of Iraqi spices, and knowing that I was safe, that was home. I wanted people to feel that same way, but I also wanted it to be strange; I wanted them to understand that this was the way that my grandparents recreated Iraq, through smell, through taste, and also through care. The chef Alice Waters recently told me that her concept of beauty is care, care is beauty. I thought that was such a beautiful way of resurrecting this term that can be so problematic for artists, of what beauty is. I just really wanted to create those spaces that felt like there was care, because it makes the antagonisms so much easier to navigate. That’s where the empathy comes in, it’s the creation of those spaces. For me, I think those moments of defiance are sometimes already written into the project—into any public art project, I should say—because there are plenty of people out there, in the government and in our world, who would love for artists to not be able to do what they do. Just doing it is an act of defiance. We live in this hyper-capitalistic situation and this notion of what is useful is something that really needs to be also pushed against. There needs to be room for things to be useless and to not be so co-opted by functionality and by the market. The notion of legacy can be thought of in terms of consequence and aftermath—the legacy of war—or in terms of heritage and passing things down, like that of a family or culture. Both types persist. Can you talk about how the idea of legacy informs your work? I’m very interested in keeping things alive, even uncomfortable ghosts, like I said. I started mourning at a very, very early age, when my grandfather died. I have in my collection of objects at my parents’ house the worry beads, the prayer beads, that he had as a Jewish man in


Iraq. The prayer beads that Muslims used he carried around and they were called worry beads, and so those were like my first toys, my grandfather’s beads. I know that what is imbued in that object is that notion of tradition, of legacy. It’s also an understanding that that object also contains the evidence that there was something called an Arab Jew, which, when you talk about the way that Zionism has evolved as a nationalist movement, is a term that it really has sought to get rid of and to say that it’s impossible to be an Arab Jew—talk about acts of defiance. Those legacies are important to continue and I’ve learned this mostly through craft, and so I found my mode of preserving those legacies through craft [traditions]. In the case of Enemy Kitchen it’s about making sure these recipes don’t disappear from my family’s lineage. True, there are several dishes that are very specific to the Iraqi Jewish community, but again, a lot of it is what you would call Iraqi food. It’s important to point to that sameness as well, and to not let those moments when difference was not the only defining factor be forgotten. People felt they could belong to something bigger, and not necessarily a nation but a city. Baghdad at one point in the twentieth century had 150,000 Jews; that’s a Jewish city, that’s like New York, you know. I think those things are important to remember, not because Iraqi Jews were a thing and now they’re gone, but for the fact that they were there and they were interacting with everybody. I put myself in this position as somebody who’s a native New Yorker—and what it felt to be a Jew in New York was not something controversial, I felt like I belonged to this mélange of a lot of different people. Those are the things that are important to preserve in legacy. I also think about building and craft, and about those recipes that start to disappear because life has sped up so much, not just because a culture has disappeared. I wanted to revive that technique and to create a moment of defiance and opposition, where I more


or less stood in the way of the people or powers who tried to impede the transmission of that craft from one generation to another. That’s one of the ways in which I work with legacy: to make sure that people are actually able to take these skill sets into their own hands. It’s one of the reasons that every winter I publish the instructions on how to build the paraSITE shelters, so that the skill sets end up in the population that needs them most. I stumbled on a project that is symbolic and doesn’t end homelessness but it actually does work in the cold winter. It’s not just symbolic... it does “work” too, projects like these can be both—2 I think that’s what makes it the most disturbing, in a way, for positions of power, and even for people who are much more comfortably set in the art world. In fact, when things start to do things it becomes a lot more complicated. I’ve always been very moved by these acts and these gestures and these ideas that can move into a place where you’re not so sure if it’s art anymore. Many of your projects, including Enemy Kitchen, have multiple iterations and are ongoing in nature; they endure as well. Does the potential for a project to continue or evolve affect your conception of it? It seems a bit like having a moving target. Can this kind of constant movement become a form of political action, of disturbing some of these things that we’re talking about? I don’t think I ever start a project thinking, this should be ongoing, but what I learned from doing paraSITE was that the project wasn’t disappearing, because the problem wasn’t disappearing. I’d love to never have to make a shelter again, because that would mean that homelessness has disappeared. And I would love to never have to make an Iraqi artifact again,3 because that would mean that everything looted has been recovered and that all


those Iraqi bodies that were attached to those artifacts have been somehow revived. I realize that these are projects for me that are also commitments to the people and things that I care about deeply and I also get something all the time from them. My knowledge of the world grows with each thing that I do. The project doesn’t go away because the problem doesn’t go away, and it’s not like I’ve just moved on with my interests. I take on new ones alongside the other ones and they start to actually blend. Working with veterans on Enemy Kitchen has also led me to make newer shelters, because unfortunately the homeless population that’s growing right now includes veterans of the Iraq War, so I start to see a lot of overlap in terms of what it is that I’ve already been doing for close to twenty years now.

excise the ghosts of the past that are still there? I think what you’re seeing now is people rethinking the way that they want their monuments to speak to them and it is a really good indication of the way that radical hospitality is starting to emerge in public art. All these activations around these monuments to a really horrible period in our country’s history, that more or less is the umbrella for the way that people of color have been treated here, and also the world over, but especially in the United States. I think that these are like thought experiments—people are going out there and being angry and insistent and assertive and fearless and one thing that Wodiczko told me is, fearless listening is what enables fearless speaking. A fearless speaker also needs a fearless listener and so I think the most radically hospitable thing one can do these days is to be a fearless listener.

Thinking about the particulars that are brought about in Enemy Kitchen, how and where do radical hospitality and public art interact? Is that something you think about? I think that radical hospitality is happening now, as people are starting to think about those monuments in the South, they’re talking about this notion of what does it mean to decolonize, what does it mean to


Ongoing since 2008, paraSITE consists of custom-built inflatable shelters designed for houseless people that attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. The warm air leaving the building simultaneously inflates and heats the structure.


In projects such as The invisible enemy should not exist (2007–ongoing), Rakowitz attempts to reconstruct looted archeological artifacts, stolen from the National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad, out of disposal, highly-circulated materials like the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and local Arabic newspapers.


In Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook (New York: Jorge Pinto Books, 2011), Pablo Helguera argues there are two different kinds of socially engaged artwork: the symbolic and the actual. While symbolic artwork focuses more on poetics and connecting with the audience, actual artwork emphasizes the functionality and applicable nature of the art. It is vitally important to blend these two forms of artistic practice. The symbolic form engages the public and evokes a response, while the actual form directs that response towards the physical fulfillment of social needs.


Michael Rakowitz Enemy102 Kitchen 2006–07



Michael Rakowitz Enemy Kitchen 2006–07


+ After eight weekly sessions learning how to cook Iraqi food, the students at the Hudson Guild Community Center in New York City proposed they teach me something about their families’ recipes since they now knew so much about mine. Hyasheem asked, “Do Iraqis make Southern fried chicken?” I answered that no, to my knowledge there was nothing like it in Iraqi cuisine. “Well, then let’s invent it,” he said. Hyasheem led the way and we cooked the chicken according to his specifications.

from Michael Rakowitz


2 pounds chicken wings (or parts of your choice) 2 pounds chicken legs (or parts of your choice) 3 cups flour 6 eggs 1 tablespoon salt 2 cups breadcrumbs ½ tablespoon sumac 2-3 tablespoons Iraqi bharat spice mix (cumin, dried limes, turmeric, ginger, chili, curry, cloves, cardamom, dried rose petals, allspice) 1 tablespoon Iraqi date syrup 1 bottle (light) sesame oil Break eggs into a bowl and beat the eggs to even consistency. In a plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, spices, date syrup and breadcrumbs. Dip a piece of chicken in the egg batter and place in the plastic bag. Repeat until about six pieces of chicken are in the bag. Close bag tightly and shake vigorously, so that the mixture of flour and spices covers each piece. In a deep pan, pour enough oil so that it is about 1/4 of an inch deep. Place on oven burner and let heat for 2 minutes. Place the six pieces of chicken in the pan and fry, turning often, until each side is medium-brown. Repeat these steps until all the chicken is cooked. Serve with a side of yellow turmeric rice, turshi (pickled vegetables), and amba (pickled mango).


KUBBA BAMIA1 (Serves 6–8)

Kubba, or kibbeh, is a dish found throughout the Middle East and North Africa, most commonly as spiced meat mixed with pine nuts and onions stuffed inside a bulgur wheat shell. It is usually fried and served with sesame paste. Kubba Bamia is a traditional Iraqi dish in which the kubba is also made of spiced meat, but stuffed inside a rice-flour dough, giving it a soft, chewy texture, like a dumpling. It is cooked in a stew of tomato stock with plenty of fresh okra, called bamia in Arabic. Dough: 2 cups brown rice flour 1 teaspoon salt ½ pound ground lamb 1 cup water Put rice flour and salt in a bowl. Add water. Mix and knead into a dough. When everything is mixed well, add lamb and knead until evenly distributed. If dough is dry, more water should be added gradually to keep the dough smooth. Keep a saucer of water nearby to keep your palms wet. Break off small pieces of the dough and roll them into spheres smaller than a golf ball. Set kubba dough aside. Filling (Hashwa): 1 pound ground lamb 2 large onions ½ cup minced parsley leaves 1 tablespoon sesame oil 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon Iraqi bharat spice mix (cumin, dried limes, turmeric, ginger, chili, curry, cloves, cardamom, dried rose petals, allspice) Put lamb in a bowl. Use a food processor to chop onions finely, almost creating a paste. Add parsley, oil, salt, pepper, bharat, and knead together until all ingredients are evenly distributed. To make the kubba, flatten each piece of dough with the palm of your hand, making a thin, flat disk. Take approximately one teaspoon of the meat filling (hashwa) and place in the center of the disk. Next, work the sides of the disk up around the hashwa, as if forming a bowl. Pinch the dough closed around the hashwa, enveloping it to ensure a good seal. With your wet palms roll the kubba and shape into a ball. Place in refrigerator when done.


+ Stew: 1 box (10 ounces) frozen whole baby okra, or 1 pound fresh okra two 16-ounce cans crushed tomatoes 1 small onion, chopped fine salt ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 2 tablespoons sesame oil ½ teaspoon pepper 4 tablespoons sugar ¾ cup lemon juice Finely chop one small onion. In a large, deep pot, sauté chopped onion in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, adding ½ teaspoon each of pepper and turmeric. Next, add the crushed tomatoes. Fill the two empty cans of crushed tomato with water and add (this gets all of the remaining tomato out of the can in the process). Bring to a boil and let cook for 15 minutes. Reduce heat, simmer for about 7 minutes, and then add the okra (bamia) along with a teaspoon of salt. Introduce the kubba into the simmering mixture by dropping them in carefully, one at a time. Distribute evenly around the pot, but do not layer one atop the other. Once cooked, the kubba will float to the surface. Carefully remove cooked kubba with a ladle and set aside in a bowl. Repeat until all kubba are fully cooked. Add sugar to the broth and let simmer for 10 more minutes. Add juice of one fresh lemon. Pour stew and bamia into the bowl of cooked kubba and let sit for 10 minutes, so any kubba that has cooled warms up again. Serve with plain basmati rice.


Based on the Kubba Bamia recipe from Rakowitz’s mother and grandmother, with additional information from the website Recipes by Rachel,

which features generous videos and recipes teaching the Iraqi-Jewish cooking of Rachel Somekh.


Krzysztof Wodiczko

Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project 2012



To create Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project, an exploration of the traumatic consequences of war, Krzysztof Wodiczko engaged with dozens of veterans and their family members, whom he met by reaching out to more than thirty veterans’ organizations over the course of several months.1 He interviewed a total of fourteen US veterans of wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, filming their conversations about their experiences of war, the return to civilian life, loss, and guilt. These interviews were then edited into a 23-minute-long video that was projected on the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Union Square Park, historically a site for protest and demonstrations, on thirty-two consecutive nights. The voices, faces, and gestures of the participating veterans created the illusion that the commemorative bronze by H.K. Brown, which had stood silently in the Park since 1870, had come to life. The veterans, speaking through the mouth of Lincoln, made their experiences starkly public. The superimposition of moving image, sound, and sculpture created a complex work reflecting the distance between those with combat experience and those who have never gone to war. Abraham Lincoln resonated powerfully at the time with the recent American withdrawal from the Iraq War. As part of the public programming surrounding the project, a discussion panel featuring Wodickzo and moderated by Carol Becker was held in collaboration with New York University. Panelists included Ani Buk, an art therapist and trauma specialist, art historian Rosalyn Deutsche, neuroscientist Joseph Ledoux, and Carl Cannon, a Vietnam veteran and project participant who works as a peer counselor for Services for the Underserved. More Art also developed a comprehensive classroom curriculum plan comprised of six lessons, each focusing on a different aspect of the project and designed to raise students’ awareness of the issues surrounding war, community, public space, and public art. This curriculum was specifically designed for 7th and 8th graders and offers flexibility for teachers to adapt their lesson plans to the needs of their classroom.2 Interviewed veterans included Joan Aiken, Lyndsey Anderson, Joseph Avellanet, Roman Baca, Walter Baldaccini, Carl Cannon, Luis Crossman, Marie Delus, Trent Love, Nelson Lowhim, Blake Ruehrwein, Sarmiento, Carlos Tarraza, and Carlos Zambrano. 1

Collaborating veterans’ organizations and partners included Coalition for the Homeless, Cornell University’s Program for Anxiety and Trauma Stress Studies, CUNY’s Office of Veterans Affairs, Educated Canine Assistance Dog Program (ECAD), Jondi Whitis,, Hope for the Warriors, Housing and Services Inc., Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Intersections International, North Shore LIJ

Ways to Give Foundation, Phoenix House of New York, Inc., Services for the UnderServed, Inc., Shining Services Worldwide, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), United War Veterans Council Inc. (UWVC), Veterans Mental Health Coalition of NYC, Warrior Writers, and Wounded Warrior Project. 2

Excerpts from this lesson plan are available at the end of this section for public use.


Krzysztof Wodiczko Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran 110 Project 2012



Krzysztof Wodiczko Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project 2012

Krzysztof Wodiczko Interview


How did you make the participants, the veterans you interviewed, comfortable enough that they were willing to open up about issues that are immensely traumatic? It’s not necessarily comfortable, I noticed, for people to sit and talk on camera. They often prefer to hear some of the questions before we begin. At first, they can’t figure out what I want—what does he want me to say? So I’m not sure if it’s comfortable for them. But at the end, when we talk about the value of this project, they are ultimately grateful for this discomfort. There is an element of effort expected on the part of those who are being interviewed, who are supposed to address something we seldom hear, but which ought to be said. Maybe “comfort” is not the best word. Another would be “trust.” Without trust, there is no possibility that those people will open up and put all the energy and effort into the sometimes-painful process of recovering details from their


experiences and repeating them. Before they can decide if they want to be a part of the project, they have to have room to share with each other without my presence, [share] their doubts and fears about the whole thing. During all of this the project is always in danger—it might never happen, because it’s so fragile. We have to develop trust. The people who are behind the project [like myself and More Art], we propose, we continue, we show a certain confidence and trust in the project ourselves. That also creates the conditions necessary for their trust to develop, for them to trust that the project is strong enough, that it has some clear sense of its larger social importance; to trust that they could make use of this project for themselves, to reinforce [their] contact with society, to be less isolated, to get to know one another during the project —which is its other social purpose— or maybe to feel obliged to make use of the project for others who cannot be part of it for various reasons. It can give a sense of agency. Years into working with various people on these types of project, I realized that it doesn’t hurt to share a few things about myself—not that there is any clear similarity, maybe there is even a contrast, between their situation and mine—because there is something that they should know about me in order to trust me: that I am not going to sensationalize, romanticize what they say, dramatize it. I offer to show them some of my previous work, maybe videos of other projects, so they realize that I'm not here to manipulate them or that I don’t have one clear agenda that everybody needs to focus on. We’re used to hiding these stories of hardships and trauma under the pretense of protecting the individual. Instead, you talk about the responsibility that we have to tell the truth, to confess. Why is it important to tell these stories?

So, before we say “we,” let’s start by acknowledging the people who participated in the project. Because without them, there is no project. They are the ones who should feel some benefit from speaking about painful experiences, rather than hiding them. Every therapeutic process relies on various techniques and situations through which people are encouraged to feel more confident, in which they learn how to open up and share their painful experiences. There is nothing more painful than painful experiences not shared. But sharing with the larger public is something that I have less opportunity to do, unless it’s a cultural project, like the Abraham Lincoln projections. This ability to not only share that painful experience but to do it in public space, with people they don’t know, is connected to a healthier life living with trauma, according to some trauma therapists. It’s not enough to tell the truth; it’s important to make it public. And to perform it, to bring emotional charge to it—not just drop simple facts, but actually speak about your own feelings in the public space. To hear yourself speaking to other people and to see and hear that people listen to you, that’s an additional possibility that this type of work, this projection, provides. So it’s not just that I speak as a veteran, but also that I hear myself speaking—it’s recorded and projected through the statue, through the monument—and that I see other people listening to me. I become a speaking monument to my own trauma, which is what I need. We are also interested in the audience’s role, and in having a meaningful impact on the audience, as opposed to engaging in a kind of shock strategy. Clearly a project like Abraham Lincoln elicits the viewer’s sympathy, but does it also aim to invite people to take more direct action? First of all, the audience would not be


Krzysztof Wodiczko Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project 2012



in a position to receive much if those people did not animate themselves by animating monuments. So the animation of the public comes from the animated monuments, by animated participants. Whether this will prompt the audience to act or not is hard to say. But the conditions for any potential mobilization are probably better with cultural projects, such as this one, that use public space; Union Square is being used as a stage for people to mobilize. But there’s no guarantee, this project makes no guarantee. Nor is it serving a specific movement, one organizational goal. It does look like some of the organizations and other networks of veterans [whose members visited the projections] made good use of the project, meeting at this image of one another and bringing their families. What they already do may be reinforced by this kind of project—they are already involved in changing the minds of people. But in terms of the conditions for veterans, I'm sure it can only help. Abraham Lincoln is not in itself a recipe for social change. It’s in the context of many other works. There are connections here between various cultural projects, or what you see happening in Hollywood [editor’s note: Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln was released during the span of the project], with how much the cultural front can question the images that are produced by authorities, like military propaganda and so forth. Disrupting the continuity and dominance and monopoly of images of war could in itself be very helpful. If we didn’t do this kind of work—all of us who work on cultural projects that have this kind of dimension—I think we would be in a much worse situation, even worse than we are in right now. Your work often addresses an equivalency between monument and memory. Can you talk about the relationship between the statue of Lincoln and the veterans?

It’s a complex phenomenon, the monument. We don’t really know exactly why we need monuments. Many philosophers and poets have tried to clarify this, but we don’t have a good theory for it. But the word monument explains a little bit of its own function, because it has something to do with warning [it comes from the Latin momentum, from monere, “remind”]. Reminding us again, with an exclamation mark—“be mindful of something!” “remember that things happen!”—that great things happen, but that terrible things can happen as well. So there is that expectation attached to monuments, especially statues, because they are erected to commemorate leaders, people who contributed to some important change, or who protected people from wars, or performed an exceptional duty for society. They’re very useful if they can be used for relief, not just for those who erected them. So the question is, how do we make useful monuments? Every person who tells a story that has some meaning for new generations is operating like a monument. People are monuments. Memory and monument are obviously connected. Even the word “memorial” makes that connection. There is also an aspect of theatricality in your work. Can you elaborate on the role played by spectacle in addressing an issue of social relevance? Well, they are works of art, so of course they are theatrical. Some of them are doing a better job artistically, some of them may not. Lincoln, the statue, was pretty dead as a work of art, so it wasn't very easy to work with it. It didn’t suggest much. There are two type of theatricality: one is the theatricality of the monument, and its kind of frozen pantomime gesture; there is also theatricality on the part of those who animate the monument. They have to assume this gesture, a very difficult gesture, a strange foreign gesture,


but there is room for their own gestures. So the idea was that they would start with the gesture of Lincoln, then perform a little bit of their own gestures; they speak and go back to the frozen gesture of Lincoln. What is difficult and creative is to recognize that it’s actually the person who has things to say whom we don’t want to hear. So the statue is saying something that is not welcome immediately, something to be learned. In that sense the usefulness of the statue becomes clearer the more we listen to this kind of animation. In fact, the whole trick of those projections has only one purpose: to create conditions for somebody to speak and somebody to listen. The projection’s primary purpose is acoustic, to communicate through language and speech; the visual part, the visual theatricality is very important to create conditions for speech. So its goal is another theatricality—the use of voice to convey emotions. You could see and hear the difference between the veterans who had spent years working through their traumatic condition and who managed somehow to be more prepared, to take full advantage of this project and to animate themselves further, and others who were in an earlier stage, having just returned from war. They were really like the sculpture itself; you could tell that they were very wooden, very limited, their story was very dry. But the important thing in those cases was that they actually knew that, that they were speaking about their own incapacitation. There was some level of public testimony about their own (in)capacitation that was formulated through the monument. That’s an achievement. Because for someone who cannot even say “I love you,” for the monument to say such things is frighteningly clear. In that sense both sides—those who were more prepared to animate the monument and the others who were not quite ready—were becoming


ready to become speaking monuments. In this case, the audience was not the usual art crowd. There was a mixture of family members or friends of the veterans, other veterans, and anybody else who happened to be passing by. Because the screenings took place during an entire month, the public generated itself. Anybody could come there, no particular class or cultural milieu was represented, and because of this people learned from each other. Just standing next to each other and looking and listening was part of the project, to see different social strata meeting in one space. People usually meet in those public spaces anyways, but without standing for such a long time and focusing on one particular monument and what the monument says. This is not common. The audience had to figure out how to listen to those veterans and figure out what their stories meant to them. Of course, in this country, many people have some experience with war, with their families, so there was some part of the public which, as Brecht would say, was there not without interest. They might be afraid that some of their children would go to the army, or they had parents or grandparents who went through war and they couldn’t understand them—maybe this helped. For the families of veterans, of course, it's very difficult for them to understand their husbands, their wives, who came back from the front lines, so anything helps. That [effect] is something you can also blame on the monument—after all, it’s Abraham Lincoln speaking, it's mediated. It’s through this work of art, through the monument.


