Category Archives: Reviews

Valuing Labor in the Arts: Response

Now on A wrap-up and response article by Patricia Maloney on Gauging the Gray Area, a workshop organized by myself and Helena Keeffe for “Valuing Labor in the Arts” at the Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley:

Valuing Labor in the Arts – Response: Negotiating Terms and Setting Precedents

By Patricia Maloney May 22, 2014

On April 19, 2014, the Arts Research Center hosted Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. This daylong event included a series of artist-led workshops that developed exercises, prompts, or actions that engage questions of art, labor, and economics.

Patricia Maloney participated in the “Gauging the Gray Area: Standards for Artistic Labor” workshop at the Valuing Labor in the Arts practicum and was commissioned to write this response….


One of the participants in the workshop, choreographer and Berkeley PhD student Sara Wilbur  also came up with a great dance-focused response to the project. Amazing!


You can download our Gauging the Grey Area broadside here.



Non-Participation in Tranzit Paper

A very nice post in Tranzit Paper on my on-going project Non-Participation.

Art in times of crisis: Socially engaged Art

Text: Anabel Roque Rodriguez

We are living in a time that is facing deep and rapid social changes. These changes are a reaction to social conflicts, both within states and beyond them. Whether it is a matter of a social order under the condition of a capitalist system, new technological possibilities or a global order in the face of scarce resources, climate change and armed conflicts – we are confronting challenges of a new kind that question the traditional conceptions of order. Our society is based upon orders of justification that privilege some with certain legitimations and the power of representation. This authority is questioned by an increasing number of people.

“It’s time to put Duchamp’s urinal back into the restroom” —Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera, putting Duchamp’s Fountain back into use at Queens Museum of Art, NYC, source

The proposal of the artist Tania Bruguera to put Duchamp`s urinal back into the restroom describes very metaphorical the claim that socially engaged art has: This way of understanding art has nothing to do with decontextualization of objects in order to understand a concept, in contrary, socially engaged art is aboutconcrete problems, humans, conditions, communities. It does not represent an abstracted idea but transforms the idea into action. It is about establishing a difference in art between representing what is political and acting politically. Socially engaged art deals with explicit conditions and does not remain in the level of association. An important source are social movements as the AIDS activism, women’s right movement, the civil rights movement but also community work . The topics are specific but deal a lot with exclusion of minorities (women, migrants, ethnic groups, states…etc.) and the lack of their representation.
It is almost impossible to measure the impact and value on an artistic scale or market index with old-fashioned indexes as the aesthetic experience is over and social transformation has priority . It transcends the field of art, entering daily life without knowing how big the real impact will be in the end. It is not just about raising awareness, but about being uncomfortable, sharing knowledge, and affecting local situations.

Why is art the appropriate medium to lead to social change? First of all, one has to break with the stereotype in people’s head that art is something that just belongs to cultural institution and works exclusively in an exhibition format. The history of political art shows that movements as Fluxus, Dada, Surrealists, Futurists etc. developed strategies, as happenings and performances, to express disobedience and resistance against the bourgeoisie and the established system. One characteristic was that art was not longer reduced to an object but to the experience of the action in-situ. The new definition of art is that it rather encompasses gestures that the artist has conceived specifically for it, repeating actions, ethical views, political decisions and economic considerations in his or her project. This new development leads to the fact that it became very difficult to expose these strategies out of their context, especially in the political field, without forcing a museification and turning the strategy into a meaningless tool in an archive box. Art is not longer a privilege of art institutions!

Art can be understood as a tool kit for social change to answer the big question: What is our role and responsibility within this global reality? There are different ways to address this fundamental question. One possibility is the material solution where social or political issues are translated into material resolutions that provide necessary and different points of entry into complex ideas. The creative dimension of art can also be used to bring a group of like-minded people together and develop specific strategies/actions as a collective – a micro society.
Socially engaged art is lead by the strong desire to connect daily life and art and change specific conditions with creative tools. The difference between art and activism is obsolete as art is redefined by the dynamics of the actions. For art historian, theorist and curators it is quit difficult to theorize it, as the art specific aesthetic quality is secondary and other fundamental questions are raised: What is the social impact? Which tool/strategy has to be developed for a specific condition? Does empowering individuals really increase their social and political participation and therefore lead to participatory processes of change? What skills and supports are needed to build sustainable practices that operate within this context? Do the roles of artists and their position in society change when they explicitly refer to societal or political issues?

The mentioned characteristics of socially engaged art can be summed up as following:
(1) cannot be reduced to an object anymore but development of long-term tools and strategies (2) collective authorship: the formation of local communities, geographical bonds and the building of alliances to reinforce activism are of central importance. Instead of creating an individual object, a group of people tries to find strategies to change something. (3) site specificity: the projects act in local conditions/communities.

The concrete examples for socially engaged art are indefinite. But to exemplify the theoretical part I would like to introduce a variety of projects within. As you can see the projects are filled with further links so that everyone with further knowledge can scroll through.

Tania Bruguera Arte útil (useful art) “Immigrant Movement International” Queens Museum. Aim: Empowerment of excluded communities.
“Useful Art is a way of working with aesthetic experiences that focus on the implementation of art in society where art’s function is no longer to be a space for “signaling” problems, but the place from which to create the proposal and
implementation of possible solutions. We should go back to the times when art was not something to look at in awe, but something to generate from. If it is political art, it deals with the consequences, if it deals with the consequences, I think it has to be useful art.”¹ (Tania Bruguera)

An interesting project is the “non participation project” of the artist Lauren van Haaften-Schick where she calls for letters by artists, curators, and other cultural producers, written to decline their participation which run counter to their stated missions. There are many reasons to decline cooperation with an institution: The process of exclusion of minorities: women, ethnic groups, classes, states…etc. in the curatorial programming. The “no” to such cooperation is a highly political act and shows that it is not just about projects you do but also projects you will not do.

