On its twentieth anniversary, the Vera List Center assesses the unique role art plays at the intersection of politics and civic life. This daylong conference addresses the changing cultural and political landscape shaped by new global social movements, and provokes responses and reflections from an international group of artists, activists, and scholars.
While the last twenty years have been marked by a general interest in the convergence of art and politics, the current moment is being characterized by the construction of new systems and networks for imagining, discussing, and ultimately creating new cultural and political realities. In the wake of upheaval and creativity, generated by the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, this phenomenon has been referred to as the return of the civic. This contemporary shift directly affects how artists consider their practice today, for whom they make their work, and how they relate to society at large.
The conference is organized as a series of roundtable call-and-responses from some of the most astute and insightful individuals analyzing these issues today. Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People(1830) provides a launching point. Created to celebrate the July 1830 revolution which toppled the monarchy of Charles X, the painting depicts the image of Lady Liberty leading the citizens to the battle for freedom and equality. The iconic depiction of the bare-breasted Grecian goddess continues to shape and reinforce notions of revolutionary moments and idealistic fervor, for better or worse. The aim of this conference, as with all of the center's programs, is to take a critical look at such relationships between art, politics, and civic engagement in relation to their representation, their own histories, and the present moment.
Welcoming Remarks by David Van Zandt, President, The New School and Carin Kuoni, director/curator, Vera List Center
Call & Response I: Art and Activism
What are the origins of the current moment of awareness in the social value of art? The social, economic, and political conditions in which we work have become increasingly visible frameworks for both the production and reception of art as well as ideas about its political efficacy.
Wendy T. Ewald, photographer, 2000 Vera List Center Fellow, New York; Andrea Geyer, artist, 2006-07 Vera List Center Fellow, New York; Robert Sember, artist, 2009-11 Vera List Center Fellow, New York; David Scobey, executive dean, The New School for Public Engagement, New York. Moderated by NatoThompson, chief curator, Creative Time, Vera List Center Advisory Committee member, New York.
Call & Response II: Identity Politics Revisited
The height of the culture wars was twenty years ago. It was a time of rousing public debates about freedom of speech and society's investment in art. Today, globalism has ushered in an era of unheralded diversity in the arts. This coming together has raised new issues internationally, as practitioners struggle to create new models, and in the United States, in which disenfranchised groups have increasingly become a focus of interest of artists committed to social justice.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University; Firelei Baez, artist, New York; Kobena Mercer, professor, Art History, Yale University, 1999 Vera List Center Fellow; Helen Molesworth, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, ICA Boston. Moderated by Jens Hoffmann, deputy director and Head of Exhibitions and Public Programs, The Jewish Museum, New York.
Interlude by artist Reena Katz
"Gradually, and with no small struggle against this realization, I came to see that oral propaganda is at best but a means of shaking people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression."
Call & Response III: The Political Aesthetic
The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed an explosion in the number of publications, conferences, and exhibitions devoted to defining and assessing socially and politically engaged creative practices. How has "the political" as a driving force in art making been affected by the 2011 global protests?
Simon Critchley, professor of Philosophy, The New School; Julie Mehretu, artist, New York; Joao Ribas, curator, MIT List Center; Martha Rosler, artist, Vera List Center Advisory Committee member, New York. Moderated by David Joselit, professor, Art History, Yale University.
Call & Response IV: The People's Panel
In homage to Komar & Melamid's People's Choice (1994-97), the People's Panel invited the public to activate the archives of the Vera List Center, asking them to vote for the event organized by the center in the past twenty years that they would most like to revisit today. The most popular event is creatively reenacted at the conference. Given history's holes and lacunae, the center is challenged to reflect on the complex and shifting roles of institutional history and remembrance. The People's Panel has been curated in collaboration with Paul Chan, artist, New York. Participants to be announced.
Vera List Courtyard
From "Sustaining Democracy" to the State of the Civic: 20 Years of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics has been curated and organized by Carin Kuoni, Director and Curator of the Vera List Center, with Curatorial Associate Chelsea Haines. The conference has been made possible, in part, by the support ofthe Vera List Center Advisory Committee, in particular Frances Beatty and Allen Adler.
Please visit the Vera List Center's website for more information on this and other events.
Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (July 28,1830), 1830.
Collection of the Louvre-Lens.