Krzysztof Wodiczko Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran 117Project 2012

The veterans who participated in the creation of Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection talked with Krzysztof Wodiczko over the course of several days. Their conversations were filmed for later projection on Lincoln’s statue in Union Square. Below are excerpted transcripts of those interviews. Nelson

So why am I silent? I was silent going in, because the idea is that we’re out here, we’re sacrificing for the people back home, and I bought that idea itself... And so the silence from that point of view was necessary, at least back then. Now I’m speaking out, mainly through written words, but right here, right now, to you, I’m saying something that I never would have said, if you had asked me ten years ago, or seven, eight years ago to do this, I would have shrugged and walked away. Now, for me this is a big step, but… that’s what silence was. What silence is now... it’s to keep the truth out, and that’s never good for an open society, for a democracy, but it’s hard to get that out. We all live, I guess, with a little bit of hypocrisy in our lives, and that’s mine, but I try…. So, mom and dad, I know I’ve been silent and distant, but… slowly, I hope one day we can talk about it more. About war, should you ever want to talk about that, about war. I don’t know, I’ll try.


+ Luis

I get choked up when I talk about it. And it’s something that I don’t make a practice of talking about too often because the memories are built in my memory. As a crew chief on a C-130 aircraft, there were times that we had to move body bags and the body bags were nothing but shells of a GI.


If I had to do it again, I would. But I wish they would think about PTSD a little bit more and study post-traumatic syndrome a little more, allocate more money, because it's the nightmares, it's the dreams that kill the soldier at last. There's no bullet that kills me. [...] What kills you is your daydreams and your night dreams. And you always get a flashback of what you're going to see.


One of the greatest things I learned during my deployment was to have compassion, the importancew of seeing the other as oneself. I learned also about egolessness and how by treating others, again, like ourselves, we can become one and find unity and overcome…I was just saying how strange it is to talk from a very personal place about personal experiences on camera. I’m an educator, I speak all the time, and I’m a lot more comfortable disseminating academic knowledge than speaking about myself, and I found that to do so with a medium that may last for a very long time, makes you really question even your own feelings, and ensure that you feel them authentically and are living and are saying what matters, or something interesting. It’s difficult, it’s a challenge.


“Memento! Remember!” Workshop Lesson Plan: Remembering

Youth ages: 11-13 Duration: 3-hour workshop Materials: Modeling clay, paper, glue, string, tape, newspaper, other art supplies that will help students create and erect a personal monument Objective: To learn about war from the perspective of veterans of recent and current wars; to construct a memorial for veterans of recent and current wars.

Before we get started, review the following details with participants: Every evening from November 8 to December 9, 2012, Krzysztof Wodiczko’s artwork was visible to all who visited the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Union Square Park, New York City. The artwork was a multimedia installation which incorporated video projection on the statue paired with audio clips of veterans and their family members discussing their experiences of war. All participants should view the short video documentary of Abraham Lincoln: War Vetaran Projection. visit:

Notes for the teacher/facilitator: 1. Provide workshop participants with a summary of the following: a. Union Square as a gathering place and a place for voices to be heard b. A survey of famous memorials and monuments around the world c. A study of an art installations that used veterans’ words d. A review of Abraham Lincoln, the man and the memorial 2. Explain that today’s project will be to create a memorial for veterans of recent and current wars or a monument for peace.


+ 3. Allow workshop participants time to plan their memorial. Students should have free reign over their entire design, including where they would choose to erect their monument. 4. Ask workshop participants to present their monument or memorial to the class when they’ve finished creating it.

Questions for workshop participants to consider: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

What message do I want to send to the public through my monument about peace or about veterans? Why? What media will I use to construct the monument? Why? Where will the monument be placed? Why? How will I know people have been moved by my monument? What is the reaction I want people to have? What words will I use on the monument? Why?

In preparation for writing this workshop lesson plan, More Art asked Wodiczko what he hoped viewers of the installation would think about or wonder, and these are his responses. You may want to consider handing these questions out to participants as you watch the video. Whose voices am I hearing? Why would those people decide to be part of this project? Why is it that we know so little about the war? Why is it that we only celebrate monuments, not discuss them? Why do we take monuments for granted? Why do we listen when a monument “talks”?

After watching the video, reflect on the following questions: What did you notice about how people were interacting with the  installation? What did you overhear people saying? What moments were particularly moving for you? What emotions stayed with you after you finished the video? What messages did this installation send that you heard very clearly?

Planning sheet for creating a memorial What idea, event, or person(s) are you memorializing? Why is this idea, event, or person(s) important for the public to know and to remember?


As you begin to create this statue, think about the following ideas: Location Will your memorial be in a city? Along a waterfront? In a field? In a park? Do you anticipate a great number of people will see it, or will it be something more hidden—that people will have to seek out? Will it be indoors (and if so, where?) or out in the elements? Material Will your memorial be carved out of stone? Marble? Bronze? Steel? Natural elements like wood or clay? How will those materials weather over time? Size Will your memorial be something that people have to look UP to, or will it be something their own size? Will it be interactive? —meaning people can touch and sit with it. Will your statue be on a pedestal? Will it be admired from a distance? Will it be climbable? If it is meant to be touched, how will you build in that opportunity for your viewers? Symbolism of objects Statues often have far more than just the individual’s body memorialized. Sometimes, statues are holding things that are important to the message of the memorial. The Statue of Liberty holds a torch symbolizing progress and enlightenment, as well as a tablet on which “July 4th,1776,” Independence Day, is inscribed. Furthermore, a broken chain symbolizing freedom, lies across her feet. Will your statue have objects that will further the message you’re trying to send?



Krzysztof Wodiczko Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran 123Project 2012

Andrea Mastrovito

NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century 2017



Focused on representations and perceptions of “the other,” NYsferatu is a retelling of Friedrich W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu, itself an (unauthorized) adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Andrea Mastrovito used rotoscoping, an animation technique that traces over motion-picture footage frame by frame, to appropriate the film, recontextualizing the classic vampire story for twenty-first-century audiences. Each background scene was entirely redrawn to set the film in present-day New York City, then was reproduced by hand three times to replicate the flickering shutter effect of early cinema. New backgrounds include many iconic New York landmarks, as well as scenes set amid the current war in Syria, bringing images of conflict, destruction, and displacement to post-9/11 America. During this three-year process undertaken by Mastrovito and a team of twelve artists, over 35,000 original drawings were produced to make this featurelength animation. To create the script of the film, Mastrovito and community leaders and educators led a series of writing workshops with English-as-a-second-language learners in Corona, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The participants—foreign-born New Yorkers and recent immigrants—discussed their reactions to the Marnau film and shared their own stories of emigration and settling in a new city. Their experiences—leaving home to then face racism, xenophobia, and the expense of living in New York—are present in the film via the interstitial title cards, left in the original language of each contributor. With text in Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, Ukrainian, and English, the Nosferatu character becomes a polyglot and everyman, and the story a multicultural saga told from many viewpoints. Mastrovito’s script includes many New York-specific references, celebrating and challenging the city’s own sense of solidarity. Screenings of NYsferatu were held at eight public venues throughout New York City over the summer of 2017. The soundtrack of the film, an original musical score composed by Simone Giuliani, was performed live or reinterpreted by a range of distinguished professional musicians, from metal-surf rockers to avant-garde jazz ensembles.1 Workshop collaborators included Afrah Alzendani, Gilberto Arenas, Rosa Bonilla, Antonia Cortes, Rosa De Leon, Zhong Dong, Jannatul Ferdous, Naha Isa, Qing Yun (Annie) Ni, Edith Saldivar, Olga Schloma, Huda Yateh, Lizbeth Torres, Li Ping (Fannie) Wang, and Maritza Arrastia at Turning Point Brooklyn in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Patrick Ciccarone, Carol Ciccarone, Daniel Khan, Claudia Cortes, Joaquin Fernando Morales, Chuan-Kuo Jiang, Juliana Acevedo, Yamileth Velasco, Dominic Wong, Tsae Jiaug, Sharlene Chou, Susana Jo, Judy, Yenti Chu, Stacey Martin, Sneha Martin, and Guido Garaycochea of New New Yorkers at the Queens Museum. 1

Featured musicians included The Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio (Marco Cappelli, Ken Filiano, Satoshi Takeishi), CUP (Nels Cline and Yuka C. Honda),

The Michael Leonhart Orchestra, and The Dick Valentine Vampyre Jamboree (Dick Valentine, James Wells, Quinn English).


Andrea Mastrovito NYsferatu 2017

Andrea Mastrovito Interview


NYsferatu is an adaptation that takes the form of a mash-up: immigrant stories are combined with the plot of the original film as well as with other political-historical narratives. What is gained in this process of stitching together, and what is lost? What interests you about this incompleteness— and the resulting creation? I think it has to do with the idea of collage. If I think about contemporary art, I really feel that we have so many references everywhere. Here in New York you are bombarded with images and voices and languages; you cannot avoid putting all of them in your work. The idea of combining things came to me when I was here in New York and saw that I walked amongst assemblage. I always work with drawings. I use drawing as a kind of link between things —that’s very important also in this movie— as a way of meshing things together. I wanted to draw [NYsferatu] at a moment when I was trying to redraw the world,


because when you draw you really have to understand things, you give meaning to things. In Italian, “to draw” is disegnare, which comes from the Latin, “to give name to things.” Drawing is the real passageway between the world of ideas and the world of reality. That was the most important thing for me. [I rely on] associations of ideas and streams of consciousness, so I always find links between things. These links create a language—I think that art is a language. Of course, when you have a language, you have many rules. When you have a language, you cannot put all of the words together without spaces [between them]… If I write and I don’t put spaces between words, you will not understand anything. Artists are the white spaces, the blank spaces, and they help you to understand what's going on. I do these things to help myself [process reality] and I hope they can help people to better understand reality, too.

You often deal in themes that seem to be diametrically opposed—hero/monster, foreigner/friend, creation/destruction, life/ death. Instead of just flipping the script, however, and being a total contrarian, the distinctions are more ambiguous. In terms of the story you were telling, and given that it was a public project, what does that ambiguity mean to you? For me, ambiguity is the symbol of our time. It’s a time when you can see one thing and the next moment you can see the opposite and nobody cares. That’s a big problem for me. As a person, I feel that I don’t have all the things that I believed in many years ago. They’re gone. For me it’s difficult. I can’t believe in TV, I can’t believe in the Internet. I just believe in people. And I try to be as authentic as I can. I always create different layers of meaning. My point is not to go towards people, it’s to bring people to [a higher platform] in some way. I don’t want to go






down, I want people to come up with me. I know that NYsferatu is a very difficult movie, but it’s not a difficult artwork if you watch it with a different mindset. As an artwork it’s very enjoyable because there are beautiful drawings, there is beautiful music, and a beautiful story, the Dracula story that everybody knows. The most important thing was drawing the whole movie, putting in all the things that I wanted to say. My biggest fear was that Nosferatu would be rendered as a bad guy. We were trying to talk about immigration, and “bad hombres.”1 We wanted him to be good in some way, because he’s a symbol for people coming from outside. I started to think about this “bad hombre” [character], and ombra in Italian means “shadow.” So I thought of giving all the guilt, all the bad things to the shadow [of the vampire]—Nosferatu himself doesn’t do anything, the shadow is the real [villain] and the symbol of fear. In the end, even if you watch the movie carefully, you might not have a very clear idea of what’s going on, because everything is very blurred. And I really feel that is our reality. You asked me what got lost in the process—yes, I got the story, the original one, and I put in new meaning, I stitched it, and if it can’t fit, it can’t fit. But that’s the point, that’s the most important thing: it doesn’t fit and that difference is what is interesting. How does this project treat the idea of boundaries and limits? You’ve talked about art as both creative and destructive, as a tool for liberty, and have had your work described as “an elevation from horror and drama to mental freedom.”2 How do you move between such places? You always need a starting point, and I always try to find something that is real. When you have a starting point, you have rules and limits and boundaries. The idea of boundaries is very important in art. The first image of the movie is a map. Boundaries are very important in this


case—even if people don’t look at this map in the beginning in the end, thanks to these boundaries, the whole movie is understandable. If you think about New York and Syria, one is here and one is there, so how can the main character Hutter go by horse between them? This is an imaginary world, but it’s also a metaphor for our interconnected world. New York is a kind of mash-up of millions of people from all over the world. When you are on the soccer field and you know the rules, you can play. And when you play, you can do magical things. That’s what I think about boundaries. The more you have boundaries, the more you are free. When you were working with the various workshop participants — for many of whom English is a second language, as it is for you — what were the challenges for them in sharing their stories, beyond the expected language barriers? The biggest problem in the beginning was that my English is so [bad] that [the participants] didn't understand what I was saying! In Queens it was different because the workshop was with people with a substantial college education, and they came for the possibility of writing a movie. And their contributions weren’t as important in terms of writing title cards or developing the characters, but they helped me understand the movie. They showed me the links. They showed me how to read between the lines. At Turning Point Brooklyn we had to start very, very slow.3 When we screened the original movie, the participants couldn’t understand anything, because the movie was new to them. For someone coming from China, South America, or Yemen, this film is not necessarily as significant in their culture. [Nosferatu] is a very European movie, an old movie. Even when I show it to friends in Italy, they don’t understand it! At the beginning, they were very afraid of opening up with their stories, and the


first two sessions were very difficult. Then they started to talk about themselves, they started to complain, which was very good. In class, we asked them, “Who is the vampire for you? Is it your landlord? insurance payments? your home?” “It’s Trump, it’s gentrification, it’s my work,” they said. And so we made a [drawing of a] kind of a polyp and said, “What if we change the word ‘vampire’ to ‘money,’ is it the same thing?” They made it possible for me to understand everything in the movie, and how important money is here in New York. They brought this out of me, because it is also my feeling. In the end, the real vampire for me is New York. [Count Orlok], the stranger in the movie, speaks in all of the participants’ native languages. Those different languages are their gift to the movie. The film is so rich thanks to them. At the beginning [of our collaboration], I was very afraid, because their experiences were different from my ideas at the time, and they were each so different from one another. I had to be very open. There were too many points of view: for some, Nosferatu was a bad guy, for some he was a good guy. That's why some parts of the film are not clear. But I never want to resolve things—why should I?

something that belongs in the city, that goes into the streets. Even when I make art intended for museums, like my paintings, I always need help from people. That’s the most important part. What’s the point of doing something that maybe talks about social problems, just by talking about social problems? If you are an artist, you have to do something different. You have to reach people on another level. I want to talk about things from a different point of view, from the point of view of fantasy. Fantasy is very important to artists, even if they talk about reality. If you are a good artist and you have good ideas, you don’t have to stick them directly on the canvas. People should be able to understand those good ideas from the way you paint them, the way you show things. So the way to show things could be through horror, through fantasy. You have to put the whole thing on a different level if you want to work in social engagement. Otherwise I really feel it's not art. It may be documentation, [which is] very good, important, and interesting. But unless you put it on a different level, I’m not interested. In my opinion, art doesn’t have to be [about] ethics. It’s about aesthetics. It’s powerful, it can be bad, it can be good, but ethical is the last thing. That's why in my movie the vision is blurred. I don’t want to tell you a fable. Even if I use fantasy, even if I use a completely distorted vision, I’m really talking about reality. It’s simple: I use symbols, as artists have always used symbols.

What is the allure of applying the conventions of fantasy and horror to a collaborative public art project? I work a lot with the public, with people, because my artwork has always been


In the final presidential debate of the 2016 election, Donald Trump used the phrase “bad hombres” in a discussion on immigration policy, in reference to the alleged drug dealers who had already entered the country, presumably from Latin America: “We have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.” See Maya Rhodan, “Donald Trump Raises Eyebrows With ‘Bad Hombres’ Line,” TIME, October 20, 2016.


Turning Point Brooklyn is a Sunset Park-based organization that provides housing, education, health, and social services for Brooklyn residents. Since 2015, their partnership with More Art, has focused on arts and music programs for multigenerational adult students enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.


Laura Tansini, “Creative and Destructive Force: A Conversation with Andrea Mastrovito,” Sculpture, March 2016.


Andrea Mastrovito NYsferatu 132 2017



Writing 134 assignments by workshop participants



Andrea Mastrovito NYsferatu 136 2017



Me, Myself, and We


Michael Joo Bohdi 140 Obfuscatus (Allegiance) 2006–07; 2009


Narrating Ourselves Anew Jessica Lynne

When asked to speak briefly about the impulses that pushed her toward photography in the mid-1970s, photographer Carrie Mae Weems responded: Another thing that’s interesting about the early work is that even though I’ve been engaged in the idea of autobiography, other ideas have been more important: the role of narrative, the social levels of humor, the deconstruction of documentary, the construction of history, the use of text, storytelling, performance, and the role of memory have all been more central to my thinking than autobiography. It’s assumed that autobiography is key, because I so often use myself, my own experience—limited as it is at times—as the starting point. But I use myself simply as a vehicle for approaching the question of power, and following where that leads me to and through. It’s never about me; it’s always about something larger.1 Weems, one of the most prolific artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, offers a valuable framework with which we might think through and about cultural production


that takes up grappling with “the self” and the multiple identities a person carries at any given moment. Indeed, throughout her decades-long career in visual storytelling, through photography, social practice, performance, and video, Weems has concerned herself with investigating subjectivity in domestic and public spaces. Yet what she rightfully asserts is the idea that to be concerned with the self or the autobiographical is inherently to attend to the relationships of power around which we negotiate, that impress upon us. In this way, autobiography becomes a conduit, a material component that troubles, disturbs, interrogates, confounds, or makes clear one’s (many) relationship(s) to the world. Through her work, Weems has dared to make space for a complex Black, female subjectivity to exist and in many ways we can trace her lineage through the photography of artists such as Deana Lawson, Nakeya Brown, and Xaviera Simmons. In considering practices like theirs, I do not just ask how, I also ask why—as in, what are the conditions that make their images necessary? In this instance, perhaps, it is a social legacy of image-making that has often opted for flattened representations of Blackness. In 1977, the Combahee River Collective introduced the term “identity politics” as language to embody interlocking oppressions and the radical set of politics and interventions that sprung forth directly from their identities as Black Lesbians. Their affirmation of identity politics as a centerpiece of Black feminism refused to ignore the very real ways in which power, or lack thereof, affects one’s material conditions (in this case, the material conditions of Black women). They asserted that this political core is in fact central to revolutionary acts, not merely a footnote in liberatory processes. I find the legacy of CRC’s theoretical assertions looming over Weems’ photography or, for example, that of her peer, photographer Lorna Simpson—practices that often invite an intimate look at and consideration of Black women (in the US, though not exclusively), an experience that is not monolithic but deeply informed by the consequences of race, class, and gender. The personal is indeed political. And what of the traditions from which we emerge, the cultural inheritances we carry? The myths that help us understand the world’s patterns. The oral histories that have been handed down for generations. The gestures and 142


Joan Jonas Lunar Rabbit 2011


movements that become signifiers. The blood memory. These too can inform our political strategies, just as they represent the most intimate parts of ourselves. What then does it mean to utilize the personal within a process of self-imagining? Self-narration? What is at stake if this process does not occur? What do we lose when we do not learn how to see ourselves in terms that are self-imposed? How do we tell a story about who we are and why we are? And how can we begin to organize and create in dialogue with others as we draw from these wells? I am asking these questions as a way of establishing a framework through which to consider work that relies on the autobiographical as a methodology for examining social infrastructures, and also as a celebration of a specific interiority or set of experiences. In this way, I also find it useful to consider scholar Saidiya Hartman’s own theorizing about autobiography as it pertains to her critical prose monograph, Lose Your Mother. Hartman, trained as a social scientist, reminds us that the autobiographical is not a “personal story that folds onto itself.” 2 It is the act of looking closely at one’s own position within historical and social processes in order to understand their larger significance and reach. For this reason, I deem it important to reject the many complaints that often surface against renderings of “identity politics” within the arts. In a prominent example, critic Jerry Saltz’s 2016 Vulture essay assigns a dull categorization of an aesthetic movement of art made by non-white or non-male identified or non-western or non-straight artists as simply “art of the first person.” He writes: For the first time, biography, history, the plight of the marginalized, institutional politics, context, sociologies, anthropologies, and privilege have all been recognized as “forms,” “genres,” and “materials” in art. Possibly the core materials. That shift put the artistic self front and center, making it perhaps the primary carrier of artistic content since the 1990s.3 Yet this lacks gravitas and assumes a type of navel-gazing that functions in opposition to Hartman’s rigorous assessment. When applied to the act of self-fashioning, what Hartman describes is the possibility of a new mode of narration that extends beyond the self to include the collective. 144


Hartman’s contextualization of Lose Your Mother is as a text in conversation with the archive and memory of chattel slavery; certainly such positioning is grounded in her training as a social scientist, a mode distinct from that of the artist. And certainly, not all artists are in conversation with this particular history or condition. I advocate for a study of her words as we examine and reflect upon art that emerges from modes that Weems identifies—construction of history, myth, memory—because of Hartman’s further insistence on the role of imagination, what she describes as “. . . the relationship of critique to a revolutionary imagination that wants to discover, institute, initiate a new way of telling.”4 It makes room for a critical kind of play and elasticity in further service to the visioning of a future beyond the scope of whiteness and patriarchy and heterosexuality. Consider projects such as Walls of Respect. Organized in the 1970s by the New York City non-profit Cityarts, Walls of Respect was a series of collaborative murals located primarily in communities of color and led by artists of color, such as Tomi Arai, which depicted histories, experiences, and cultural touchstones while also emphasizing the importance of place in the ongoing machinations of identity. Or look to Catherine Opie’s seminal Dyke Deck, a deck of fifty-two playing cards created by the artist in the 1990s, which feature portraits of lesbians, many of whom were friends of the artist, as a way to celebrate a segment of San Francisco’s queer community. Or more recently, the work of artist Shaun Leonardo lives at the intersection of participatory performance and radical pedagogy, rethinking and reshaping conversations about themes like masculinity and mass incarceration. Leonardo often pulls from and restages various sport traditions (Leonardo himself has a background in wrestling and American football) as a way of entering into these dialogues through the use of the body. In Primitive Games (2018), Leonardo drew from the ancient Italian game of calcio storico to engage participants in nonverbal debate around gun violence. The goal was to not recreate the harshest elements of the game, but to rethink communication tactics through the performance itself, around a topic that can incite so much tension. These are projects that do not simply stop at the self in hopes of screaming “Look at me!” Instead, they interrogate how an understanding of who we are becomes a tool in the creation process, leading us to art that dares to question what lives 145

on the other side of the language, images, and narratives that do not serve us fully. This, I argue, is part of what it means to use autobiography as a methodology for, as Weems asserts, approaching the questions of power and, by consequence, the means through which we construct an alternate narrative. Learning to narrate ourselves anew means learning a new vocabulary—one that might emerge from a space of introspection as it points a lens outward. How do we do this—this learning and unlearning, a journey that ebbs and flows and is never ending, much like the evolution of identity itself—together? The artists unafraid of this grappling are the artists who remind us that this work is so much larger than the singular “I.”


