Entry Points: Recent Writing on Art and Social Justice

Please join us for Entry Points: Recent Writing on Art and Social Justice organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics in partnership with Smack Mellon on Sunday, April 24th, from 2-4 PM followed by a reception.

There are multiple ways in which art practitioners enter the field to respond to a particular political struggle. These varied entry points form a geographic constellation, as demonstrated in the multiple conditions and locales highlighted in the VLC’s recent book Entry Points: The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice, No. 1 (Duke 2015) edited by Carin Kuoni and Chelsea Haines.

Recently a proliferation of new books has taken on these tactics, projects, and approaches, actively expanding the field of contemporary art practice and social justice. This event brings together the timely launch of Entry Points alongside other prominent works: Yates McKee’s Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post Occupy Condition featuring MTL among other artists (Verso 2015), and Future Imperfect from A Blade of Grass edited by Elizabeth M. Grady with contributions by Deborah Fisher (2016).

Celebrating the connectivity across these books while provoking new perspectives, the event begins with a panel discussion featuring the book authors, editors, and artists above. All attendees are then invited to join small table talk sessions led by panelists and additional interlocutors including Tania Bruguera, Katayoun Chamany, Lydia Matthews, Radhika Subramaniam and others organized around specific art projects, pressing issues, and bookmaking on art and social justice. Participants will produce bookmarks at the table talk sessions that build a greater “table of contents” of pressing concerns in art and social justice today.

These books, and others, will be available for sale at the event.

Deborah Fisher
Elizabeth Grady
Carin Kuoni
Chelsea Haines
Yates McKee

Tania Bruguera
Katayoun Chamany
Rachel Hunnicutt
Lydia Matthews
Radhika Subramaniam
*Additional participants to be confirmed.


Carin Kuoni and Chelsea Haines, Editors
Entry Points: The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice, No. 1
Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Providing a lively snapshot of the state of art and social justice today on a global level, Entry Points captures some of the most significant worldwide examples of art and social justice and introduces an interested audience of artists, policymakers, scholars, and writers to new ways of thinking about how justice is defined, advanced, and practiced through the arts.

The book’s first half contains three essays by Thomas Keenan, João Ribas, and Sharon Sliwinski that map the field of art and social justice. These essays are accompanied by more than twenty profiles of recent artist projects that consist of brief essays and artist pages. This curated and carefully considered map of artists and projects identifies key moments in art and social justice. The book’s second half consists of an in-depth analysis of Theaster Gates’s The Dorchester Projects, which won the inaugural Vera List Prize for Art and Politics. This section includes an interview between Gates and Vera List Center director Carin Kuoni; essays by Horace D. Ballard Jr., Romi N. Crawford, Shannon Jackson, and Mabel O. Wilson; and a number of responses to The Dorchester Projects by faculty in departments across The New School.

Yates McKee
Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post Occupy Condition
Verso Books

What is the relation of art to the practice of radical politics today? Strike Art explores this question through the historical lens of Occupy, an event that had artists at its core. Precarious, indebted, and radicalized, artists redirected their creativity from servicing the artworld into an expanded field of organizing in order to construct of a new—if internally fraught—political imaginary set off against the common enemy of the 1%. In the process, they called the bluff of a contemporary art system torn between ideals of radical critique, on the one hand, and an increasing proximity to Wall Street on the other—oftentimes directly targeting major art institutions themselves as sites of action.

Tracking the work of groups including MTL, Not an Alternative, the Illuminator, the Rolling Jubilee, and G.U.L.F, Strike Art shows how Occupy ushered in a new era of artistically-oriented direct action that continues to ramify far beyond the initial act of occupation itself into ongoing struggles surrounding labor, debt, and climate justice, concluding with a consideration of the overlaps between such work and the aesthetic practices of the Black Lives Matter movement. Art after Occupy, McKee suggests, contains great potentials of imagination and action for a renewed left project that are still only beginning to ripen, at once shaking up and taking flight from the art system as we know it.

Elizabeth M. Grady, Editor
Future Imperfect
A Blade of Grass

Framed by project participants and some of the discipline’s most important thinkers, Future Imperfect is an indispensable new resource from A Blade of Grass that weaves together accessible scholarship and leading examples of socially engaged art. Christian Viveros-Fauné considers social practice in a business context, Greg Sholette debates its progressive bona fides, Charles Esche ruminates on its utopian claims, and Grant Kester explores the tension between theory and practice. Essays by Deborah Fisher, Laura Raicovich, Jan Cohen-Cruz and Elizabeth Grady analyze the institutional context for the art, exploring the ways that it affects organizational structure, how its impact can be assessed, and curatorial perspectives.

Participant voices play a key role, as “Reports from the Field” are featured for each of the artist projects, including those by Mel Chin, Brett Cook, Pablo Helguera, Fran Ilich, Norene Leddy & Liz Slagus, Jan Mun, and Jody Wood. Sections on each of these projects include an informative description and rich illustrations that open a window onto the artists’ practice for those who are new to their art, while revealing elements of their working process to old hands. Additional contributions by Ben Davis, Tom Finkelpearl, Rick Lowe, and Nato Thompson help to frame the discourse, interrogating questions like ethics and effectiveness. With a foreword by Shelley Frost Rubin.

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Future ImperfectVera List Center
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