Aesthetics of Doing: Is Socially Engaged Art Always Progressive?

Maureen Connor, Artist and Professor, Social Practice Queens (SPQ)

Joshua Decter, Curator and Author of Art is a Problem

Marc James Léger, Artist and Author of The Neoliberal Undead

Moderated by Deborah Fisher, Executive Director, A Blade of Grass


School supplies distribution by the Forest Resident Association at Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument, 2013, Forest Houses, Bronx, New York (Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, Photo: Romain Lopez).

Most socially engaged art professes to better society in some way. Projects often claim to raise consciousness, and improve lives on individual and communal levels. Frequently, artists target economically challenged communities or under recognized groups. But is this a requirement? What might a project look like that lacked a progressive stance or aim? This panel will explore the question of whether socially engaged art is necessarily tied to progressive politics.

Maureen Connor is an artist whose work combines elements of installation, video, interior design, ethnography, human resources, feminism, and social justice. She has exhibited and taught at numerous institutions and has been a professor at Queens College since 1990. She is additionally one of the lead faculty of Social Practice Queens (SPQ), a unique collaborative MFA concentration hosted by Queens College and the Queens Museum.

Joshua Decter is a New York-based art critic, curator, theorist, educator, and editor. From 2007 to 2011, Decter was Director of the Master of Public Art Studies Program at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Fine Arts in Los Angeles, where he founded a new graduate program, M.A. Art and Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere. His most recent book, Art is a Problem, was published by JRP|Ringier in March 2014.

Marc James Léger is a Montreal-based artist, writer and educator who has published numerous essays on art and cultural politics. His most recent book, The Neoliberal Undead: Essays on Contemporary Art and Politics, was published by Zero Books in spring 2013.

Aesthetics of Doing is a series of panel discussions that bring together artists, scholars, administrators and other members of the art community for discussions that critically address socially engaged art as it is practiced and defined.

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Aesthetics of DoingEthicsIdeology
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