Dawoud Bey, “Carrie Mae Weems by Dawoud Bey,” BOMB Magazine (July 1, 2009), https:// 2

Patricia J. Saunders, "Fugitive Dreams of Diaspora: Conversations with Saidiya Hartman," Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal vol. 6, no. 1 (2008), anthurium/vol6/iss1/.



Jerry Saltz and Rachel Corbett, “How Identity Politics Conquered the Art World,” Vulture (April 2016).


Saunders, art. cit.


Gary Simmons Collective 147Portrait 2005

Tony Oursler

AWGTHTGTWTA (Are We Going to Have to Go Through with This Again?) 2008



AWGTHTGTWTA is a video project inspired by the online gaming and chatting habits of contemporary kids and teenagers, developed in collaboration with students from Liberty High School and Clinton Middle School in Chelsea. Oursler asked the students, many of them recent immigrants for whom English was not their first language, to write about their ideal or fantasy place and their images of the future. He then recorded them reading their responses. The artist also wrote a script to be performed by the chorus of teenagers and filmed their group chanting. The resulting piece combines scenes of the students reciting text in unison, excerpts of their imaginative responses to Oursler’s question, and video clips, found on the Internet, of compulsive online gaming, SMS text messaging shorthand, and YouTube recordings. The six-and-a-half-minute single-channel video was projected on a translucent screen on a wall in the basketball court at the Fulton House, a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facility which provides government-subsidized housing. The audience was invited to interact with the work by sending text messages to a designated cellphone number, which would scroll across the screen in real time. AWGTHTGTWTA, the title itself a riff on the Internet shorthand for “Are we going to have to go through this again?”, brings the often insular world of online and texting communication, particularly between young people, to a bigger screen and a new audience. Text messaging and Internet lingo mingle with the teens’ written words and personal visions, mixed visually and conceptually with frenetic digital imagery. The installation focused on linking the public space of the playground with the preoccupations of its inhabitants.


Tony Oursler AWGTHTGTWTA 2008

At one point in AWGTHGTWTA the students describe their images of the future and their ideal worlds. How did this portion relate to the other aspects of the installation and the technological means used?

Tony Oursler Interview


I’m interested in utopian notions as a kind of social agitator, as a progressive idea in general. And the younger the kids are, the more fantastical their approach is, and more optimistic, hopefully. I was hoping to use that as a bit of a barometer of the group. Of course they’re our future, so it’s important to hear what they have to say in general about their notion of an ideal situation. The piece really had to do with the language of kids. Roughly half were English as a second language [learners], I believe, so I was kind of juxtaposing their nascent accents with this notion of “future speak,” and of course looking at the crossover among the kids who were from another culture. The process by which immigrants are incorporated into society


and how they then become the new society, that’s a very particular American saga that really interested me. It’s really much more a vernacular poetry that I was interested in, blending the texting; the subcultural language that involves slang; the subgroup of teenage, adolescent language use as a way of forming identity into the future and [seeing] how that changes from one moment to the next. I haven’t really looked back at that piece in a while and I’m sure a lot of the acronyms we used are obsolete now, there are new ones cropping up. There’s an idealism [in] that language, a kind of hope and optimism. Somehow that’s what I see, that it’s new and individuated from one point to the next. I’m kind of a slang collector—I love it from all eras—so the acronyms of the phone, of texting, I thought it was absolutely wonderful. And of course [it] separates one generation from the next. I had to look it all up. I couldn’t understand any of it; it was all new, it was Greek to me.

the wall or detritus of graffiti in general, you can’t help but think of a kind of collective unconscious that harkens back to the fundamental language of human expression, akin to cave painting or something like that. There’s something so primary about marking a surface like that, that says, Hey I was here, or I exist in this spot, I’ve been here, I’ve marked my turf in some way. I wanted to just play with that a little. There’s a kind of ebb and flow with what you’re suggesting about the collective unconscious—I’ve always loved that notion. Regardless of its veracity, I’d like to think that there could be a collective kind of progress in some way, although recently it’s hard to believe that that’s occurring. Again that goes back to the kids and thinking about them as the future and wading into this great pool of their ideas and their hopes, and putting it back out there to feed into the cycle.

Several elements in the video seem like summonings of a collective unconscious, or maybe they serve as collective repositories—dreams, the Internet and its technologies, even the chorus of teenagers. Can you talk about what interests you in these kinds of communal, (sub)liminal expressions?

We’re curious about what’s learned or shared through the kind of broadcasting and communication explored in the project—not only the big projection, but through collage, mash-up, a chorus of voices, the real-time audience response, the “meta-multimedia” form. You’ve spoken before about your work’s interest in the recognition of our limitations. What does the medium tells us about ourselves in this case?

That situation is so unique. The idea [was] to get a group together and speaking a unified text—some of which they wrote, some of which I wrote, some of which was found—and to then re-present it in the community where their school is and where there’s a kind of proximity to their life in general. Having it presented on the walls of the buildings in Chelsea, which might also be inhabited with graffiti, provided a platform for the kids to exert agency over their environment and to give them a position of transgression. When you walk around New York and you see these kinds of scribblings on

AWGTHGTWTA is very interested in the collected voice of a group chant. Within the chant, within the chorus, you've got individuals who then form a group, and things get kind of amplified or expanded upon in a group. That feeling was very much part of what I was thinking about: trying to get the notion of a chorus, of a group of people working together, working their way through time, identifying as a generation, and then sort of splitting apart into these individual stories. In that sense, it almost takes on a kind of musical composition, like concrete music. [The composition was generated] on the spot of


Tony Oursler AWGTHTGTWTA 152 2008



shooting and then augmented later. The authorship moves around. But [in terms of] limitations, I think that basically, especially in the case of kids, they have a lot to do with technology. What is very apparent to me these days is that although they kind of control their own media—or they believe they control their own media—what they’re really doing is being controlled by these corporate game producers and social media producers who are really working with a kind of drug. I think the dynamic right there is set up for social failure unless there’s intervention in terms of education and empowerment for the kids, to take control of that technology. [There is also a notion of], again, the corporation as opposed to the individual, the value of the group as opposed to the corporation, and individuals’ inability to resist the onslaught, the seduction, of this technology. Whether people are learning to use technology as a tool or are being used by it is hard to say. I think it’s

Tony Oursler AWGTHTGTWTA 2008


a larger social question. The kids need to become empowered to be able to work with that themselves, they have to control it eventually. Maybe it’s just a natural process, like at one point people knew how to work a printing press to make a book. I certainly see a kind of forceful move to keep people on the outside of what this stuff means. The younger generation didn’t even know that people made those things, to some degree, they thought that it’s just there. The companies are making it in such a way so that all the interface is corporate. The notion of authorship is at risk. The installation prompts a conflation of social spheres—online gaming and Youtube on a concrete basketball court, the virtual in a physical, public space. Can you talk about what it means to have these intersect? In my mind they are already completely intertwined, though you may or may not


see them as such. I was very interested in that for many years, trying to get this kind of virtual space into a public space. Now I'm not so sure, because there’s so much [of it]. Starting in ’99 or 2000, I was working with moving images, either in windows or on the surface of buildings, and I was very optimistic about that, that there could be this whole other space to work with. Yet somehow I think it kind of jumped into the pocket and people just now ignore their environment by looking into their phone. We’re kind of saturated with the virtual with the phones. The kind of physical graffiti was what I was looking for because, if you look at them formally, those spaces are often neglected. They are liminal. I’ve often thought about the height at which signage can work on a building, and at what point does it become sort of a distant signage; at what point does it become up-close graffiti or advertising? Perspective, you know. If you just look at the surface of a building this treatment of the space is just so forlorn. I think people are reassessing the notion of concrete space because there’s so much virtual space in their pocket that maybe they don’t want to populate that [architectural] space with moving images and so forth, or would rather look at a real wall because maybe they need that anchor. To go back to our project, I was really interested in taking the stuff that was partially hermetic—these things that were between friends, these missives between friends on the phone, or these hypnotic game spaces which are often made privately and in these almost kind of trance states—and putting it out there for people to think about a bit, to air it out in that sense. How do art and technology differ in their potential to empower or engage people? Do they relate to each other when it comes to teaching and cultivating an awareness— especially in teens or those underexposed to art—of the productive and destructive uses of creative energy?

Yes! I’ve said that how we deal with the moving image is probably one of the most important things that we do in terms of the future of culture. People have taken that as, “Well, you’re a video artist, of course you think it's super important.” That’s not what I mean. What I’m talking about is: if authorship is made impossible, we’re doomed. That goes back to your question— of course there's an incredible potential there. These kids are learning a kind of language by participating in this stream [of cultural communication], immersing themselves in this flow of images. But the point is then to activate them creatively. Another part of this process was to show the kids that you can get a camera, shoot some things, play around in front of the camera, edit it, project it, and then have it be a project in some sense. Open up [the media-making process] for them to see how it’s done. But there’s a larger issue at stake, about enabling people to use these technologies for their own stories and for their own creativity and to talk to one another in their own language—[instead of] a corporate language or a corporate filter and so forth. So when I say it’s the most important thing, I don’t mean that it’s the most important thing as opposed to painting or some other structure; what I’m talking about is that it’s the most important thing in that we have to learn to control this technology. I’m interested in measurements of time. If the culture is spending like 60 percent of its time doing something, then that’s the area that people have to engage with. It’s not rocket science here and it’s not about mediums—I’m talking about people being able to engage in and control the forms that they’re immersed in. If you have kids who don’t understand computers and don’t understand computing and spend all day doing that, then who controls it? The question that Enemy kitchen remains is how to set people to act Michael up Rakowitz New York with agency. 2006- 2007



An Album: Hudson Guild 2009-10



An Album: Hudson Guild is a video project created by Kimsooja in collaboration with the multicultural community of senior citizens from the Hudson Guild Senior Center in Chelsea. The artist spent several days getting to know residents, asking them about their lives, backgrounds, families, and memories, then filmed them individually over a period of two weeks. No dialogue is included in the final film, however. Instead, the 31-minute, looped video is silent, maintaining a confidentiality between the artist and sitter. The camera lingers for several minutes on each person, capturing their personalities and attitudes through their subtly changing expressions and the emotions visible on their faces. With each participant, the artist let the camera roll for an extended period; the sitters would initially act and pose, then slowly lose awareness of the camera, relaxing their features and letting their minds wander. The seniors, caught between motion and stillness, are shown from various angles—the front, the back, the side, the shots edited to play alongside one another at the same time. The final few minutes of the film show the group gathered in an auditorium, looking out at the viewer from their seats in the audience, individuated but together. Participating senior community members included Kathy Andrade, Steven H. Brown, George Colon, Katherine Chung, James F. Gonzales, Isreal Gonzalez, Kenneth Kilpela, William Kushner, Norma Langbert, Merle Lister Levine, Virgil McBee, Ellwood McKiver, José Méndez, Raymond Miskell, Omayra Navia, Victor Ortiź, David Lee Rackley, Reinaldo Rodriguez, Migel Torres, Irene Sadek, and Maria T. Webster.


Kimsooja An Album: Hudson Guild 2009–10

Kimsooja Interview


Silence is used as a tool of communication in An Album: Hudson Guild, and seems indicative of the confidence you established with your subjects. How was the trust you gained—and the process or experience of gaining it—conveyed in the video? I think meeting the portrait subjects in advance of filming them, and having the chance to share my personal experience with them, established a certain rapport between us. My personal experience with the death of my father, who suffered from short-term memory loss, had been shocking, and at the same time, inspiring. Keeping to a non-narrative format, but allowing the participants to speak freely, at their will, gave them a moment to reflect inward to their past, present, and future, in silence. As most of the participants were migrants, they had a lot to reflect on, especially with their family abroad, their journey, and their memories of life as a stranger in New York.


And what does this non-verbal storytelling demand of the audience watching? I find visual experiences more relevant when they are silent. An individual’s facial expression and gestures become more perceivable when they are viewed in silence, without any distraction. I requested the performers remain in a state of silence and immobility in order to be connected to the journey into their inner world. It is like a durational performance done by both performer and audience. The image of the seniors sitting in the audience creates one instance of formal and psychological inversion; the use of mirrors and the turning faces also draw attention to the act of looking. A sense of place and perspective are flipped and portrayed from another angle. What interests you about these reversals, and how are they applied to the overall ethos or impact of the project?

I’ve always been interested in the multicultural aspects of humanity. It is true that there is a communal memory with migration, with being a minority in American society, involving separation either from family or from the home country, and the hardships or joy tied to occupying a new social condition. Especially in this video, the silence, and my calling out each performer’s name as they turn their backs toward the camera, could have functioned as the past, present, or future, which allowed the performer’s memories to surface back to a different temporal moment. This is the key thread in the whole piece. That silent moment of bringing back memory connects the encounter with the performer’s own history to the viewers.

In An Album: Hudson Guild, my gaze stays fixed, the audience’s attention goes to multiple performers, moving their gaze from one to another. The audience’s gaze moves around different performers’ faces within the frame, viewing their facial expressions or sitting postures. I filmed the performers and audience in the same theater where we screened the final video to create a mirroring situation; it summoned in situ a consciousness of each individual’s presence and awareness of the self, of the self as the other. This obviously created more complicated layers in the relationship of my body and gaze to the audience and the screen, and vice versa. What is the importance of memory in giving voice to different, often overlooked persons or communities? Even though the participants come from many different backgrounds, was the idea of communal memory, or memory as communication, part of the project?


Kimsooja An Album: 160Hudson Guild 2009–10



An interview with Cheryl Kamen Department Head of Adult Services, Hudson Guild

What was your role working with More Art for An Album in particular? I helped recruit the members who participated in the project and supported getting them where they had to be, and trying to get them to the opening.

How did you go about recruiting folks? We had worked with More Art before, so we knew that they were a good organization. We just let [the members] know about the organization, that it was a new project, that it was with a renowned videographer artist. It was a really great population to work with; being in Chelsea, a lot of them were drawn to the arts, and so they were open to things. I don’t think anybody knew what to expect with that particular project, so they kind of went along with that. Even as it was happening and they were being filmed. Some of them would sit absolutely still and not move, others would be moving a little bit, others would start talking to Kimsooja. It was interesting to see how each of our senior members responded and participated in the project, and how she seemed OK with all of those things.

Did you hear or encounter any direct responses from the participants about how it had gone, or what they thought about the project? They really enjoyed participating in it; those who were able to view the finished film really enjoyed seeing themselves up there onscreen as part of the whole project. A lot of them did not have any kind of an arts background, several of them had been members of the garmentworkers union before they came to us, all different backgrounds. It


+ was terrific to see them all in that project, all their different backgrounds and ethnicities and languages and everything else. There is a unity and sense of community that comes just from being all in the same setting together. The ubiquity of the silence amongst all of them was something so striking about the film, too. And silence can be uncomfortable. So if you’re sitting there being filmed and you’re not speaking, it can feel really weird. It was interesting to see how they each coped with that. They enjoyed that it was something different, something that would stand out; that there was an end product, and that it was something that they got to see and enjoy, even if it was a one-time showing. It’s not just artists for artists, or art for the art-obsessed, or even for people who are just interested in art, but for everyday people who normally would not have access to that experience.

We are curious if and how you saw The Album project as particularly resonating with a community of seniors. How did you see the final product reflect this particular group of people? I loved that it reflected a diverse population, people who had lived very full, very rich, very different lives, who were of, in most cases, I think, but not all, a lower socio-economic bracket or working-class bracket. They're not your typical art patrons.


Kimsooja An Album: 164 Hudson Guild 2009–10



Xaviera Simmons

When You’re Looking At Me, You’re Looking At Country 2010-12



For When You’re Looking At Me, You’re Looking At Country, Xaviera Simmons set up an open-air portrait studio for community members of the Fulton and Elliot Houses, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facilities that provide government-subsidized housing, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. She then invited residents to sit for a portrait in the on-site studio. Participants were asked to bring personal artifacts (such as family photographs, meaningful items of clothing, or personal ephemera), and Simmons worked with each of the nearly one hundred sitters to create photographic narratives based on their personal memories, supplemented by these items, before photographing her subjects with a large-format film camera. She developed and printed the final images, which were then gifted to each participant. Simmons was particularly interested in working with the elder members of the community, many of whom are immigrants of Puerto Rican and Latin American descent, and whose perspectives were not often considered in a rapidly changing neighborhood like Chelsea. It was important for the artist to work with a large-format camera and analog film to create old-school studio portraits that could become cherished objects themselves and function at a slower pace than the digital culture that proliferated in the late 2010s. The project aimed to ensure that these individual histories were shared, remembered, and honored—not lost through assimilation and cultural translation. The final photographs were shown at the Hudson Guild Community Center Art Galleries the following spring. Participants included Miguel Acevedo, Uhuru Addertex, Angel Albelo, Manuela Allende, Lila Amreuch, Angelica, Jaden Batista, Richard Bennett, Cay Blan, Elizabeth Block, Stephanie Carballal, Candida Caro, Jose Carrillo, Yanet Casticw, Ray Cerabone, Katherine Chung, Rose Conklin, Kathy Creer, Christine & Alexander Cruz, Carlo Demech, Cheick Diecko, Hamidou Diecko, Ather Etheridge, Shalimar Evans, Angel Feliciano, Joanna Feliciano, Justin Feliciano, Anthony & Athena Gadsden, Linda Galay, Joe Gianono, Barbara Gonzalez, Phyllis Gonzalez, Delilah Hall, Akilah Hall, Raymano HernandezRuiz, Arax Hicks, Sunkys Horechild, Yvonne Hunt, Chris Hwang, Thomas Jackson Jr, Dee Jordan, Kenneth W. Kilpela, Robert A. Lackey, Alfonso Lanier, Jacqueline Lara, Virginia Lauriello, Joan B. Lawson, Noralba Lersiz, Vincent Lewis, Maureen Lockwood, Sade Loving, Messiah Jones, Stacey Jones, Mary Ann Maisto, CS Meadows, Patricia Mei, Lisa Melendez, Francisco Mirande, Rosa Molina, Charles Fly Muldrow, Carlos Muniz, America Ortega & Ethan Titone, Sarah Ortohano, Jadai Pavilus, Norman Perez, Julia Piters, Olga Polanco, Ada Rivera, Tyra N. Rivera, Sonia Rivero, Quadir Rodriguez, Yamil Rosario, David M. Ryan, Davidson Ryan, Maribel Santiago, Manuel Santiago, Joan Seecof, Doug Segulja, Maggie Simpson, Israel Soto, Karon Spicer, Juwan Stone, Shantell Thomas, Arlene Torres, Janet Torres-Belese, Leshia Vargas, Adrainne Washington, George Weaver, Geraldine White, Loretta Wilson, Barry Wilson, Brandon Wright, and Diana Zuluaga.


Xaviera Simmons When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country 2010–12

Xaviera Simmons Interview


When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country brings together the classic photographic studio and performance art. As such, the gestures of portrait-making are of a couple different orders: there’s the physical set-up and steps taken and the more symbolic offering of close-looking and consideration. The latter seems like the more radical performance or action, but how do you think about the relationship between the two and how they engender each other? Photography is performative even when it’s documentary. Setting up an outdoor studio to invite passersby to make an image with me is akin to producing a mini theatrical work in the open air. In some regards, we are all performing when the works are being produced. We may not feel like performers, but to passersby we are. I don’t hold to tight rules for artmaking. I mean, I craft all of my works tightly, or at least try to, but really artworks and artmaking flow from one type of practice


to the next. They are all linked and therefore basically one practice with many parts. I don’t see artmaking in any other way, most of the time. The process of image-making becomes a visible component of the project, as it happens out in the open, with the participants and the public. What might the increased visibility of such a process and of artmaking more broadly have to do with voice or representation? What do access and the notions of gifting and invitation mean here and in your practice? I make these works almost always in lower-income areas and most often those areas are filled with African Americans and lower-income people from other ethnic groups. I make those works to give back to communities that I work around or are interested in being in dialogue with. I am fascinated by our notions of community, and with the Free Portrait series I love the idea that multiple members of a

community can have images of themselves produced by one photographer.1 There is a kind of unity in that moment and in the photographic gesture and the fact of each image placed inside the sitters’ homes. The project seems to revel in the transitions between inside and outside the studio, staged image and performance, image and identity. It’s not about spectacle, but it is about the possibilities of looking, image-making, narrative creation and presentation—what roles do these impulses have to play specifically in public or socially engaged projects? They go hand in hand. I would say imagemaking is the initial impulse and it’s the foundation of the project; narrative creation and presentation happens most of the time after the image is produced. I can’t set out to make a specific narrative because these are strangers and as such I have no idea what they are willing to do in front of the camera. Once they have

Xaviera Simmons When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country 2010–12


agreed to making the image with me and we spend time together, the narrative begins to take shape through the gestures found in the image and through the subtleties found in the image. Your practice often draws on history, mythology, archival materials, your personal collections. We’re curious about the sources you hoped to make available to the sitters by requesting that they bring a meaningful object, a prop of sorts. What is the challenge of calling forth something open-ended and idiosyncratic like memory, like identity?

skills I have developed to direct, to help me build the characters that I perform in the work, and then I use my abilities as both an actor and director to guide individuals who sit for the portraits to feel comfortable and confident to produce a work with me. The calmer we all are (the sitters, myself, and everyone else involved), the easier it is to work on the image.