Leonidas Martin member of the Spanish collective enmediowho develops creative strategies/actions to face the crisis in Spain. Aim: Strengthen the collective thinking in times of crisis in Spain. One action, which exemplifies the combination of interventionist tactics and politically engaged artistic practice, is Evictions Are Not Numbers, They Are Faces and Eyes (2012). For this action, which took place on the one-year anniversary of the first M15 protests, members of Enmedio pasted portraits of evicted Spaniards onto the storefront windows of banks around the country. The large photographs put faces to the names of those that the banks would not or could not support, frankly embodying the consequences of the financial crisis.

Photo: source

¹ Tania Bruguera:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anabel Roque Rodriguez is a curator and writer. Her research focus is: Feminism, Art activism; questions of representation; territoriality; temporary artistic occupations, and the politicization of space in Contemporary Art.


Non-Participation via Artists-in-Residence at Casino Luxembourg

Thanks to the artists-in-residence at Casino Luxembourg for posting the call for submissions to Non-Participation.

More on their project, Making of:


Non-Participation in the L Magazine

Thanks to Corinna Kirsch at the L Magazine for sharing my invitation to submit to Non-Participation.

Protest Much? Participate in “Non-Participation”

From Kirsch’s article:

“For all the critics out there, Brooklyn-based curator Lauren van Haaften-Schick has a project just for you. All you need to do is send her a letter.

Van Haaften-Schick’s latest project, Non-Participation, ‘will be a collection of letters by artists, curators, and other cultural producers, written to decline their participation in events, or with organizations and institutions.’ She can’t do all the legwork on her own, so if you’ve ever had a beef with organizations and institutions, send her your submission.

We here at AFC plan on submitting our petition against Sotheby’s, the auction house that locked out its art handlers for nearly a year. But with the definition of “letter” left vague, we could also submit a handful of things like reviews, tweets, emails, or anything beginning with ‘Dear _____.'”

The deadline for submissions is December 31.

Some recent reviews of “Canceled: Alternative Manifestations & Productive Failures”

Though it came down over the summer, the exhibition at The Center for Book Arts in New York just got one more review in Frieze. Thanks to all who came to the opening and talks. Here are some snippets of the write-ups:


“As the title of the show suggests, these controversies might have been a greater means of stirring debate than any exhibition or work alone could have done. Yet more importantly, a secondary theme emerged from ‘Canceled’: how artists make stands not only against censorship, but as a refusal to self-sacrifice in the name of easy, if not chimerical, success. Conflating this issue well beyond the normative sphere of art, the exhibition cumulatively asked: what kind of chilling effect would be produced if Baer and, with her, more artists caved in and said, ‘yes, please’ to any powers that be?” – Adam Kleinman

“Some remarkable artifacts come to the surface in this extensive trawling: a one-of-a-kind collaged mailer from the artist Cameron to Berman; Hans Haacke’s personal copy of his monograph Werkmonographie, which documents his inspired struggle with the Guggenheim in 1971… At times the curatorial conceit can be a bit baggy: Seth Siegelaub’s books-as-exhibitions from the 1960s are a form of rejecting the gallery’s physical space, but they have little rapport with the conflict that animates most of the other selections. The curator, Lauren van Haaften-Schick, suggests in an accompanying essay that that the exclusion of contested artworks from exhibitions represents “ultimately productive failure,” which reminded me of the chestnut “fail better” from Samuel Beckett’s last novel, Worstward Ho (1983). Beckett was fairly black about about one’s prospects in the end (hence that title)—“Canceled” leaves one with a much more generous feeling about the possibility of failure.” – Zachary Sachs

“Today, there is a much greater reluctance to present work that is either politically or socially challenging to funders. There’s also a deep conservatism regarding work that is potentially offensive, particularly to the kind of people who populate museum and foundation boards. The flip side, however, is that we are all also becoming savvy cynics who know too well that controversy itself can be a goal for some artists and institutions. Hungry for attention or dollars, these people present work that is superficially controversial, often containing pornography, biological matter, live animals or religious iconography, but the art contains no real meaning or critique. So we find ourselves in a time when less truly risky work is commissioned and displayed, but there is an abundance of the tropes of controversy. And these tropes are often quickly co-opted by ad agencies to generate new products or brand identities for corporations and companies that are anything but politically radical. Thankfully, the curator of the show, Lauren van Haaften-Schick, has chosen artistic work that has clear rigor behind it. This provides the opportunity to examine the results of cancellation not as simplistic controversies but rather as complicated narratives of creation and rejection.” – Alexis Clements

L Magazine:

“Canceled”: Alternative Manifestations and Productive Failures, which chronicles an idiosyncratic history of terminated art exhibitions and projects whose reputations endure through printed materials, deftly explores critical dynamics of power and authority while generally skirting trite examples of First Amendment flag-waving. With a compact presentation at the Center for Book Arts (through June 30) of catalogues, posters, magazines, booklets, PDFs, and more, curator Lauren van Haaften-Schick establishes how, over the last 55 years, myriad forms of censorship have evolved from swift police ambushes and reactionary political grandstanding to the development of complex legal positions on intellectual property.” – Christopher Howard