Social Practice: Concepts and Contexts
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: University-wide Programs
Department: University Lecture Program
Course Number: ULEC 2270
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Interdisciplinary Arts
  • Ethics & Social Responsibility
  • Transdisciplinary Design
How is it that a work of art may now double as a restaurant, a barter network, a walking tour, a community garden, a scientific study, a town hall meeting, or a virtual community archive? Since the turn of the 21st century, artistic projects that invite exchange, imagine new social relationships, and provoke individual and collective actions have grown increasingly popular, especially amongst a younger generation of creative practitioners around the world. This transdisciplinary approach is typically characterized by collaboration across liberal art and art and design disciplines. Rather than being the product of a single artist working within an isolated studio, social practice projects are driven by the desire to connect, to look outside oneself in meaningful and tangible ways, and to positively impact daily life within specific communities—often co-created with people with a variety of life experiences. For this kind of socially-engaged work to be successful, artists, designers, writers, scholars, architects, urban planners, and curators (among others) must develop a unique set of social and material skills, an awareness of history, and a nuanced understanding of the relationship between social justice, polemics and poetics. This course offers a theoretical and historical foundation for students interested in socially-engaged practices within or across their own disciplines, whether they are studying in the liberal arts, art and design, or performance. It will introduce some of the economic, political, and aesthetic forces that have influenced the emergence of these contemporary art and design practices. Through assigned texts, case studies, site visits, and writing assignments, students will investigate art historical legacies that challenge the boundaries between “art” and “life”; study methodologies stemming from social justice movements, new ways of teaching and learning, and ethnography; and engage in current debates regarding the ethics of cultural production in the public sphere.
This course satisfies a requirement the Social Practice minor.
Students must register for both the lecture and discussion section of this course.
Course Open to: Degree Students


Open to Undergraduate students.