Bringing a meaningful object helps the sitter stay present in the process. If the object has real meaning then you are more often able to commit to the entire moment of making the image with me. I hope that people feel a deeper connection to the image as they not only have a record of the project and the moment, but also a record of themselves in relation to something that they hold dear. I think that it gives the image a bit more weight, mostly for the sitter. It’s interesting to think about some of the differences between using yourself in your work and inviting others to be the subject in your photographs and performances. Could you speak about the role of the image, and specifically the making of one’s own image, in the context of a public art project or as a public work? Even though I am sometimes in the images, I think of my role as that of a director/actor. I try to make characters out of myself in the works, so the real question for me is how is it different to direct yourself as opposed to others... and I would say that they are linked. I use the


When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country was part of a years-long effort by Simmons to take portraits in the New York City streets and gift them


to her subjects, as was also done in Bronx as Studio, put on by the public Art Fund in 2008.


Xaviera Simmons When You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country 171 2010–12

Xaviera Simmons When You’re Looking at Me, You’re 172 Looking at Country 2010–12



An interview with America Ortega portrait subject photographed with her son, Ethan

How did you hear about the project? Why did you want to participate? There was a flyer out of Hudson Guild. I was at the time in Chelsea Houses, right on the same block of Hudson Guild, so I was there often. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my son, a great thing to be part of. My entire family has submitted artwork to the gallery over the years, to put on view and be part of that. I thought this would be something kind of fun, and I didn't actually have to do most or any of the work and we got a portrait at the end.

What did you bring to the studio? Why? I did a pin-up hairstyle and my son came as a ‘50s-era greaser. He was a cute 4-year-old greaser at the time. We didn’t have any other photos. My great-grandmother was from Spain and in Spain they wear a scarf over their head when they go to church, so I brought that with me. It’s not in any of the photos we got back, but she [the artist] did take pictures with the scarf. It spoke to different generations. I brought my great-grandmother in that form, I [evoked] the ‘50s, which is part of my mom and my grandmother also growing up, and then myself and my son, so for me that was about four, five generations within those portraits.

Can you describe the experience? What do you remember about the session? It was done right outside Hudson Guild. I believe she had different backdrops. She was very easy to work with, very open, just kind of like, “Tell me about what’s going on, what do you have here, what does it mean to you?” And so I pretty much explained to her the story of the handkerchief scarf I had. She took a lot of different


+ photos and she was very willing, she was very flexible. It wasn’t like “you do this” and that’s that; she really wanted to hear why we were there and what our purpose was and what did we want to bring out of those photos. I think she did an amazing job. What we ended up with was my son and I together, he’s kind of in front of me and I’m dipping forward. There’s one of him by himself with like his thumbs in his jeans and his jacket open. It’s awesome. She did really great. We were just outside, in public, doing all of this. We had a little bit of a conversation, it wasn’t long either, but she was very easy-going, very reflective through her work.

In what way was this a new experience for you? If there was a party or a holiday where we’re all together, we’d take a photo and we’d all pose to smile. I think this was a new experience — it wasn’t traditional, but it was probably the most honest and meaningful portrait for me.

Do you still have the photo? I still have the portraits and they’re one of the centerpieces of my living room.


(Dis)place Called Home


Shimon Attie Night Watch 178 2018


Displacement is the New Dispossession: A Word from Our Neighbors Rebecca Amato

Displacement looks and feels different according to who you are and where you are situated. In neighborhoods like South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, displacement is often attributable to the obvious forces of gentrification, such as rising rents, landlord harassment, and a changing social and cultural fabric that makes one feel increasingly unwelcome in one’s own backyard. Seniors are unable to age in place, and young people who grew up in the neighborhood cannot afford to live there as adults. In Melrose and Morrisania, in the South Bronx, the story is one of being cut off from desirable resources that other city residents take for granted, like clean air, strong schools, well-tended parks, and fair treatment by government agencies. Long-time residents are removed from their neighborhoods through the force of the cradle-to-prison pipeline, not yet because luxury condominiums are replacing their homes. Even in the city’s core, in areas like Soho and Chelsea, where the economy is thriving, displacement is visible in the rise of homeless youth and empty storefronts, and the demolition or renovation of the historic commercial and factory buildings that line the city’s thoroughfares. Beyond simply provoking nostalgia for a lost version of New York, these 179

displacements have material consequences for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. They belie the fact that economic restructuring too often rewards consumers over producers, spending power over an honest day’s work, profit over people. For the past four years, I have been teaching an undergraduate course at New York University called (Dis) Placed Urban Histories, in which my students and I work with community-based organizations, long-time residents, and workers in New York City’s changing neighborhoods to document experiences of displacement. Our process has resulted in online archives of oral histories and personal items from our collaborators, many of which are excerpted and assembled for temporary exhibits in the neighborhoods we have studied. The archives go on to serve as a resource for our community partners, in whatever capacity makes most sense for them. Some partners and residents access the archive for advocacy purposes and cultural production, while others have simply browsed it to learn about their neighbors in a new way. For my students and I, the most enduring outcome of the course has been the emotional impact of intimately co-creating narratives of displacement with New Yorkers who have seen friends, businesses, and local institutions disappear. These are not typical academic narratives of neoliberalism gone off the rails, the slow dismantling of rent regulation, or the uses and abuses of neighborhood rezoning. They are heartrending tales of shock, anger, and loss, as well as resilience and compassion. Below I highlight some of the stories and words of our collaborators, and share some of the lessons they taught us. For many of those we interviewed, acquiring or preserving truly affordable housing was their primary concern. “Affordable” in this context means not just what the city determines is affordable based on Area Median Income (AMI), or the combined income of an average household in the five boroughs, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties. Instead, our collaborators told us time and again that what was affordable by the broad measure of AMI did not serve their low- and very low-income communities. Nor do the city’s affordable housing plans fully account for the loss of public, subsidized, and rent-stabilized housing through defunding and deregulation. Danny Barber, president of Andrew Jackson Houses, at 3080 Park 180


Avenue in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx, explained, “I see myself in the future [as] somebody fighting to restructure New York City housing. . . to make public housing truly public for the people.”1 Barber has lived almost continuously in the same apartment in the Jackson Houses, a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) development, since he was four years old.2 By the age of eight, he was volunteering at the Salvation Army with his mother and aunt, feeding the homeless and riding with the “disaster truck,” which attended fires in the area and supported burned-out residents and firefighters during the rampant arsons of the 1970s. As a young adult, he began working as director of a Salvation Army community center, helping addicts and prostitutes protect themselves with clean needles and prophylactics during the AIDS crisis, and helping kids with homework in an after-school program. In the late 1990s, Barber became disabled and was no longer able to work full-time, so he took on voluntary leadership roles in the community, serving not only as president of Jackson Houses, but also as chair of the Citywide Council of Presidents for NYCHA, member of Community Board 1 in the Bronx, and president of the Bronxworks Classic Community Center Advisory Board, among other positions. In these roles, he has worked hard to build bridges with the public institutions that remain in the South Bronx, like the NYPD and NYCHA: “If it’s wrong, I’m going to say something, if it’s not right, I’m going to try to fix it.” Living about twelve miles southeast of Barber is Mercedes Urquidez, a long-time resident of Los Sures, “the Souths,” the local name for the historically Puerto Rican and Dominican sections of South Williamsburg.3 According to New York University’s Furman Center, which studies housing and urban development and policy in New York, the percent change in average rent in Williamsburg and Greenpoint between 1990 and 2014 was +78.7%, earning them the title of most gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City.4 Urquidez and her family moved to the neighborhood from Santurce, Puerto Rico, in the 1950s, when she was only six months old. The brownstone building in which she first lived on Taylor Street and Kent Avenue no longer stands; it was torn down and replaced in 1973 by a New York City Housing Authority complex, Taylor-Wythe Houses. By then, Urquidez was living with her husband and daughter in Flatbush, but 181

Brendan Fernandes Clean Labor 182 2017



they soon moved back to Los Sures to be nearer to family. She has lived on either Division Street, Ross Street, or her current residence—all in Los Sures—ever since. Today, she worries about losing her apartment, where she lives with her granddaughter, who helps pay rent but does not make enough money to move out on her own. Urquidez hears stories of neighbors being forced out of their homes because landlords take advantage of the Major Capital Improvements (MCI) allowance in the rent regulation law. Many landlords leverage the allowance not just to increase rent, but to edge apartments over the threshold of regulation, which is currently set at $2,700 per month. Once the rent has been increased past that amount, a landlord can charge market rate for an apartment that was previously rent-stabilized, thus removing that unit from regulation. “You’re afraid, you know. . . that he would up the rent I’m paying now, or would pressure me. ‘Oh we gonna fix it’—‘cause this is the way they work—‘Oh, you could move to another place until we fix your apartment.’ And then they give it to someone else.” At the same time, Urquidez is not sure she wants to stay in Williamsburg anymore anyway: “You see more tourists down there now than Spanish people. . . You used to see a lot of Spanish, a lot of Mexicans playing volleyball and all that. Now you see the neighborhood has changed.” She speaks of the disappearance of “Spanish” restaurants and the infestation of hundreds of bars, the replacement of small apartment buildings with high-rise condominiums, and the exorbitant price of groceries. As she sees it, greed is the problem: “New York is getting green. In money. Like I tell you, money walk and bullshit talk. Everything is green, green, green.” This “greening” of New York also means the displacement of social and economic networks of interdependence. Small groceries that offer “credit” to their local regulars and places of worship are replaced by anonymous chain supermarkets and high-end, boutique gyms. “We used to be able to make an account with the store owner, like, ‘No, we’re gonna pay you tomorrow.’ And the store owner would understand and say it was ok if you paid them that day,” explains Adrienne Vega, a Los Sures resident and service coordinator at Southside United HDFC, a shareholder-owned, cooperative housing entity. “​There used to be some places that, you know, if you needed cash, and you had food stamps, but you needed the cash more, to buy other things, the store owners 184


would, like, try to hook you up and help you out, which they don’t do anymore.” Vega’s parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, lived in Los Sures—like her—all their lives. Her grandfather and uncle were manual laborers working in the warehouses lining the Williamsburg waterfront. She attended PS 84 Jose de Diego School on Berry Street as a child and took advantage of daily after-school programs there, too. Now she helps seniors and families who rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Medicaid, and social security benefits fill out paperwork and receive aid. But Vega concedes that even this support may not keep a family from becoming homeless. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, 129,803 individual homeless men, women, and children spent the night in New York City’s municipal shelter system between July 2017 and July 2018. Families account for about a third of the shelter population, and Vega sees homelessness rising in her own neighborhood. Displacement, then, is more than a spatial phenomenon; it is also one of social and economic disappearance. What our collaborators have witnessed on their blocks co-exists with systemic attacks on social welfare policy, housing protections, public institutions, and—most harrowing— low-income people of color like themselves. Danny Barber maintains that he has beaten the odds demographically: “Being a young Black male, I know what I am: endangered. I know that my life expectancy as a black man—I’ve outlived it. Coming from here, you always hear: ‘Either you’re going to do what you gotta do or you gonna die or go to jail.’” In 2014, Melrose, where Jackson Houses is located, came in second on the list of neighborhoods with the highest rate of incarcerated residents (305 out of 100,000). Nearby Morrisania topped the list with 371 out of 100,000. That same year, investigations into malicious prosecution, torture, and abuse at Riker’s Island, and the post-incarceration suicide of young Bronx resident Kaleif Browder, made headlines. “You shouldn’t have to fight against the police” says Cheney Yelverton, Building Association president for the NYCHA building Morrisania Air Rights. Like Barber, Yelverton has focused in recent years on trying to improve the relationship of South Bronx residents with the police. The effort can feel impossible: “A couple of months back, we had the New York Civil Liberties Union—for about two weeks they were here doing a survey for the community, Know Your Rights. The 185

first thing they told us is you don’t even have to have ID in New York unless you’re getting on a plane or you’re driving a car. But the police won’t tell you that. The first thing they say is: "If you don’t have ID, we’re gonna take you in..." So, I feel it’s currently my obligation to let the community know these things, because 90 percent of people that are here, they didn’t know that. They thought it was illegal to walk around without an ID.” The intensity of the carceral state in the South Bronx turns lessons like these into matters of relative freedom and imprisonment. Yelverton even sees safety officers policing ten-year-olds in the neighborhood’s public schools. He believes that law enforcement is trained to antagonize NYCHA residents particularly harshly. Still, he hopes better communication and patience can make a difference, not just with the police, but with newcomers moving to the neighborhood: “The reason why we can’t get along —like if everybody just looked at each other like, she has the same problems I have, then we’d all be fine. Because if I’m scared of you and you scared of me, eventually something’s gonna happen and that’s why everything — the world is so volatile, cause everybody’s afraid to live with each other.” This is an attitude Mercedes Urquidez also adopts: “One day we had a discussion in our meeting, they say ‘oh, the white people are taking over.’ I say, ‘Don’t blame it on the white people! If I could pay $3,000 to $4,000 I’d do it.’” From the perspective of our collaborators, displacement has become an axiom of urban life, so common that it has become normalized, so devastating that it can appear inevitable. But displacement is not just a fact of life. Far from being the natural corollary to creative destruction— the capitalist process of destroying the old to replace it with something new and better, or “renewal”—displacement occurs because human actors call for and defend legislation, financial mechanisms, and deregulation that not only shore up the racial and economic inequalities that have plagued American governance since its inception but, worse, deliberately accelerate it. In other words, current struggles with displacement are nothing new—and often spring from historical, structural inequalities and the privileges of whiteness. They are an extension of the systematic dispossession of land and citizenship rights that the poor and people of color have endured for centuries; they have taken the forms—all legal—of slavery, tenant farming, federal land acts, imperial expansion, slum clearance, redlining, 186


contract buying, racial covenants, unfair labor practices, and the privatization of public resources, to name a few. All of these practices existed because powerful people enacted them, and many were dismantled because empowered people demanded an alternative. So making peace with new neighbors, as Yelverton and Urquidez propose, may be necessary, but so, too, is making allies. Along with our collaborators, we now ask: what is to be done? What can our own histories and our own neighbors tell us that can give us strength? What resources can be generated or reclaimed by communities, even as others are denied or dispossessed? What can a radically inclusive city that celebrates people over profit look like? And are you willing to fight for it?


Interview with Daniel Barber, conducted by Rahni Davis. (Dis)Placed Urban Histories: Melrose, accessed September 15, 2018, edu/spring2017/items/show/80.

Interview with Mercedes Urquidez, conducted by Hannah Fullerton. (Dis)Placed Urban Histories 2016, accessed September 15, 2018, http://displacedhistories.


Released in the Center’s report "State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods" in 2015, available at Gentrification_SOCin2015_9JUNE2016.pdf.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) provides housing for low and moderate-income residents throughout the five boroughs of New York City and administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments.




Ofri Cnaani

Moon Guardians 2013



In a series of research-based workshops unfolding over the course of one year, Ofri Cnaani worked with teens from the Chelsea LAB School, a public middle school, to investigate and map the multiple transformations that have taken place in Chelsea’s famed Meatpacking District over the last century. The evolution of the Meatpacking District, from a place where marginalized figures and outsiders were celebrated to a more sanitized and consumer-oriented space, exemplifies greater shifts in New York City. The area’s cultural identity has perpetually reinvented itself: a refuge during the pandemics of the 1820s, the Meatpacking District became the home of its eponymous meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses in the early twentieth century, an underground nightlife destination in the 1970s and ‘80s, and today is known as a high-end boutique and art district. The student workshops culminated in the formulation of questions that were used to interview long-time Meatpacking residents about their relationship to the neighborhood and the changes they had personally experienced throughout its successive waves of gentrification. Using the interviews as a starting point, Cnaani created a series of video vignettes, filming five residents—the titular Moon Guardians of this piece: Ivy Brown, an artist and gallerist; Frank Ottomanelli, a butcher; Dorothy Durlach and Bill Kushner, long-term roommates; and famed drag queen Sultana. In this footage, Cnaani has the participants move slowly and deliberately, going about their business or performing actions symbolic of their everyday lives. Between a static image and a film, the final, looping sequences are described by the artist as video haikus. For the work’s public installation, which lasted one month, the videos were projected nightly on the windows and storefronts facing the square at Gansevoort Plaza, the figures interacting with one another and with the building, and looking out at the viewer, curiously, questioningly, creating a bridge between past and present.


In Moon Guardians, what role does technology play in making magic and conjuring other worlds, like the obscured histories of former tenants?

Ofri Cnaani Moon Guardians 2013

Ofri Cnaani Interview


Technology offers a way [to create] an augmented space, or to augment a different kind of knowledge onto the physical space as a form of excavation. It’s adding more layers, or a second skin, to the building, in order to dig deep into the layers of information that are not accessible to residents, and definitely not to the general audience that walks by. The videos themselves are not standalone videos, they are very poetic, almost more like a moving image or a moving picture than [a conventional video]. This is not a single-channel video and we don’t use editing as a tool at all—the editorial tool is the architecture, the surroundings in general. The [viewers] always have partial views, and their relation to the site provides some kind of editorial approach. In this way, the


editorial is always relational. The videos are very simple that way. In quite a few of my works that are related to new media and this kind of allknowing world that we exist in today, I am very interested in the idea of the occult, in the unknown. In a place, in a time in which we are hyper-connected, hyper-knowing, hyper-known, this idea of the occult, of the unknown, was very interesting for me. In that regard, Moon Guardians has a more simple approach, it’s more of a projection in a public space, less based on an exchange of information. What I did use in Moon Guardians (and I’ve used this approach once before, actually, in a similar piece done in Italy called Dreams and Dramas, which is how I met with More Art) was research that included many different components, including working with teenagers and mappings of different kinds. I was thinking about how we enter a site and how we map it—historically, geographically, based on what we see, based on conversations, on the exchange of different knowledges, the layered information of the site. We came up with ten questions [or prompts] and those are the ten questions I asked all the people in Moon Guardians, all long-time residents of the neighborhood. Based on the stories that came back, I picked one moment or one vignette, and the final image in the video was based on or inspired by this little moment. You’ve spoken of the notable brevity of the texts, Talmudic stories, myths, etc. that inspire much of your work. We’re curious about what you find fruitful in such moments of compression, and how they are treated visually. How does compact language or concise storytelling interact with your use of urban space and architecture? What I have learned is that always when you work with what I like to call classic texts—or with historical materials and archives—or specifically if you're invited to

a complex site, the experience is similar. I like to call the Meatpacking District the armpit of New York City—it’s really kind of smelly and dark and so dense. It attracted all kinds of communities of misfits—trans people, prostitutes, kids from public housing, artists, Harley Davidson dudes, some parts of the gay community, the butchers, and the highly controlled food market. It’s very, very dense, and if you go back to the archives, those are also very, very dense in what they can offer you. It’s very tempting to grasp between so many different stories. I always find myself, in the archives, basically picking up one box and then selecting a very, very simple image from it. Otherwise, you’re biting off more that you can chew, and it’s more the commentary-oriented approach, which I'm personally less interested in. If we think specifically about the Meatpacking District, I feel it's really telling the whole story of New York at an accelerated pace. It’s a very small area, a part of town that is difficult to negotiate. When you do public art, there’s dealing with bureaucracy and production and negotiation of different ownerships, and one of the first things you understand is how not so public public space actually is, and who owns what. The three-dimensional map of that is very interesting. My interest as someone who is both working in public space but also is sometimes taking a more pedagogical role—which I think is very important—is to make the space as three-dimensional as possible and to take care of this idea of layered space or accumulated knowledge and the multiplicity of data one space can hold. When I completed Moon Guardians, I had worked with young students and spoken with residents and walked around and done historical research and collected images: I had a lot of data… I started to think of my body as a moving container of data on this area—that’s part of my approach. We spoke about written texts that you need to open—a book, or a box


Ofri Cnaani Moon Guardians 192 2013



in an archive, or a piece in a collection in someone’s house—and one of the main movements is the movement of inside and out. It is taking something that is less accessible to the public for various reasons—perhaps inherent to the medium—and offering a personal reading. I often choose to work with projections that are embedded in the architecture. It’s a very traditional way of working—as in churches, where the art, the windows are part of the architecture—but what’s important to me is that it’s in this liminal space between private space and public space. There is no place to sit. Usually they are night pieces, when the other businesses, including the art institutions, are closed. There is also no record of who has seen it. You’ve further described space as a narrative device. What narratives are you trying to tell, spin, or perhaps subvert? If we think about the theatricality of everyday life, I often think about space and the movement of one’s own body as two components of pretty much everything I do. You, the viewer, take an active role of interpreter. If I took a classic Talmudic story that is so condensed, or a complex philosophical or theoretical text, what we do often is we unfold, right? But sometimes when it's very poetic, or a haiku, or a single, picture-like video, the act is often to reconnect. There might be a lot of space there that needs to be activated by our own movement or the connections we make. I would say nearly everything I do is always thinking about this movement inside and out and the space in your own body that somehow takes an active role in interpretation. I do want to take this opportunity to connect [this approach to space and interpretation] to a lot of the things that are on my mind today, because of the work I do with institutions. I think it’s interesting that I have a few performances that exist in two versions, the museum version and the city version, because the


approach I bring to each is largely that same. It’s the idea of using prompts or questions, and then the body and the personal interpretation that always exists. It’s less about the anecdotal story and more about how we dissect the data, the layers of the urban space and the cultural, collecting, institutional knowledge. It’s important for you to create new physical and psychological experiences within spaces that we assume we know. For areas undergoing changes wrought by gentrification — including the pricing-out of businesses and residents, diminished diversity, rejection of marginalized groups, and general sanitizing efforts — could this potential for invention, revelation, drama, poetry, and more become relevant to a certain type of preservation or stewardship? I definitely use the theatrical potential of the space and the invitation to narrate it through your own movement—again, the theater of everyday life is relevant. I use open but simple and abstract instructions as a way to first activate or surface different forms of knowledge that have been buried, to invite others to inquire or to be able to see. I often think about how to take spaces we assume we know and provide some kind of invitation—whether it’s a simple projection, again not with a very full, coherent agenda, with text and music and all the tools that are available to us, but usually of a suggestive sort, enigmatic in some way—to activate this movement of the space that was assumed to be known physically, psychologically, politically. We have a moment of alienation, of asking a question, and that by itself is a jump start for deeper inquiries. For a long time I’ve been less interested in the audience as the passive observer of things that I actively made— that’s never been my thing—but I think I previously hoped to create a very strong, impactful environment for you to become an active interpreter. More and more I


shift into “these are the conditions that are already here.” Since I work in museums and collections, these are often conditions that have been created based on cultural assumptions, that this is an art institution, and what I do—art, performance, whatever it is—is going to provide you with some other tools to be an interpreter, a producer of new knowledge, new connections, new understanding, and also to be a critic. They are tools for critical viewing in such a way that the infrastructure either of the city or of the institution can become somehow available to you.

I think that everything I do includes movement. The audience is invited to move around the space and often I produce moving images, so the element of movement is always one of the most important components. When I started to work with video back in art school, I loved that element of continuity of time. Now, I’ve started to think about architecture and other urban spaces as organisms. My playing with this idea of skins and other layers, that’s dealing with what’s inside.

Is there a balance to be struck between the history and the future of a place, the way in which a public space acts upon us and we act upon it? Time and its passage can both contract and expand through cinema and video—how does this apply to the urban spaces you work with or stories you tell? There is a very simple answer for that:

student workshop for Moon Guardians


Ofri Cnaani Moon Guardians 196 2013


An interview with Ivy Brown gallerist, long-time Meatpacking resident, and one of the five Moon Guardians featured

How did you get involved with Moon Guardians? I knew Ofri before the project. She would bring the students down here, I would talk to them about this area. I’ve been here since 1985, I’ve been here my entire adult life, really. When I moved in it was the Meatpacking District, it was all those things that people hear about—all the transvestites and the S&M bars, and a bunch of artists barbecuing on the street—it’s all true, we all lived like that. We were kind of all hiding in plain sight, except if you walked over one block, the city was kind of normal, and if you came one block west, it was no man’s land, there was blood everywhere, and carcasses, it was disgusting and it stunk to high heaven. There aren’t a lot of us around today who experienced that time, who are here to talk about it, so that was something that I offered [to Ofri] and did.

What it was like for you to be a part of Moon Guardians, a semi-historical, artistic, public project, something that touched those three nodes? One, it was really wild to walk past myself. I’m almost glad it was done in the dead of winter because if it was the summer a lot of people would stop. [You know], out walking the dogs, I would forget and then I’d be like, wait a minute, that's us! When you get involved in something like that—and not having been involved in anything like that before—you don’t really realize initially that you’re getting into something that’s going to be a lot bigger than you. It’s you and it’s not you. It’s outside of who you are and it takes on such a life of its own. It was a fascinating experience, [one] that I didn’t expect. I didn’t know what to expect. I can see why actors maybe don’t want to go see their movies, that that would maybe mess your head up and make it harder to do the next role or whatever. So I kinda get that. Because being a subject that is then out there in the public is a very kind of


out-of-body experience, or at least it was for me.

Did you hear any response from people you know who saw it or people in the neighborhood, about the project in general? I think people were just really taken with the whole thing. Because it was the kind of thing that you could miss, but then when you saw it you couldn’t possibly miss it, because it was so bigger-thanlife. It had these two elements that were going simultaneously. Some people aren’t looking up, people are just walking around looking at their goddarn phone. If we do this [looks down] all the time, we don’t know how much of life we’re missing. And we don’t know, because we’re not looking, that there’s a world right in front of us. So I would see some people absolutely not see it. I would stand out there with the dogs, and see people walk by, and have no idea that that's going on. And then I would see people just stop dead in their tracks and just stare at it in awe. It’s just fascinating to see how people interact—anyone who saw it stopped in their tracks.

One of the things that came up when talking with Ofri about the project was her desire to work with spaces that people think they know all about, but in reality they aren’t aware of the people within or the histories behind them. Even people ignoring it or not seeing it— —is part of it, too. That also used to happen in this neighborhood before. People used to walk by and I’m like, they've got no idea that downstairs there’s a 300-pound woman chained to the ceiling, being whipped by a cat o’ nine tails, and I’m not telling you! It used to be that nobody would be in this area that wouldn’t know, and then as the area started to shift... but it had this time of being a bit of both.

How did you, as a gallery owner and person in the arts, think it worked as a project, as an aesthetic gesture or as a public intervention? I thought it was phenomenal. [You know], to utilize that building, which is a gorgeous building and is sitting empty. It’s this beautiful, haunted brownstone that I don’t think people even notice. It’s hiding in plain sight. It’s kind of stuck in between buildings, it’s got vines all over it, you assume that it’s somebody’s home, it’s in the West Village, it’s a beautiful brownstone, why wouldn’t there be somebody there? It’s got this, I don’t want to say sad quality, but because it’s empty and it spent years being empty,


+ it’s a little heartbreaking. Because I think of these old buildings almost as beings, they’ve been here. This building has been here since the 1880s, part of this one was built in the 1840s, it was used as a Civil War hospital, it’s got so much history that nobody knows about, and so many buildings in this area do. Down at the end of Gansevoort street is where they brought the Titanic and all the survivors from the Titanic came in to that port and that was a building where they all went to when they got off all the lifeboats. All these places were rooming houses and that history is just lost. To see it kind of have life again, and have meaning, and to bring something back to it—to give something back out simultaneously—was just gorgeous.

It's incredible to think about all the people passing through. Moon Guardians was a peek into what this neighborhood used to look like and the people that used to live and work here. It was like peering into the past and the people I used to see all the time who are now all but gone. I think that the spirits of that building must have been so happy. It’s like, “Yay, we have company! People love us!”

That’s a lovely way to think about it. Did Moon Guardians affect your relationship to the neighborhood or your thinking about the time you've spent here and the changes you’ve seen? I always think about my neighborhood, and the history of my neighborhood, and holding onto what we can and the importance of history and the people that make it up. They’re redoing the cobblestone paving of the streets now, you know. We’re very aware and sensitive to the things that change and how you, in New York, you gotta be fluid, ‘cause otherwise it’s gonna break you. This is not an old European village that’s gonna stay the same for 600 years, it’s just not gonna happen, and if that’s what you want you shouldn’t be here, because it’s gonna hurt. And it does hurt. You know. Even knowing that, being okay with that, embracing that, it really hurts. So all of these things that bring awareness of the neighborhood in a form that acknowledges and embraces its past, are so important, because you want people to want to know. I think it’s important to be aware of your environment and to be able to appreciate it and acknowledge and embrace it. And then to take it and do something like that, where you’re bringing something so modern and fresh simultaneously with its history and embracing everything about where it is, is just a phenomenal thing.


We’ve spoken a lot about the buildings and maybe a more distant past, but less about the people you’ve seen come and go, people that were in your communities. I have seen most of my neighbors in the Meatpacking District move or be removed from their homes. Landlords worked very hard to get the long-term tenants out of the buildings so they could raise the rents. There used to be many artists and S&M bars and gay bars and meatpackers in the neighborhood and our building, as I mentioned, we were all kind of hiding in plain sight over here. We all knew each other. It has made the neighborhood less of a neighborhood and more transient, with hotels and businesses. For a while it became a big nightlife destination, but many of the bars lost their leases or could not afford to renew them due to rent increases. We are in the midst of the next transition.

Ofri (lovingly!) called the Meatpacking District the armpit of NYC—it’s compact, tucked in there—and there’s a thought that the sanitized, expensive image of the neighborhood today is reflective or representative of greater shifts in NYC as a whole. Does this ring true for you? We were a stinky armpit! Between the pools of blood, the transvestites, and the population that frequented the establishments, it was a very colorful place. Now everyone looks very much the same, well-dressed and coiffed, going to restaurants, the Whitney (which I like a lot), the High Line, or Chelsea Market. We have a huge amount of tourists or locals bringing tourists into the neighborhood. This is the case all over not only this city but most major cities around the world. There’s just not enough room for everyone to live affordably, so people get pushed further and further away. If we weren’t grandfathered tenants we would be long gone. There have been many occasions when I thought we would be forced out and looked into where we would go. It’s not easy for anyone. I try very hard to take what works and leave the rest at the door and appreciate the wonderful space we live and work in; it’s a unique place to be, the middle of the road. But with that comes all the things you get from living in the middle of the road, physically and physiologically. I continue to appreciate it and love it and try not to let all the gentrification get me down (too much). It can be a challenge, but one I feel is worth fighting for.



Ofri Cnaani Moon guardians 2013


Andres Serrano

Residents of New York 2014



Over several months, Andres Serrano engaged with eighty-five homeless individuals in New York City, inviting them to share their stories. He then photographed them in the area between Union Square and Washington Square Park, where most of them live, producing a series of large-scale portraits. The final images were installed in locations around Washington Square; of the nearly one hundred portraits taken, thirty-five were included in the final display. They took over the entire West 4th Street subway station, eliminating all corporate advertisements, and were displayed in LaGuardia Place, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation and Judson Memorial Church. Posters were also installed in public phone booths and kiosks across the city. The portraits and their presentation in shared public spaces aimed to takea poverty out of the realm of abstraction, beyond statistics, presenting it in its candid and human dimension. Serrano, a native New Yorker, began photographing homeless individuals in his hometown almost thirty years ago, in 1990, for a series of studio-style portraits titled Nomads. In Residents of New York, he removes his signature studio elements, focusing instead on personal connection and direct interaction on the streets of New York City. The project is dedicated to all of those who took part, and in particular to Ryan “Red” McMahon, who passed away at age 28, only a couple of weeks after being photographed. In conjunction with Residents of New York, More Art launched its residency program Engaging Artists, designed to encourage young artists to deepen their understanding of socially engaged art through volunteer opportunities and interactive workshops with professionals in the fields of fine art, social services, and activism. The 2014 theme was Homelessness and Poverty in NYC. During the six-week program, participants were required to volunteer at least a half a day per week at a local charitable organization; the fourteen Engaging Artists served over 1,000 homeless residents working in partnership with social-service organizations, including the Artist Volunteer Center, Common Ground, The Bowery Mission, The Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services Corporation, Art Start, Sylvia’s Place, Art in the Woods, and NY Cares. Weekly workshops and panel discussions on the subject of homeless advocacy and the arts, held at Judson Memorial Church for artists as well as members of the public, further contextualized and supplemented the artists’ experiences and burgeoning practices.


Andres Serrano Residents of New York 2014

Andres Serrano Interview

For your first public art project, how did you reconsider the role of the audience? I myself am the audience, and what I wanted to see on those walls were portraits of homeless people in the place of those ads that are trying to sell you something. I wanted to pay homage to the homeless and acknowledge them as residents of the city. That’s why I called them “Residents of New York.” These are the people you encounter on the street; you see them so often you stop looking. I wanted to show them up close. There was a long list of names accompanying the installation and someone asked me, “Are those the names of the sponsors?” and I replied, “No, those are the names of the homeless.” Who or what might this work confront? Is drawing attention to people and issues that are usually ignored a form of advocacy or activism, and do you see this as part of an artist’s job?



Confront is a strong word—if I were to use it, it would be in the sense that art “confronts” its audience. Drawing attention to people and issues is a form of advocacy, activism, and art. Artists are not one distinct species and can only decide for themselves what their roles are. What type of reaction—from the audience who encountered the photographs and perhaps the public at large—were you hoping to provoke with Residents of New York? Was there an intention to prompt more direct action in response as well? My job is to show you what I see. It’s up to you to do what you want with it. I’m not a “crusader” in the normal sense. I’m not fighting for any cause except my own, as a crusader of art. The best reaction I could get was for people to look. Most people who pass through those narrow corridors of the West 4th subway station are not looking at the posters on the wall. They’re trying to get to their destination. They see them but they ignore them, like they ignore the homeless. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about the homeless, it just means they’re going about their business. We’re curious about the relationship between public and private space in the series. The photographs were taken on the city streets that are people’s homes, and displayed in very shared, public areas. There is a level of intimacy conveyed in the final images—was that important to you? Much of my work has been made in the studio; in the case of the Residents, we treated the streets like a studio. It’s their home and my studio and we pretty much ignored whatever was going on around us. It was our space. Once in a while someone would come along and try to take a picture of me taking a picture, and the homeless


would say, “Hey, don’t do that.” In other words, “We’re working here and you can’t come in for a free ride.” This question of intimacy, about the public versus the private space, is blurred regarding the homeless, since they are always on view in their space. What I tried to convey with these pictures is the sense that these are the same people you see on the street, looking like they look in their environment. Sometimes they look at you, but they often ignore you, unless you choose to engage with them. Some people I even photographed completely covered up in sleeping bags. But they know I’m taking their picture and I know they know because I know their names. What was interesting was to exit the station and go upstairs and see people at the entrance like the ones in the pictures. Can you talk about making visible that which is often generalized or left unseen and invisible? It seems like this happens in much of your work. The position of outsider is one you often identify with and are drawn to. It’s true, I see myself as an outsider. I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere other than in my own universe. I prefer to have one foot in and one foot out. I think you see things better when you’re on the outside looking in. When I went to the morgue I was asked, “Have you ever seen dead people before?” “Not really,” I answered. The Klan asked me the same thing, “Do you know much about the Klan?”1 As Groucho Marx once said when asked where he practiced medicine, “I don’t need to practice it,” he said, “I know it!”

Regarding Serrano’s previous series, The Klan, 1990, and The Morgue, 1992.


Andres Serrano Residents 206of New York 2014



Residents of New York Arlester | Jason Arnold | William Arnold Jr. Peter Bird | Kevin Blake | Jason Brown | Michael Byrne | Chris Cahill | Jennifer Cahill Anthony Carvana | Thomao Christopher |William Dagnino | Karen Davies | Dale Davis | Ed | Daniel Edwardo | Ben Edwards | Rachel Edwards Jack Emcke | Alfonso Fernandez | Michael Foti Peyson Gonzalez | Alberto Guerra | Donald Green Stephanie Green | Jayson Harrison | Timothy Hicks | Robert Holley | Paul J. Hoffman | Jonathan | Nathaniel Johnson | Sean Kelly | Hirram Latorre | John M. Lawery | David Bryan Lawrence | Jonathan Lee | Ilya Leon J.T. Linhoff | Vaughn Little | Edgardo Lopez | Sheldon Lublin | Dean Mack | Morgan Maginnis | Thomas Malinowsky | Vlad Marco | Mario | Alex Mastroianni | Misty McCall | Shelby Cornetta McMahon | Ryan McMahon | Meh’yow Wolf-Man | Joseph Miller | Davie Monster | Diana Morato Bryan Murphey | Isaac Nelson | Chris Newton Nicole (Nix) | Richard L. Nichols | Harvey E. Nicholson | Kathlean O’Sullivan | Charise M.Paschall | Michael Pilgrim | Maria Quito | Diego A. Ramos | William Reavis | Richard James Rhodes | Ronnie | Paul Santo | William Schrader Shennenoah | Sleeze | D. Smith | Dustin Smith John W. Smith | Joshua Evan Smith | Millburn Steve-O and “Genocyde” | Walt Sobolewski | Thomas | Bernice Thomas | Bernie Thomas | Richard C. Williams | Chris Witherspoon | Tara Wolfgang | Leeza Yourman 208


Andres Serrano Residents of209 New york 2014

Andres Serrano Residents 210of New York 2014



More Art produced a documentary short, “Residents of New York,” that followed the production of the project. Along with Serrano, More Art staff member Adam Zucker spoke with a number of the participants, including Mike and Egypt (Charise), and Shelby and Red McMahon, excerpted below. Egypt: Hi, my name is Egypt, I’m from Newark, New Jersey, and I’m out here and I’m struggling. [chuckles]

Mike: Hi, I’m Michael Pilgrim, I’m from Manhattan. Shelby: We would sleep on 13th Street, either between Broadway and 4th or between 4th and 3rd [Avenues], depending on the weather or just where we decided to go that night.

Mike: People got their own usual little spots, their little areas that they go to, you know, every day. Egypt: Some people borrow other people's spots and when that other

person comes back they respect it and they move. . . There was this nice couple that bought us sleeping bags, that came in very handy.


+ Shelby: Sometimes it would be three or four of us huddled in the blankets, just for the body heat. // Adam Zucker: The very first day I went out with Andres to

photograph and speak to some of the residents of New, York we came across Ryan Red McMahon and Shelby, his wife, sitting in front of the Whole Foods in Union Square. We talked about public art and it was something that they were excited about–one of the things they loved about New York City was the art that was out there. //

Tom [Ryan Red McMahon’s father]: Ryan liked to paint a lot. He was a really good artist. For a young kid he was always painting, we couldn't believe it. He was always sensitive to violence—I think he just was very shocked at the violence that existed so he just would draw these crazy pictures. And this is evidence of just one of many many many he drew. I’m Ryan’s father and I just wanted to go through some of his pictures. Some of his pictures I thought might bring some kind of closure or something to this. He would call me, you know, when things got bad. He would call me and I’d send him some money. I just was reluctant, you know, because I knew he had a tendency to use the money incorrectly and stuff and not for his art. It became a very difficult situation where I couldn't help him as much as I wanted to. And then he shouldn’t have—he stayed in New York too long this last time. He got really sick and he waited too long to come back down here and I didn't know how sick he was when he got here. The doctor said he was extremely sick, he had jaundice almost throughout his whole body. His liver was gone already from so much drinking. And he died, suddenly died, from an overdose of heroin, but it was really also from the liver, his liver was just so bad. He always seemed pleasantly happy, despite the hardship he was living.


Andres Serrano Residents 214of New York 2014



Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida




For MONTH2MONTH, Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida organized an interdisciplinary program of events around issues of gentrification, social mobility, inequality, displacement, and the often invisible service economies by orchestrating a series of housing residencies. Through a lottery initiated in winter of 2016, the public was invited to participate in curated shortterm stays in “luxury” and “affordable” apartments in New York City, donated by friends of the artists or rented for this occasion. Guests were provided with meals and cultural itineraries, and worked with the artists and More Art to document their experience with housing. A condition of their temporary residence was presiding as hosts over two gatherings over the course of the stay, thematic happenings that examined the art world’s and artists’ uncomfortable relationship to real-estate development and neighborhood change. The events, held four nights a week for the month of May (two in the luxury and two in the affordable apartments) and open to a limited audience (while live-streamed for free), were designed to turn the subject of private housing itself into a social space and to address the wide variety of social contexts involved in New York City housing issues. Attended by strangers and often initially awkward or uncomfortable, events ranged from serious—“(Dis)placed in NYC: An Interactive Experience” with artist-activist Betty Yu—to satirical—“Bubbles and Bubbles,” a night of champagne tasting and discussion of New York’s financial bubble with finance writer Felix Salmon. Other sessions consisted of a Gentrifiers Anonymous support group, improvisational sitcoms, karaoke, a dinner with doormen and another with real-estate developers, the “$50 Stock Club” with artist-writer Sharon Butler, and more performative events. The series ended with Rant Night. There was additionally an open call for participants to propose events during the project. Approached through a different lens every time, each event provided a platform for discussions around how class, wealth, and conditions of relative stability and precarity determine who can afford to live in which parts of New York City, making private housing the site of public art. The project ultimately asked how class aspiration and income inequality shape the concept of affordability, especially as recent “affordable housing” plans have become tied to luxury development. MONTH2MONTH ’s temporary residents and hosts included Sergio Bromberg, Andrew Browne and Melisa Garber, Yan Cynthia Chen, Marcus Civin, Healani Combier-Kapel, Jackie Du, Terri and Fred Hodara, and Paolo Mele.


Jennifer Dalton & William Powhida MONTH2MONTH 2016

Jennifer Dalton & William Powhida Interview


Your collaborative work has often involved group-discussion–based gatherings, wherein the topics and questions addressed are very aligned with your individual work and other projects. MONTH2MONTH was called “public art in private spaces.” What makes it public art, in distinction to what happens in your individual practices or other designations (e.g., social practice)? MONTH2MONTH was a public art project in that it was open to the public free of charge in a non-commercial context. There were no objects for sale and the exhibition was oriented to the general public and those interested in housing equity rather than primarily to collectors or the art community. When art is removed from the possibility of sale and commerce, it can be about sharing rather than transaction or trading. It can make it harder for (non-purchasing) viewers to be passive, creating a situation where everyone is engaged in roles that are not


socially proscribed, such as seller/buyer or client/provider. We think of social practice as a medium that can take place in either private or public contexts. So our project has a component of social practice and is also public art. Can you talk about the meaning of access in a project like this? What role does the idea of access, in format and content, play in public art, to your mind, and how did MONTH2MONTH respond to such a stance? The idea of access was crucial to our development of this project. We wanted to invite a wide variety of regular people into private spaces that would ordinarily be inaccessible to the public. We not only invited the public into these normally private apartments, but we hosted them there, providing food, drinks, events, and even temporary housing. Because our events were held in private apartments, which were often quite small, we unfortunately had to limit the number of people who could participate in any one event. Most of our events were open to twenty to forty people and were always free of charge. This limitation echoes the condition of scarcity in housing itself. One way that MONTH2MONTH functioned differently than many instances of public art is that we could not reach members of the public who did not intend to participate. Because we were not located outdoors, or in a space people visited for other purposes, we had to rely on public outreach to entice potential visitors to apply for residency in one of the apartments or to attend an event. Your work overtly involves and critiques issues that are both systemic and political in their scope, like art markets and institutions, and are very much a part of your day-to-day life (and that of other artists and New Yorkers), like paying rent. They are topics that can be thorny to talk about, or provoke a queasiness, as you’ve said before, and provide even less tidy solutions. Is there any relationship between

resolution and paradox in your work? Our projects are much more about paradox than resolution. We believe art is generally not well suited for resolutions and is better at opening lines of discussion and inquiry. Art can be about defunctionalizing objects and spaces as well, as MONTH2MONTH did by displacing the original residents from their apartments to make way for the guests and ev ents of our project. One of the particular paradoxes of MONTH2MONTH is that our project was critical of the role Airbnb has played in rising rents and housing shortages in New York and this was often a point of discussion within MONTH2MONTH events, even as some of these events took place in private apartments rented on Airbnb. Discussions about privilege and inequity are bound to provoke queasiness and we sometimes think of discomfort as one artistic medium that we work with. Taking people out of their (and our) comfort zones can provoke novel ways of thinking and new approaches to problems. The diverse participants and collaborators of MONTH2MONTH gathered within informal domestic settings and were served food and drink mimicking more intimate gatherings normally attended by close friends and communities. In this way we strove to spark more productive discussions and points of connection than are usually achieved in more formal and hierarchical panel discussions. We’re interested in what kind of space was created within those sites—the apartments that participants gathered in. Going forward, are these performances and illuminations to experience or models to follow? We have long been frustrated with the hierarchical, stilted, non-conversational format of panel discussions. To the extent that MONTH2MONTH provided alternative formats for productive discourse, we would like to think that that aspect of the


project could be one of perhaps many other potential alternative models for public discussions. We have observed that food and drink help keep difficult topics from veering into antagonism. Throughout MONTH2MONTH, we, our participants, and our visitors were all guests in a home and were treated as such. Within MONTH2MONTH, each event temporarily defined the social space of its host apartment. Some events were activist, some were dialogic, some were dinner parties, some were performances, some were encounter groups, some were support groups, some had a pedagogical/educational structure. But all were awkward. Some events were one-offs conceived by our collaborators in response to our particular theme and project; some events, such as Aisha Cousins’ “Civilized People’s Potluck,” were part of artistic or activist projects that predated MONTH2MONTH; and others, such as Brooklyn Hi-Art Collective’s “Gentrifiers Anonymous,” have continued on in other forms and contexts. In examining and often dramatizing the relationship between artists, real estate, and communities, how did MONTH2MONTH redefine or reconceptualize the position of stakeholder and who holds it? Is this a task for art more generally? Rather than redefine the position of stakeholder, MONTH2MONTH sought to enlarge the community of people who see themselves as active stakeholders, and to increase the perception of agency and responsibility among visitors and community members. One of our strategies was to place people with very different roles within capitalism in intimate communal conversation. Our “Dinner with Developers and Real Estate Professionals” placed those in positions of power together with members of the general public in a small Bushwick apartment for an awkward conversation about whose responsibility it is to work


toward more affordable housing. “Is Private Property OK” seated property owners on one side of the dinner table and renters on the other, forcing each to recognize their different roles and privileges in our capitalist system. “A Dinner with Doormen” allowed those who monitor access to elite apartments to speak about their role as boundarykeepers between public and private, and encouraged other visitors to examine their assumptions about the lives of people whose job is defined by personal discretion. We see the task of art as prying minds open, opening lines of inquiry, changing perceptions, challenging dominant positions, and sometimes throwing sand in the gears of a system that needs to be disrupted in order to be seen more clearly.




Saturday, May 7: Housewarming Party

A celebration of MONTH2MONTH, and the opportunity to welcome the first residents to their temporary home. No need to bring a gift.

Sunday, May 8: (Dis)placed in NYC: An Interactive Experience

Together with housing-rights actors of change, artist and activist Betty Yu leads an interactive event where participants imagine a more equitable city, shifting the narrative from individual guilt and blame to systemic housing problems based on real-estate speculation and profit.

Monday, May 9: Of Bubbles and Bubbles

Writer Felix Salmon hosts an evening of champagne and discussion of the economics of the New York housing market at MONTH2MONTH’s ”luxury” apartment in Gramercy Park.

Tuesday, May 10: $50 Stock Club

Artist Sharon Butler invites anyone with $50 to invest in a cooperative Stock Club for the 99%. Members will share information and expertise to select stocks in which to invest their pooled funds; one year later—or upon majority vote—the portfolio will be liquidated and collective gains or losses realized. The public is invited to come learn a little more about the art of investing on a budget.

Saturday, May 14: Gentrifiers Anonymous

Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine (Oasa DuVerney and Mildred Beltre) asks visitors to publicly confess their own sins of gentrification, large or small, in order to explore their complacency and complicity in the citywide struggle for “affordable” housing and the wholesale displacement of low-income New Yorkers.

Sunday, May 15: Is Private Property OK? A Discussion

Does the earth belong to everyone, or only people with significant amounts of money? Is housing a right or a privilege? The idea of corporations or rich people carving up sections of the moon seems outrageous. Why then have we accepted it on our home planet?


+ Co-organizers William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton host an opening discussion about the way private-property laws fundamentally structure our society.

Monday, May 16: A Dinner with Housing Policy Experts

Members of the public join experts on public housing policy in New York City for a community dinner in a luxury apartment and a lively, open-ended conversation, intended to bypass some of the usual political posturing of panel discussions or the contentiousness of community board meetings. The themed dinner service reflects back on the ways dining and culinary traditions reflect and shape ideas of public and private service. Special dinner guests include Neil deMause from the Village Voice, Adeola Enigbokan, artist and housing activist, and Heidi Schmidt, director of Government Relation, Dept. Homeless Services.

Tuesday, May 17: A Dinner with Developers and Real Estate Professionals

Is displacement inevitable, or is it possible to work together to achieve sustainable and stable communities and include more stakeholders in ownership and property decisions? Special dinner guests include Asher Edelman from Artemus, an art-leasing company, and Edelman Arts, Stefani Pace from Space in the City, and Arun Sundararajan, professor at NYU and a New York resident with decades of experience working in banking, finance, and real-estate development.

Saturday, May 21: The Rent is Too Damn High So We Took Away Its Weed

A night of experimental improvisational comedy featuring Ana Fabrega, Lorelei Ramirez, Sean J. Patrick Carney, and Amy Zimmer, skewering New York’s rental market and housing lottery and everyone from well-meaning supers to itinerant hipsters to Donald Trump.

Sunday, May 22: This Should Not Be Considered Financial Advice

Writers Shane Ferro and Jillian Steinhauer offer free, informal financial advisory services; while neither may be entirely qualified to give such advice, both have been living successfully in New York City for nearly a decade—a sure sign of something. Participants should come prepared to be honest in confronting the details of how much they make, how much they spend, and how to be your best financial self.

Monday, May 23: A Dinner With Doormen

New York City doormen Ariel Acevedo, Hector Herrera, and Toavorus


(Clyde) Freeman join guests for a catered dinner to share their stories about mediating the public and private and to discuss privilege, labor, and access from their unique perspective on the ground floor.

Tuesday, May 24: Where Are They Now?

Artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed leads a discussion group exploring where displaced people go when they are priced out of a neighborhood, what options they may have, and why their post-eviction trajectory is rarely included in discussions of displacement.

Saturday, May 28: Informed Consent Dual Agency Karaoke

Artist Seung-Min Lee hosts an open-house workshop for real-estate agents and their aspiring clients that culminates in a karaoke consciousness-raising party.

Sunday, May 29: Civilized People with Aisha Cousins

Guests are asked to explore the subjective nature of the concept of “civilization” by turning in their forks and (dinner) knives in exchange for cookbooks featuring non-violent eating methods like chopsticks, injera, and fufu. Participants are encouraged to create dinner parties where neighbors discuss how the definition of “civilized” varies from culture to culture, as well as to consider this question: “Is it civilized to ask residents of a community you're moving into to change because they do things differently from you?”

Monday, May 30: Who Stole the House? with The Center for NYC Neighborhoods

A murder-mystery event where the crime centers around the theft of a Brooklyn home by a faceless LLC, using real-life examples from the work of The Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a non-profit that protects and promotes affordable homeownership in the five boroughs. “Who Stole The House?” will engage the audience around the epidemic of homeowner scams by LLCs that target vulnerable residents, and are often centered in hot real-estate markets, like Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and East New York.

Tuesday, May 31: Rant Night

Guests are given five minutes to vent, rage, pontificate, and air their grievances about housing and inequality in New York City, closing out MONTH2MONTH with a cathartic evening of public speaking.



AFFORDABLE APARTMENT A flourishing artist community, which has existed in Bushwick for decades, now is a main demographic of Bushwick; dozens of art studios and galleries are scattered throughout the neighborhood. There are several open studios programs that help the public visit artist studios and galleries[and a number of websites to promoting neighborhood art and events. Bushwick artists display their works in galleries and private spaces throughout the neighborhood. The borough's first and only trailer park, a 20-person art collective established by founder, Hayden Cummings and ZenoRadio's Baruch Herzfeld for creatives to reside and work was established within a former nut roasting factory.

The Space

The Neighborhood

Spacious studio in a wonderful building located in a wonderful neighborhood. The studio has lots and lots of open space. There is a full-sized bed, as well as a fullsized pull-out couch.

The neighborhood is great. We're right along the border of Bushwick and Bedstuy, which are definitely the 'trendiest' areas in Brooklyn right now. We're very close to Manhattan and only a few train stops away from all the really cool bars, lounges, clubs and restaurants.

855 Madison St Primary address 855 Madison St Zip code 11221 Borough Brooklyn Block & lot 01481-0049 Lot dimensions 20 ft x 100 ft Lot sq. ft. 2,000 Buildings on lot 1 Building class Three Families District code R6B Neighborhood name Ocean Hill School district number 16 Residential units 2 Commercial units 1 Closest police station 0.76 Miles Closest fire station 0.35 Miles Current value Current tax bill Neighborhood Median Income AMI (Individual)

$582,000 $6,031.63 $36,406 $60,500



LUXURY APARTMENT 436 West 23rd St, 1A and A Primary address 436 W 23rd Zip code 10011 Borough Manhattan Block & lot 00720-0065 Lot dimensions 24.83 ft x 98.75 ft Lot sq. ft. 2,452 Buildings on lot 1 Building class Walk-up Cooperative Building (XC6) District code R7B Neighborhood name Chelsea School district number 2 Residential units 5 Closest police station 0.35 Miles Closest fire station 0.50 Miles Current value Current tax bill Neighborhood Median Income AMI (Individual)

LGBT civil rights and the birth of the downtown New York gallery scene top the list of Chelsea's claims to fame. While rental and housing prices are among the most competitive in the city (Chelsea residences aren't known for their size), they're mere steps from some of the best-appointed shops, bars, and restaurant patios in the city. From sunny weather mainstays like Boxers sports bar to the waterside... entertainment options at Chelsea Piers multiplex, no other neighborhood rings truer to the tongue-in-cheek New York sentiment to treat the city like your living room.

Hosts William Powhida Jennifer Dalton


$3,282,000 $72,782.51 $98,192 $60,500


AFFORDABLE APARTMENT 256 East 10th Street, Apt. 4d

The East Village "But stroll a few yards up the sidewalk, peek around the edge of the building, and the scruffiness gives way to a gleaming new exterior. Its sleekness betrays no hint of the gentrifying neighborhood’s tatty, crimeridden past or the creative experiments that have gone on there since 1980, when PS122 opened at the corner of East Ninth Street. What began as a squat in an old public school building would become a stage for people like Spalding Gray and Meredith Monk, for Eric Bogosian and the preglobal Blue Man Group.

The challenge is to talk about the artistic exploration that has happened there, but “in a way that is not just about nostalgia.” He would like to see PS122 remain the “hub of an innovative, generative culture,” even if East Village rents mean fewer of its artists live around the corner. “That ethos doesn’t have to die just because the neighborhood’s changed,” he said. “Because that’s the thing that made it interesting, and will make it interesting in the future.” -The New York Times

Primary Address East 10th Street Zip code Borough Block & lot Lot Square ft. Lot Dimensions


Building class Tenament (C4) District code Neighborhood name School district # Residential units

Old Law

Current value Projected value Current tax bill Annual Income Annual Expenses Neighborhood Median Income AMI* (Individual) *for NYC region

$5,329,000 $5,535,000 $268,913.30 $899,515 $311,205

10009 Manhattan 00437-001 4,060 44ft x 92.5 ft

R8B East Village 1 36

$61,466 $60,500

Hosts William Powhida Jennifer Dalton


Where We Are Going Next, Together Micaela Martegani and Jeff Kasper

For fifteen years, More Art has fostered the power of art to bring neighbors together, first in our Chelsea home, then New York City-wide, and now across municipal and even national borders. D ​ uring that time, we have shaped opportunities for more than fifty mid-career and established artists​to realize largescale, socially engaged public art commissions, and have equipped an equal number of emerging artists and community leaders with the tools and resources to do so tomorrow. As we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century, the field of socially engaged art and social practice is expanding, becoming more popular, and dare we say, fashionable. More and more organizations, small and large, are beginning to embrace the elements that are uniquely central and specific to More Art’s work: community involvement, site-specificity, accessibility, interdisciplinary partnership, and public collaboration. For the next fifteen years and beyond, we will continue to delve deeper and push further, expanding the field and raising the level of artistic rigor, equity, and accountability achievable by socially engaged public art. As we build towards the future, we continue to ask ourselves: what types of support do artists need to create 228


impactful work? We favor depth of engagement as a metric in determining how we contribute to social change. While our peers at neighboring nonprofit organizations, universities, and museums focus on the important work of teaching emerging social practitioners and youth, fostering the placemaking of key urban neighborhoods, promoting community development through the arts and cultural policy, offering philanthropic support, and providing documentary storytelling and short-term public programming, More Art remains one of the few organizations that works directly with artists and the public to directly incubate a large breadth of visionary works of art. More Art-supported projects take on a range of forms, including those rooted in place or geographically bound borders, and others that experiment with new approaches to public interaction writ large. Many live on beyond our initial support, morphing into lifelong practices, campaigns, models, and reenacted durational works. But our key motivation persists: to provide strategic support to ambitious, socially engaged art that may not happen otherwise. We believe the opportunity to achieve the scale, scope, and success that is possible when artists and cultural producers work collectively and flexibly in teams and in boundary-crossing partnerships with experts outside the arts is all too rare. That is the style of art support we practice; that is the level of support we envision for the field at large. A significant portion of the last fifteen years has been spent articulating the way we work. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to craft this book as a point of reflection, to articulate what it is that has held our complex and ever-changing identity together through many diverse projects with hundreds of people, in wildly different contexts, as the chapters in this book illustrate, and to explore highly sensitive topics. The following reads more like a set of principles and processes that guide our work. Think of it as a manifesto if you will, a blueprint if you must, but definitely consider how it applies to your own work as a public steward, ally, student, social practitioner, or active citizen. We hope it will inspire you to take up the charge in co-creating works of art with people in the communities you are a part of, to shape the world you want to live in tomorrow.


What distinguishes our methodology is our long-term commitment to a ​ rtists,​community partners, and contemporary i​ ssues​, and the fact that we give considerable weight to all three of these components of our public art projects. There are two areas in particular that we find to be crucial in doing this type of work: partnership building and articulating an ethics of public engagement.

Partnership Building Socially engaged art should catalyze the power of valuealigned social justice organizations, groups, and individuals, and when applicable, add to the reach of grassroots and popular movements by drawing on the power of public art. Partnerships must be synergetic and reciprocally beneficial to all involved.

Ethics of Public Engagement Stewards of public engagement should employ humility as a deep listening device, honoring the insight of the communities and individuals they identify and work with. Public art projects are living organisms, which will only thrive when all parts are accounted for and healthy. A healthy and equitable project is a project in which the artist, the communities, the issues (or content), and the place (or site) are all fully integrated. Works should not live only as broad and abstract or intangible concepts, but prioritize the real experiences of people, underscoring the very human dimension of making and experiencing works of art. What comes next are our suggestions for the development of socially engaged public art projects. We believe interdisciplinary arts organizations should invest significant resources, time, and organizational capacity, at every phase of project building, over long periods of development, to work in a community in deep, thoughtful ways. We don’t encourage that projects engage in timeframes of less than two to three years. Sometimes our work takes nearly four years of finetuning before being presented to the general public. This is in obvious tension with the all-too-common three-month to one-year standard of commissioning opportunities, residencies, and grant support found in the American visual arts landscape today. Of course, a commissioning organization cannot work on a 230


project forever; that is never our intent or goal. But we do believe that new, socially engaged works require adequate time to evolve. We aim to provide a missing infrastructure of support during those early stages. This is a call to action to supporters and creators of this kind of work, a plea to slow down and focus on the details when aiming for meaningful collaborative impact, to hold the value of crafting cultures of cooperation as a goal in and of itself.1

We propose the following sequence of planning and production: + Project Incubation and Research (including the use of archival materials, literature on the subject, interviews, site-based studies, and so on.)

+ Action-based research,or gaining insights through education, community exchange, and public engagement + Co-production of public art led by artists and publics + Contextualization through public programs + Circulation of art and ideas through multiform media and documentation + Evaluation through applicable data collection and analysis


During the early phase of project incubation and research, artists and non-arts stakeholders learn by embedding themselves deeply in the discourses and sites of any given topic affecting public life, while experimenting with and formulating strategies around how art is best suited to intervene in public debate. Action-based research takes place in spaces of learning, be they schools, laboratories, studios, or the street. A given social topic or situation (for example, the negative perception of asylum seekers and the rise of nationalistic attitudes in the United States) is investigated by participants through the use of artistic experimentation in various media. Communities should be considered cultural producers and artists in their own right and thus should be met in the frontlines of issue ecologies—the complex interconnected factors that make up a social conflict or situation—and brought to the table to shape the project. People from all backgrounds should be encouraged to see themselves as producers of culture through the co-production of public art, by collaborating with self-identified artists to synthesize information through participatory artmaking. Artists take a leadership position in this process, and More Art operates as curator, facilitator, strategist, and/or producer, working as a connector between all project stakeholders. The process of coproduction should involve staging a “final” work in an appropriate, context-specific public space, as an art experience, object, performance, learning tool, or informative artifact, to be circulated to those who need it most in order to engage in the conversation. We strive to demystify art and the process of collective artmaking through contextualization, by developing supporting public programs. Together with the artists, stakeholders, and external partners, we consider the learning moments in the project and determine what deserves elaboration (for example, we might bring lawyers and policymakers into a conversation with artists, to speak about different perspectives on contemporary immigration). During the phase of circulation and documentation, we ask: what is the best way for people to learn about the artwork when they were not involved in its creation or initial presentation? We document each project through photography and video, use storytelling on social media and the Internet, 232


and work with outside journalists and press outlets in order to reach a larger public consciousness and a larger audience. Creating projects of a social or community engaged nature always requires producers, artists, partners, and audiences to articulate information about and provide evaluation of what makes the work successful or impactful. Impact must be based on the objectives the project sets out to accomplish and how art relates to that imperative. A project that sets out to involve new individuals in political organizing, for example, may have a quantitative goal, otherwise known as “exposure”; whereas a project that seeks to get a specific group to express their perspective on an issue may be deemed a success when a smaller, targeted number of individuals are able to contribute their ideas on a public stage, otherwise known as “depth.” We find quantification to be important only in certain cases (even though it is the de facto form of evaluation by philanthropic funders and corporate investors), while the qualitative approach generally leads to a deeper understanding of how art matters to the people who create and experience it. We gather data and evaluative materials as varied as testimonials, exit interviews, and surveys. ​As the field of social practice ages, evaluation remains an emergent area of concern. What holds this all together is what we call a theory of change. This is where we find clarity in what we do and why we do it. You can think of it as our politics, or how we think progressive, inclusive change can happen, and where we are situated in the ecology of change. A theory of change defines long-term goals, then maps backward to identify necessary preconditions. It is a starting place to understand the relationship between the social problem an art experience addresses, the change it seeks to promote, and the strategies used to achieve the desired results.


This is our theory of change:2

Creative Engagement

Change Action

Awareness In our work awareness of a social issue should only ever be an initial goal. What we recognize as the role of public art in progressive change is what we call Creative Engagement​ , which gets people to feel, not just think about, the topics that affect their lives (and their neighbors’ lives).This can include actionable storytelling and consciousness building through interdisciplinary partnerships and multi-sensory, participatory art experiences in public spaces. Ultimately we are interested in modeling how to get involved by actually doing so creatively.



Crafting YOUR Theory of Change³ A theory of change often uses a diagram or chart to describe a project, practice, or phenomenon in didactic form. However, this should not be considered as being strictly visual. The best theories of change demonstrate rationale and include:


An introduction to what the theory of change is and a description of the process you have been through to create it, including who has been involved.


An analysis of the context and situation, discussing the background to the project and outlining the problem in society you are trying to address, your target group, and their needs and characteristics. This is sometimes called a “situation analysis.”


A “narrative theory of change”: a written narrative that can be used as an alternative, or an addition, to theory-of-change diagrams. This is explored in more depth later in this guidance.


References to existing evidence that relates to your stated theory of change, including evidence that your organization has already collected and any relevant published research.


Plans for measurement and evaluation that arise from the theory of change, including the details of the data you need to collect to test whether the theory of change is delivered. This is sometimes called a “measurement framework.”


According to Americans for the Arts, a theory of change can help arts and social change organizations to:4

+ focus on conditions or context that can sharpen the articulation of outcomes + narrow and specify outcomes and strategies, avoiding those that seem too broad or are difficult to define or quantify + see what is possible (and not possible) to achieve with your arts-based program or project + think about what inputs might be needed—yours and others—and when/where your input(s) might be most catalytic or strategic + examine whether or not your intervention will have a meaningful or powerful effect + avoid straying off course when unexpected events or inputs emerge + practice evaluative thinking



Hope Ginsburg Untitled 237 2005

What does the future of socially engaged art look like?

Reports suggest that by 2040 the impacts of human-caused climate change will be inescapable and we will be facing the prospect of a post-human and post-Anthropocene era.5 It is inevitable that artists in the future will have to confront the potential for greater divisiveness and competition wrought by AI as well as resource insecurity. Our conception of migration may be radically altered as environmental realities such as flooding or droughts force us to redefine our understanding of national borders. Movements around social equity and human rights will have to continue to grow and join forces as citizens assert their demands for political and cultural representation. Art will evolve as well, becoming increasingly diverse, more collective and experiential. It might not look, in form and in content, like we have expected. It is hard to predict the exact role that art will play, but based on our frontline involvement in dozens of artworks and creative initiatives, we have a few educated guesses.

+ Art will take an active role in shaping society and will be considered critical to politics, rather than autonomous or just a reflection of the time. It will quite literally define the times. + Art will transform ways of living in the age of climate disaster and the end of the Anthropocene.



+ Art will model equity and radical inclusivity. + Art will lead new expansion of participatory and direct democracy practices.

Socially engaged art is the testing ground for building possible futures, models for experiences of collectivism yet to come. This is art’s active role. We spent our first fifteen years as an organization defining the way we work. Now we feel even more assured of the critical role that art—in particular public and socially engaged art— plays in society, and of the ever-more relevant role that it will continue to have in the next twenty years, as we grapple with earth-shattering issues. Even if the terms “socially engaged art” or “social practice” become obsolete and are replaced by new ones in a continued transformation of the field, the idea of art being more collaborative and inclusive, inextricably linked to equity, social justice, and direct democracy practices, will gain more and more traction and urgency. In an increasingly fragmented and disconnected world, we predict that people will fight for authenticity, connectedness, and a sense of belonging, and will seek out substantive experiences that touch the individual, as well as speak to a shared future. Artist Alfredo Jaar has written that, “Regardless of what others believe, the center of the world is everywhere where we can find a human being,”6 speaking to the universal and the particular of socially engaged art. We believe we need to recenter art towards a model of intervention and engagement, wherein art as it acts on one person ultimately acts on the world at large, and vice versa. We have been struck by the foresight of the assessment that writer and activist Wendell Berry made in 1981 about European settlers coming in with vision but not sight.7 We see this as one of the most dangerous pitfalls in our society, particularly when it comes to thinking of doing good. Art celebrates diversity with all its idiosyncrasies. As social practice producers, we may become so certain of our positive role that we manufacture expectations regarding how we should best represent the concerns of a community. As well-intentioned as we might be, there is the risk of imposing our own vision of the perfect resolution without paying attention to, or seeing, the actual 239

realities of a community and truly listening to the individuals involved. Some projects are meant to reach thousands of people, others only one person; we assert the value, success, and impact of each and all those in between. Informed by this awareness, this listening and learning with humility, in thoughtful collaboration with local organizations working on the ground, and the acceptance of criticism and our own shortcomings along the way, socially engaged public art is ideally positioned to act in the next twenty years as a catalyst for experiential, long-lasting change.


See Tom Finkelpearl, introduction to What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2012), around discourse of “cooperation” in social art. 2

Just a note: our theory of change is always up for improvement, and yours should be, too. We also want to acknowledge that we are representing this theory linearly, but it’s far more rhizomatic than we can illustrate 3

This is adapted from Ellen Harries, et al., Creating Your Theory of Change, New Philanthropy Capital, 2014, available as a PDF at https://www. Creating-your-theory-of-change1.pdf and “5: Theory of Change” in Framework for Cultural Development Planning, Cultural Development Network, available at theory/underpinned-by-theory-of-change-moreinformation/the-concept-of-theory-of-change-inrelation-to-arts-and-cultural-development/. 4

Based on “Articulate a theory of change” from the Arts & Civic Engagement Tool Kit, Animating Democracy and Americans for the Arts, 2008. This tool provides an example and a simple exercise for creating a logic model. See: articulate-theory-of-change. 5

“Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040,” New York Times,


October 7, 2018. The Anthropocene is the epoch in which humans have started having a significant impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, including climate change. See Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural Story (Henry Holt and Company, 2014). 6

In a statement to the authors, regarding Jaar’s 2010 project Dear Markus. During a research trip to Finland, Jaar waited for a boat to take him on the four-hour journey back from Utö, the furthest of the islands he was visiting. Jaar wondered why the near-empty boat was leaving at 5:45 a.m. ; the captain told him that a boy living on a small island along the route had to get to school on the main island. Dear Markus consisted of a series of billboards with letters from Finnish authors placed across the islands on the route to Utö from Pärnäs in Finland, made specifically for this one boy. 7

“As we felled and burned the forests, so we burned, plowed, and overgrazed the prairies. We came with visions, but not with sight. We did not see or understand where we were or what was there, but destroyed what was there for the sake of what we desired. And the desire was always native to the place we left behind.” Wendell Berry, “The Native Grasses and What They Mean” in The Gift of Good Land (North Point Press, 1981), 82. Berry was addressing the European settlers’ dismissive or blind attitude toward Native Americans’ ways of cultivating the land, which resulted in the complete destruction of the prairies, but his words encapsulate the greatest risk for so-called human progress in every field.


Krzysztof Wodiczko Loro 241(Them) 2019

Chronology of Public Projects

Anna Gaskell + Erasers 2005 Loosely inspired by the game of telephone, Gaskell shared a poignant story from her past with a group of middle-school girls and, one week later, asked each one to retell the anecdote while she filmed them. Their individual recollections and interpretations created a fragmented, dramatic version of the event. Gary Simmons + Collective Portrait 2005 Simmons invited middle-school students to write down sentences that could serve as self-portraits, then asked them to partially erase and combine those phrases to create one long group statement, retooling individual assertions to create a collaborative affirmation; the final sentence was printed on a billboard and displayed in Chelsea. Michael Joo + Bohdi Obfuscatus (Allegiance) 2006–07; 2009 A video helmet, devised by the artist and equipped with fortyeight live surveillance cameras, examined every detail of New York teenagers’ faces as they told stories about their lives and attempted to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The resulting multimedia installation presented the close-up portraits as a dense matrix of recorded projection, reflected video imagery, and mirrors, examining the relationship of science, technology, and politics within institutional spaces.


+ Slater Bradley + Soundless Pounding of Accelerating Dreams 2006–07; 2010 Teenagers from Clinton Middle School were asked to identify the place in New York that most reflected who they were and especially who they aspired to become as they grew up; they were then photographed in their chosen environment, from a swimming pool to a church, a movie theater, Washington Square Park, and a photographer’s studio. Michael Rakowitz + Enemy Kitchen 2006-07 Using recipes gathered with his mother, Rakowitz led a series of Iraqi cooking workshops with high-school students from the Hudson + Guild Community Center in Chelsea, some of whom had relatives in the US Army stationed in Iraq, many of whom had conflicting views of the war. In preparing and consuming the food, an environment was forged in which the word “Iraq” and all of its associations could be openly discussed. Jay Davis + Untitled (Inside); Untitled (Outside) 2007 For this assemblage project, thirteen middle-school students were asked to photograph their living spaces from different vantage points, focusing on what they saw when looking from the inside out; they then selected one view and made contour drawings of several images in that photograph. Rather than creating something solely from their own memory and aesthetic, the students then chose one drawing to keep and collaged the other students’ drawings onto his or her own, creating sculptural, vinyl mobiles involving parts of one another. Tony Oursler + AWGTHTGTWTA (Are We Going To Have To Go Through With This Again?) 2008 Oursler worked with teens from Liberty High School and Clinton Middle School to produce a collaborative video to be projected in the Fulton Houses basketball courts. Exploring the intersection of technology and authorship in teens’ lives, the video combined footage of students performing readings from a creative writing project that described their images of the future and ideal fantasy worlds with snippets from online gaming chat rooms, improvisational singing on YouTube, and the chanting of a youth chorus.


Anthony Goicolea + Neighborhood 2008 Goicolea first captured families living in Chelsea in the tradition of black-and-white portraiture from the early twentieth century, then seamlessly inserted those modern-day portraits of current residents into a series of archival photographs of the neighborhood. The resulting images were printed and pasted on constructionsite partition boards and scaffolding around the area, mimicking propaganda posters, wanted ads, or missing person bulletins. Nicola Verlato + Sleeping Monster Produced by Reason 2008 After polling residents of the Chelsea neighborhood, the artist created a complex hybrid sculpture of painted plaster, composed of Superman, Frida Kahlo, Harry Potter, Spongebob Squarepants, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and others—heroes that locals wished to honor. Sleeping Monster examined the idea that while public sculpture is often intended as a beautification or positive addition to the urban landscape, it can be perceived as the imposition of a foreign element onto a neighborhood without the consent of its community. Kimsooja + An Album: Hudson Guild 2009-10 The artist spent several days asking the multicultural community of senior citizens from the Hudson Guild Senior Center in Chelsea about their lives, backgrounds, families, and memories, before filming them over a period of two weeks to produce a silent video charged with subtly changing emotions and the physical expression of personalities. Justin Berry + The Mysterious House of Colors 2009 After visiting galleries in their neighborhood, Berry asked Clinton Middle School students to think of objects and environments that could become part of a compelling art exhibition; based on their ideas and drawings, he consulted with artists’ studios and manufacturers to organize a mixture of commissioned and preexisting works for this ideal exhibition. Berry later asked another group of Clinton Middle School students to figure out what those artworks represent. Their responses, in writing or on video, were then presented in a second exhibit.


+ Ana Prvacki + The Wandering Band 2010 Prvacki organized a series of free, daily performances, taking place along the High Line, by professional and student vocalists and musicians with portable wind, string, and brass instruments, in collaboration with Residency Unlimited. Xaviera Simmons + When You’re Looking At Me, You’re Looking At Country 2010-12 Residents of the Fulton and Elliott Houses in Chelsea were invited to sit for a free photographic portrait, taken by Simmons with a large-format film camera in an open-air studio fashioned on the sidewalk, later gifted to each sitter. Participants were asked to bring personal artifacts (such as family photographs or special clothing) to be photographed with. They worked with the artist to create photographic narratives based on their personal memories, bringing a performative element to the portrait sessions and the resulting images. Pablo Helguera + El Club de Protesta/The Protest Club 2011 Senior citizens studied and adapted traditional protest songs from Latin and North America in a series of workshops with Helguera and professional musicians, culminating in performances on the High Line and at the Hudson Guild Theater. Joan Jonas + Lunar Rabbit 2011 Students from Clinton Middle School worked with Jonas to explore the myth of a selfless rabbit who gets his image eternally imprinted on the moon, a story that exists across multiple cultures. Together, they discussed its themes and symbolism, created costumes, crafted papier-mâché masks, and constructed a variety of props to be used for a performance along the Hudson River reenacting the tale, filmed by Jonas. Krzysztof Wodiczko + Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project 2012 Wodiczko engaged with dozens of American war veterans and their family members to explore the traumatic consequences of war and the


difficult return to civilian life, interviewing a total of fourteen participants about their experiences. These interviews were then edited into a video that was projected on the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Union Square Park, the veterans’ voices and gestures animating the sculpture each night for several weeks. Jenny Marketou + Sunspotting a Walking Forest 2012 In collaboration with cultural theorist Otto von Busch and choreographer Wanda Gala, Marketou worked with students from Parsons School of Design and Clinton Middle School and senior citizens from the Fulton Houses in Chelsea to explore the use of fashion and language in collectives as powerful, performative tools of public engagement. Artifacts to be worn and displayed—shirts, flags, banners—were constructed during six-week workshops and used as part of choreographed, performative parades on the High Line. Ofri Cnaani + Moon Guardians 2013 Cnaani interviewed four long-time residents of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District about their relationship to the neighborhood and the changes they had personally experienced. The resulting video vignettes were rear-projected each evening for six weeks on the windows and storefronts of Gansevoort Square, as if directly emerging from the neighborhood’s storied past to complicate the viewers’ own historical and social context. Justin Blinder, Emil Choski, Coco Fusco, William Powhida, Bibi Seck, + Federico Solmi, and Amy Wilson Envision New York 2017 2013 Created by New Yorkers for New Yorkers on the eve of the mayoral election, this experiment in political expression aimed to harness the power of social media and spur public debate on key issues that will shape the city’s future, including culture, security, education, housing, taxes, poverty, and climate change. Each project was commissioned specifically for the Envision New York 2017 website (now closed) and archived. Andres Serrano + Residents of New York 2014 Serrano engaged with homeless individuals over several months to


+ create a series of largescale photographic portraits that looked at the many faces of homelessness and poverty in New York City. The photographs were installed around Washington Square for two months, including a full occupation of the subway station at West 4th Street as well as on LaGuardia Place (in collaboration with the NYC Department of Transportation), Judson Memorial Church, and public bus shelters and phone booths around Manhattan. Dread Scott + On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide 2014 For this twenty-minute performance, Scott was blasted with a fire hose while attempting to walk through the Archway under the Manhattan Bridge, a public plaza in Brooklyn, evoking the Civil Rights protestors of the 1960s who were battered by high-pressure water cannons in Birmingham, Alabama. Ernesto Pujol + 9-5 2015 Eleven performers dressed in white spent three workdays in Manhattan’s Brookfield Place, sitting silently between the glass partitions of the center’s atrium (which resemble cubicles, the quintessential office workspace), and writing about the people they saw. Their silent, meditative gesture evoked the repetitiousness of all labor and created a literature of pedestrian life in the city. Amy Wilson + The Disappearing City 2015 Wilson led a series of quilt-making workshops with a group of long-time elderly residents from Hudson Guild Adult Programs and Greenwich House, encouraging them to utilize craft-making to convey personal stories and a larger sense of history. The project encouraged the senior citizens, most of whom immigrants now living in isolation, to come together around a shared experience, engage with their past, and reassert their presence in Manhattan’s ongoing narratives of gentrification. Sari Carel + Borrowed Light 2015 Carel worked with Sunset Park’s stewards to gather data on the park’s local fauna and collect field recordings of these native


species, which she used to create a richly layered soundscape, played from speakers embedded in a sculptural installation, whose forms echoed the grid lines of Manhattan, its emblematic skyline visible from Sunset Park. Giving visitors and participants a hands-on experience of the essential role of art, music, and nature in an urban environment, the installation was also the site for numerous workshops, performances, and other community gatherings. Anna Adler, Corinne Cappelletti, and Julia Rooney + REMAP 2015–16 Facilitated by three alumni of the 2014 Engaging Artist Residency and funded by a seed grant from More Art, REMAP consisted of workshops on visual art, movement, and cooking that aimed to trace the often invisible journeys and stories of transient populations in New York City. Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida + MONTH2MONTH 2016 MONTH2MONTH was a series of public discussions and performances taking place in private residences in Manhattan and Brooklyn, initiated by Dalton and Powhida. Through a lottery conducted in winter 2016, the public was invited to participate in curated shortterm stays in exemplary “luxury” and “affordable” housing units. During those stays, residents each hosted a series of happenings that examined the art world’s uncomfortable relationship to real-estate development and neighborhood change and how class, wealth, and social mobility affect people’s ability to live in New York City. Soi Park + Funeral Portrait Service (Young Jeong Sajin) 2016 Park’s project addresses the South Korean cultural practice of preparing memorial portraits of the elderly while the individual is still alive and makes the service—already difficult to find in New York City—accessible for seniors who are not easily able to travel, may not speak fluent English, or have limited resources. Park, a 2015 Engaging Artist fellow, worked closely with organizations in Queens and New Jersey to provide critical social services to aging Korean Americans. Bridget Bartolini and Priscilla Stadler + Almost Home/ Casi Llegando a Casa 2016–17


+ Developed by 2016 Engaging Artist fellows Bridget Bartolini and Priscilla Stadler, with Milton X. Trujillo, in collaboration with grassroots coalition Queens Neighborhoods United, Almost Home was a series of storytelling, oral history, art, and video workshops that took place in locations throughout Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona, Queens. The project highlighted the struggles and victories of community organizing against gentrification and displacement, criminalization, and hyper-policing of immigrant communities and aimed to strengthen community connections through public programs, participatory art, and documentary films. Hidemi Takagi + Hello, it’s me 2015–17 For this collaborative multimedia project, which began as a part of her 2015 Engaging Artists residency with More Art, Takagi worked with senior citizens from Chelsea’s Hudson Guild Community Center and the Saint Teresa of Avila Senior Apartments in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The artist photographed each participant, decked out in wardrobes of their choosing, against colorful backdrops. She then carefully installed each portrait, framed in gold, on bright wallpaper—to resemble a living room—and paired each image with a set of audio recordings that allowed the audience to hear participants’ stories in their own voices. Andrea Mastrovito + NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century 2017 Mastrovito’s hand-drawn, frame-by-frame retelling of W.F. Murnau’s Nosferatu sets the classic film in contemporary New York, adapted to include testimony by recent immigrants reflecting on their respective communities’ experience of overcoming xenophobia, economics, and racism to make their home in a new city. The film made visual and narrative references to current events, from the Syrian Civil War to New York City’s housing crisis. The film featured an original score by Simone Giuliani, performed live at public screenings. Brendan Fernandes + Clean Labor 2017 Fernandes collaborated with six dancers and members of the housekeeping staff at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to design an original contemporary dance inspired by the movements and routines involved in their work, making visible what is too often hidden and overlooked: the labor of hospitality workers and cleaning


professionals whose contributions ensure that our homes, offices, schools, hotels, and public spaces are safe, clean, and livable. Sari Carel + Out of Thin Air 2018 As the culmination of a series of breathing and sound-recording workshops held with New Yorkers living with asthma and various breathing conditions, Carel built a multi-channel soundscape in City Hall Park out of unconventional respiratory sounds; visitors were led blindfolded through the installation to better perceive the nuances of breath. Additional public programming focused on environmental injustice and access to clean air and holistic wellness in New York City. Shimon Attie + Night Watch 2018 Night Watch is a short silent film made with New York’s refugees and asylum seekers, developed through research and collaboration with legal aid organizations, such as Immigration Equality and Safe Passage Project, and community empowerment groups including Queer Detainee Empowerment Project and RIF Asylum Support. The minimalist film is comprised of a series of portraits of individuals from a wide array of backgrounds and ages. It was projected on a LED screen mounted on a barge that traveled up and down the East and Hudson Rivers for eight nights, during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. Bryan Rodriguez Cambana + Waiting for the session to begin 2017–19 Waiting for the session to begin is a kinetic public sculpture composed of observational drawings of sleeping correctional officers and incarcerated youth, printed on vinyl records. The title refers to the artist’s time as an educator working over two years on a hip hop-based project inside Rikers Island. Vanessa Téran Collantes + Runa Ñawi 2017–19 By collaborating with the Kichwa Hatari collective, a Bronx-based Kichwa radio station, Téran (a native Ecuadorian) developed strong relationships with the Andean indigenous and mix-raced immigrant community in Greater New York City. She contributed to the emerging


+ archive of the diaspora by photographing local community events such as raymis, seasonal celebrations central to Andean spirituality. Krzysztof Wodiczko + Loro (Them) 2019 For More Art’s premiere international commission, Wodiczko worked closely with members of the growing immigrant population in Milan, Italy, and Fondazione Casa della Carità to explore the complexities of life as a refugee on a continent that is increasingly hostile towards foreign newcomers. The live performance features a swarm of customized drones carrying LED screens and amplified sound, the eyes and the voices of which belong to a cast of migrants of different national origins, ages, and immigration experiences, who confront and engage the public with their stories. Ro Garrido + En esta casa/ In this house 2019–ongoing En esta casa/ In this house is a transformative-justice art and organizing project interested in creating spaces to address and transform violence within organizing communities in Queens. It specifically focuses on addressing sexual violence that occurs in organizing spaces, as well as community accountability, as a transformative justice process and response to sexual violence. Candace Thompson + The Collaborative Urban Resilience Banquet (C.U.R.B.) 2019–ongoing The C.U.R.B. is an interdisciplinary social-practice project that reconnects urbanites with the fragile (and often displaced) food cycle in the age of climate change. Through video storytelling, hands-on bioremediation experiments, and seasonally foraged community meals, participants directly engage with the urban wilds while learning from the many diverse species currently surviving and thriving amidst the Anthropocene. Mary Mattingly + Public Water 2019–20 Public Water is a civic education and public art project addressing the politics of New York City’s water supply, investigating the issue of water privatization and the way in which water policies affect residents in the entire State. After a series of workshops in upstate New York, the project will culminate in a duration performance in New York City, in which upstate participants act as caretakers, offering drinking water and sharing stories.



+ Rebecca Amato is Associate Faculty at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University and the Associate Director of the Urban Democracy Lab, which provides a space for scholars and practitioners to collaborate and exchange ideas for cultivating just, sustainable, and creative urban futures. Her research and writing focus on the intersections between cities, space, place, and memory, and have appeared in Radical History Review, City Courant, and New York magazine, as well as The City Amplified: Radical Archives and Oral Histories (2019) and The People's Guide to New York City (forthcoming). Her project-centered course “(Dis)placed Urban Histories” is a featured project of the National Humanities Alliance. Amato has been a staff member and consultant at a variety of history institutions in New York, including the Brooklyn Historical Society, the American Social History Project, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York, and holds a PhD in United States History from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. + Michael Birchall holds a collaborative post with Tate Liverpool where he is curator of public practice, and Senior Lecturer in Exhibition Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. His research is concentrated around socially engaged art, public engagement, and


+ curatorial histories. Previously he has held curatorial appointments at The Western Front (Vancouver, Canada), The Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre (Canada), and Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (Germany), and has lectured at Zurich University of the Arts. He has produced a range of socially engaged projects that challenge our understanding of gallery practices, and has published widely in journals, catalogues and monographs. + Michelle Coffey is Founding Executive Director of the Lambent Foundation, a grantmaking organization that leverages the critical role of arts and culture at the intersection of social justice and explores the impact of contemporary art as a strategy for promoting sustainable cultural practices in New York City, New Orleans, and Nairobi. Prior to her creating Lambent Foundation in 2009, she was Director of Starry Night Fund and Senior Philanthropic Advisor at Tides Foundation. In addition, she serves on the boards of Creative Capital Foundation, the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Care Center in East New York, and the Vera List Center for Arts and Politics at the New School. + Emma Drew is a writer and editor, based in San Francisco. She has contributed to education and interpretive media initiatives at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and has been a part of More Art’s editorial staff since 2017. + Mary Jane Jacob is professor, director, and founder of the Institute for Curatorial Research and Practice at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has held posts as Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and in Los Angeles, and as curator of the Spoleto Festival in Charlestown, South Carolina, among others. Since 1990 Jacob has been a pioneer in the areas of public, site-specific, and socially engaged art and has expanded the practice and public discourse of art as a shared process. She has written and edited over three dozen books and exhibition publications, including the seminal Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art (1996) and Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago (1993); her most recent books include Dewey for Artists (2018), The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists (2010), and Learning Mind: Experience into Art (2010). The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Jacob lectures widely on the valuable ways the art experience can transform us and, in turn, the culture and society in which we live.


+ Jeff Kasper is an artist, design facilitator, cultural organizer, and educator. His multiform practice has been supported through residencies with Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space, CUE Art Foundation, Downtown Art, and Art Beyond Sight, and his work had been exhibited at Dedalus Foundation, The 8th Floor, and the Brno Biennial of Graphic Design, among others. Kasper's writing and contributions to collective art projects have appeared in Bridging Communities Through Socially Engaged Art (2019), Futures Worth Preserving: Cultural Constructions of Nostalgia and Sustainability (2019), and Art As Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art (2018). He has collaborated with More Art since 2015 as Director of Engagement in addition to lecturing at various institutions of higher education, including Queens College, The New School, and Pratt Institute. Kasper is Assistant Professor of Integrated Design at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. + Jessica Lynne is a founding editor of ARTS.BLACK, an online journal of art criticism. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Art in America, The Believer, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a collection of essays about family, faith, and the American South. + Micaela Martegani is More Art’s Founder, Executive Director, and Chief Curator, and has been active in the field of modern and contemporary art field for over twenty years as an art historian, independent curator, critic, and advisor. She has extensive experience working with both emerging and established artists at every stage in the creation of new public works, from conceptualization to production, and with More Art has developed over fifty projects since the organization’s inception in 2004. Martegani earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Art History at the Università Cattolica of Milan, Italy, and New York University, respectively, and has lectured widely in the US and abroad. She has taught Contemporary Art at Pratt Institute and is currently Adjunct Professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York. + Kirk Savage is the Dietrich Professor of History of Art & Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He has written extensively on public monuments, militarism, and social justice. He is the author of two prizewinning books, Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape (2009) and Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (1997), and is the editor of The Civil


+ War in Art and Memory (2016), for the National Gallery of Art series Studies in the History of Art. In 2016 he was awarded the Public Art Dialogue Award for Achievement in Public Art, given annually to an individual whose contributions have greatly influenced public art practice. He is currently collaborating with his wife Elizabeth Thomas on a book about the long battle to save a Cherokee homeland in North Carolina, a project that seeks to decolonize the frontier paradigms and family histories that have long shaped this story in mainstream memory and history. + Gregory Sholette is a New York City-based artist, writer, and core member of the activist art collective Gulf Labor Coalition. In dozens of essays, three edited volumes, and his own Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (2010) and Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism (2017), Sholette has documented four decades of activist art that, for its ephemerality, politics, and market resistance, might otherwise remain invisible. He has contributed to such journals as FIELD Journal, Eflux, Critical Inquiry, Texte zur Kunst, October, CAA Art Journal, and Manifesta Journal, among other publications. Sholette received his doctorate from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program in Critical Theory, and is an Associate of the Art, Design, and the Public Domain program at the Graduate School of Design Harvard University. He served as a Curriculum Committee member of the Home Workspace education program in Beirut, Lebanon, and is a Professor in the Queens College Art Department, City University of New York, where he helped establish the new MFA Concentration Social Practice Queens (SPQ). With SPQ he recently edited Art as Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art (2018), a general introduction to and an illustrated, practical textbook for the field of social practice.


Index page numbers in italics indicate images



Adler, Ann, 248 Agambem, Giorgio, 45n14  Airbnb, 219 Alternate Roots, 27 alt-right, 36, 42, 43 American Dream, 151 American Museum of Natural History, 36, 89 Anthropocene, 238, 251 antiwar movements, 37, 88 Arab Spring, XIV, 12n11, 22, 27 Arai, Tomi (Walls of Respect), 145 art, and activism, 10, 14, 15, 20, 22, 36–9, 43–4, 50, 64, 96, 203, 204, 217, 220 (see also socially engaged art); education, XIV, 2, 3, 8, 9, 14, 231 (see also MFA); in everyday life, 2–3, 36, 44; and politics, 22, 36, 37, 61, 68, 238, 246; and social function, XIV, 8–11, 22; and therapy, 8, 113 Art & Language, 14 Art Creates Communities, 3, 6  artist collectives, 14, 15, 37, 43, 246 Artists Placement Group (AGP), 15, 16 art market, 11f4, 14, 43, 44, 99, 218, 219 Art Workers Coalition (AWC), 15, 37 Asher, Michael, 14 Attie, Shimon, XV, 4–5, 8, 90, 178, 250 audience, as active participants, 194, 217; artists’ expectations of, 64, 65, 73; experiences of, 64, 116, 133, 159; role of, 113, 115, 204, 205; expanded definition of, 2, 9, 13, 20, 233 authorship, 16, 21, 24, 53, 154, 155; co-/collective authorship, 6, 14, 16, 17, 20, 22 fn14, 53, 71 avant-garde, 22, 35, 39, 44

Bare Art, 43–4 Barry, Robert, 14  Bartolini, Bridget, 248, 249 Berry, Justin, 244 Berry,Wendell, 239 Beuys, Joseph, 14–15, 45n5 biennials, 17, 20, 22 Bishop, Claire, 20 Black Emergency Coalition, 37 Black Lives Matter 27, 36, 44, 57, 64  Blinder, Justin, 246 boycotts, XIV, 37 Bradley, Slater, 3, 243 Brecht, Bertolt, 116 Brexit, 42 Brock, Bazon, 14 Broodthaers, Marcel, 14 Brooklyn, NY, as site, 57, 125, 217, 247, 249; Bedford-Stuyvesant, 59, 65, 217; Bushwick, 217; South Williamsburg (Los Sures), 179, 181; Sunset Park, 125 Brown, Michael, 57, 59, 65, 67 Brown, Nakeya, 142 Bruguera, Tania, 20 Buren, Daniel, 14 Bush, George W., 3, 95 Buvoli, Luca, 3


C capitalism, XIV, 27, 43; in the art world, 14, 99, 125, 217, 218; and displacement, 217, 220, 186 Cappelletti, Corinne, 248 Carel, Sari, XV, 8, 18–9, 247, 250 Charlottesville, Virginia rally, 89 Chelsea, NY, as site, 6, 7 47, 95, 149,


157, 167, 189, 217, 242, 243, 244, 245, 249; and the art world, 1–3  Chomsky, Noam, XIV Choski, Emil, 246  Civil Rights Movement, 35, 57, 59, 88, 247 climate change, 27, 238, 251 Cnaani, Ofri, 188–201, 246 co-production, see collaboration and participatory art-making collaboration, between artists and publics, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16–7, 20, 47, 109, 125, 131, 149, 157, 220, 228, 231–2, 239; between artists and social organizations, 10, 13; as process 14, 180. See also authorship, co-authorship collective action, XIII, 10, 12n11 colonialism, 89, 99, 239 Combahee River Collective, 142 commodification, of culture, 10; of neighborhoods, 189 community organizing, 21, 251  creative destruction, 186 “Culture in Action”, 11n7, 20 Culture Wars, 23n9 curator, roles of, 13, 17, 19, 20, 77

D Dalton, Jennifer, 8, 216–27, 248  Davis, Jay, 243 Debtfair, 36 de Certeau, Michel, 35 Decolonize This Place, 36 Decter, Joshua, 14 Deller, Jeremy, 20 Dia Art Foundation, 1, 16 digital culture, 38–9, 149, 167 direct action, 10, 22, 113, 115, 205, 229 direct democracy, 15, 53, 238, 239 Disability Justice, XIII displacement, XIII, 2, 91, 97, 125, 179–81, 185–6, 189, 200, 217, 222, 248, 249 “doing good”, 21, 239 Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, 27 Drew, Nancy, 3

E Elmgreen and Dragset, 3 empathy, XV–XVI, 92 Engaging Artists fellowship, 10, 203, 248, 249 environmental justice, 250 EuroMaiden, Ukraine, 42 European Union, 42

F fascism, 37, 43, 61 Fernandes, Brendan, XV, XI, 182–3, 249 film and video, as medium, 109, 125, 149, 157, 158, 189, 190, 243, 244, 245, 246, 249, 250 Florida, Richard, 39

Fluxus, 14 Free Portraits series, 169 Fresh Bread (Sean Starowitz), 23n2 funding, in the arts, 17, 21, 27; difficulties in securing 9, 22, 26–7; and institutional philanthropy, 26; as social justice philanthropy 30–1; government’s role in, 3, 21, 23n9 Fusco, Coco, 24

G gallery system, 1, 2, 14,15, 17, 64. See also, art market Garrido, Ro, 251  Gaskell, Anna, 3, 93, 242 gentrification, in New York City, XIII, 1–2, 7, 10, 17, 131, 179, 189, 194, 200, 217, 222, 224, 246, 247, 248; art world’s role in, X, 1, 2, 217; as “pricing-out”, 181, 187, 224 Ginsburg, Hope, 3, 237 Goicolea, Anthony, XIX, 6, 28–9, 244 Grantmakers in the Arts, 27 grassroots organizing, 9, 10, 11, 15, 230, 249 Great Recession, see 2008 financial crash Group Material, 15, 37 GULF, 36

H Haacke, Hans, 14 HaHa collective, 20 Hartman, Saidiya, 144,145 Helguera, Pablo, 35, 36, 43, 44, 46–55, 245; Education for Socially Engaged Art, 12n10, 101n2 history, in the abstract, 58, 59, 100; US, 47, 58, 60, 89, 101; of neighborhoods, 2, 6, 189, 197, 198, 199, 200; family, 97, 100; individual, 159, 167; alternate or revolutionary versions of, 37, 42, 44, 59,61, 92, 145, 187; oral histories, 16, 142, 180; construction of, 141; as material, 170, 191 The High Line, 6, 7, 47, 200, 245 homelessness, 16, 17, 96, 100, 101, 181, 185, 203–205, 246, 247 housing, access and equity 217, 218, 219, 224, 247; policy 217, 223; market 222, 223; “affordable housing,” 16, 180, 217, 220, 222; rent and tenancy regulations, 184, 197; landlords, 131, 179, 197, 184, 200, 217. See also NYCHA; gentrification Hudson Guild, 7, 25, 47, 95, 105, 157, 158, 162, 167, 174, 243, 244 Huebler, Douglas, 14 humility, 73, 239 Hurricane Katrina, 27


I identity politics, 142 immigration and immigrant experience, 8, 47, 92, 125, 126, 130, 149, 150, 167, 249, 250; forced migration, 91, 238 imperialism, XIII, 61; legacy of in US, 89, 186 inclusivity, 187, 238, 239 income inequality, 2, 50, 186, 217 institutional critique, 14 the Internet, 29, 130, 149, 151, 233; early hopes for, 38–9; commercialization of 39; online platforms and communities, 42, 149, 154, 243; role in activist actions, 39 Iraq, 95, 96–97, 99–100

Mastrovito, Andrea, 8, 124–37, 249 Mattingly, Mary, 251  #MeToo, XIII, 27, 44 memory, 115, 141, 145, 157, 158, 170  Mexico, 47, 53, 130n1 MFA programs, 12fn10, 14, 36, 38  Middle East, 97, 99, 125 Migrant Caravan, 44 militarism, 88–9, 97 monuments, monuments, 89, 91–2, 101, 109, 113, 115, 116, 120–2; Confederate, 89, 92fn3, 101 Morin, France, 3 Morris, Robert, 14 museums, as collections, 194, 195; as institutions, 89, 131, 195; as sites of protest, 15, 36, 37; vis à vis socially engaged art 13, 16, 22 



Jaar, Alfredo, 239 Jacob, Mary Jane, XII, 3, 20 Jonas, Joan, 143, 245  Joo, Michael, 3, 40–1, 140, 242 Judd, Donald, 14

K Kaprow, Allan, 14 Kimsooja, 7, 156–65, 244 King Jr., Martin Luther, 88, 89

L labor rights, 36, 47, 180, 249, 250; unfair practices, 36, 187; unionizing, 37 Lacy, Suzanne, 16 language, and art, 127; in bi- or multilingual workshops, 37, 46, 125, 130, 245; as lingo/slang, 150, 151 Lawson, Deana, 142 Léger, Marc James, 21 Leonardo, Shaun, 145 Lessig, Lawrence, 38, 43 LGBTQ representation, 30; youth, as co-producers, XV, 250 Libertate Tate, 36 Lowe, Rick (Project Row House), 26

M Manhattan, NY, as site, 6, 7, 10, 25, 47, 71, 95, 109, 125, 149, 156, 167, 189, 203, 217, 246, 247, 250; gentrification of, 1–2, 17, 179, 184, 189, 217; East Village, 217; Financial District, 71, 217; Meatpacking District, 189, 191, 197, 200, 246; West Village, 198–9; after 9/11, 99. See also Chelsea; Marketou, Jenny, 34, 246 Martinez, Daniel J., 20 mass incarceration 27, 91, 145, 179, 250; leading to carceral state, 186


Nathan Cummings Foundation, 27 National Endowment for the Arts, 16, 21, 23n9, 24n21, 30 nationalism, 37, 99 neoliberalism, 42 New Genre Public Art, 16, 17 The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander), 27 New York City Housing Authority, 7, 95, 167, 181, 186; Fulton and Elliott Houses, 7, 25, 95, 167, 149, 245; Jackson Houses, 181; Morrisania Air Rights, 185 New York Cultural Agenda Fund, 30 New York University, 180 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 89 9/11, XIII, 38, 77, 99, 125 1968, protests and student movements, 22, 38, 53

O Occupy Movement(s), XIV, 9, 10, 27, 36, 39, 50 Open Engagement, 12n10 Opie, Catherine, 145 oppositional architecture, 96 the Other, 99, 125 Oursler, Tony, 6, 148–55, 243

P Palestine, 97 Paris Commune, 22 Park, Soi, 248 participatory artmaking, 2, 13, 145. See also, collaboration partnership building, 6, 7, 8, 26, 180, 228, 229, 230 Patriot Act, 38 pedagogy, as art/radical pedagogy, 14, 15, 145; influence on socially engaged art, 37, 38; in programming goals, 8; within artists’ practices, 191, 220


performance, as medium, 47, 51, 57–9, 61, 64–5, 71–3, 77, 82, 115–6, 141, 142, 144, 159, 167, 168­ –70, 194, 217, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 251 photography, as medium, 141–2, 167–70, 203–5, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251; as representation of work, 61, 64; and the self, 141–2 plop art, 9 policing, criminalization of minority communities, 185, 185, 248; shootings, 36, 57, 61, 69 political resistance, XIV, 37, 39, 42, 45, 61 portraiture, 157, 158, 167–70, 174, 203, 204, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 248, 249, 250; collective portrait, 6, 242 power dynamics, 141, 142, 220; between artists and communities, 3, 7, 17, 21, 77, 112–3, 239; between art world and public, 2, 11; between funder and grantee, 31 Powhida, William, 8, 216–27, 246, 248 protest, acts of, 15, 22, 39, 42, 44, 57, 97, 99, 109; songs, 35, 47–55; at the Whitney Museum, 36 Prvacki, Ana, 245 PTSD 91, 113, 119  public art, historic and contemporary models, XV, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 218, 219, 228, 230–2, 234, 239; problems with, 9, 88, 89, 91, 92; as social/political activism, 2–3, 10, 99, 101; and urban renewal 21, 39, 186; ethics of, 230; bureaucracy of, 191 public space, as built environment, 149, 154, 155, 194; as exhibition site for art, 6, 10, 20, 25, 109, 115, 191, 232, 234; reclamation of, 7; as shared space, 89, 113, 116, 142, 149, 195, 203; and social choreography, 71; subjectivity in, 142; vs. private space,  205, 218,219, 220 Pujol, Ernesto, XV, 35, 36, 43, 70–85, 247 Putin, Vladimir, 42

Q Queens, NY, as site, 123, 248, 249, 251; Corona, 123, 125, 130


racism, experience of, 37, 42, 125, 142; legacy of in US, 57, 59, 64, 67, 69, 88, 89, 92 radical hospitality, 101 Rakowitz, Michael, 7, 96–107, 243 Ray, Gene, 38 Reagan, Ronald, 37 real-estate development, 2, 7, 16, 17, 125, 131, 217, 220, 222, 223, 248; loss of local businesses, XIII, 180; loss and/or privatization of public institutions 181, 185, 187, 251.

See also housing; gentrification refugees, 8, 92, 97, 125, 250, 251 relational aesthetics, 191 resource insecurity, 179, 219, 238 Rikers Island, 185, 250 Rodriguez Cambana, Bryan, 250 Rollins, Tim (and KOS), XII, 3, 15 Rooney, Julia, 248 Roosevelt, Theodore, 89 Rosler, Martha, 16, 17

S Saltz, Jerry, 144 Scott, Dread, XV, 7, 35, 36, 43, 56–69, 247 Seck, Bibi, 246 the self, 142, 144 selfie culture, XIII senior citizens, as co-producers, 47, 157, 160–3, 167, 179, 244, 245, 247, 248, 249 Serrano, Andres, XV, 10, 202–215, 246, 247 Simmons, Gary, 3, 6, 147, 242 Simmons, Xaviera, 7, 25, 142, 166–175, 245 site-specific art, 99, 191, 228. See also public art slavery, legacy of in US, 57, 59, 61, 89, 91, 145, 186 Smith, Valerie, 20 Social and Public Resource Center (SPARC), 26 social choreography, 39, 71 social democracy, 42 social justice, 38, 61, 64, 239; vis à vis arts organizations, 10, 25, 26, 27, 30, 230 social media,39, 154, 243 See also the Internet social movements, 11, 27, 37, 47, 64, 69, 88, 238; liberation movements, 37 social sculpture, 14, 15, 95 social services, 185, 203; art as, 21; and welfare policy, 21, 185 socially engaged art, historic and contemporary models, XIV, 2–3, 8, 9, 10, 53, 96, 100, 131, 169, 218, 228–33; history of, 13–22; in New York City, 2–11, 15, 37; and activism, 36, 37, 43, 44; and ethics, 77, 131, 230; evaluation of, XIV, 9, 231, 233, 236; funding of 3, 9, 17, 21, 22, 23n9, 26–7, 30–1; future of, 238–40; institutionalization of, 9, 10, 19–20; methodology and project management, 229–36; power dynamics within, 3, 7, 17, 21, 77, 239; symbolic vs. actual, 13, 22, 58, 61, 72, 100, 131; terminology debates, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 218, 239. See also community-based art; New Genre Public Art social practice, 20, 21, 22, 142, 218, 219, 228, 233, 239. See also socially engaged art the social turn, 20, 21 Solmi, Federico, 246


“Sonsbeek 93”, 20 South Bronx (Melrose and Morrisania), NY, 179, 180, 181, 185, 186 Stadler, Priscilla, 248, 249 Steyerl, Hito, 22 Superstorm Sandy, 9–10 support structures, for artists, 10, 30, 229–321 surveillance state, 242; and personal technology, 43

T Takagi, Hidemi, 7, 249 Tatlin, Vladimir, 39 technology, impact of 37, 38, 149; artistic use of 154, 155, 190. See also digital culture; the Internet Téran Collantes, Vanessa, 250 Thompson, Candace, 251 Tilted Arc (Richard Serra), 23n9 Trade School (Caroline Woolard, Rich Watts, Louise Ma), 23n2 transformative justice, 251  trauma, 92, 109, 112–3, 119; collective, 91 Trump, Donald, 61, 131, 131n1 2008 financial crash, XIII, 9, 36, 39, 50, 53 2016 US presidential election, 42 Turning Point Brooklyn, 125, 130

U US military, 90, 97. See also, veterans; war utopia(nism), 42, 150

V Verlato, Nicola, 6, 244 veterans, 95, 101, 109, 112–3, 115–6, 118–22, 245, 246. See also war Visual AIDS, 26

W W.A.G.E., 36 Waldman, Matthew, 3 war, consequences of, 95, 97, 99, 100, 109, 125, 243, 245, 246; in Afghanistan,109; in Iraq, 95, 109, 101; in Syria, 125, 130; in Vietnam, 109; images of, 95, 115 Waters, Alice, 99 Weems, Carrie Mae 141 white privilege, 186 white supremacy 27, 89, 145. See also alt-right Wilson, Amy, 246, 247 Wodiczko, Krzysztof, 7, 8, 44, 45n1, 96, 101, 108–23, 241, 245, 246, 251 Woolfalk, Saya, 3 workshops with co-producers, 203, 249;


cooking, 95; research-based, 189; script-writing, 125, 130; song writing, 47, 53, 125; documents from, 55, 105–7, 120–22, 134–5

X xenophobia, 125, 249

Y Yes Men, 37 youth, as co-producers and audience, middle school students, 3, 6, 95, 109, 149, 189, 242, 243, 244, 245; high school students, 6, 7, 59, 61, 66–68, 149, 243

Z Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), 38

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