From "Sustaining Democracy" to the State of the Civic:
Debates Mark 20 Years of the Vera List Center for Art & Politics

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Simon Critchley, Julie Mehretu, and Other Leading International Artists, Activists and Scholars

May 17 at The New School's Tishman Auditorium
Free and Open to the Public

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830. Collection of the Louvre-Lens

New York (April 24, 2013) - In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School for Public Engagement presents From “Sustaining Democracy” to the State of the Civic (May 17), a daylong series of panels exploring the unique role art plays at the intersection of politics and civic life. Panels will draw on an international group of artists, activists, and scholars, including Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton; Simon Critchley, The New School; Wendy T. Ewald; David Joselit, Yale; Helen Molesworth, ICA Boston; Julie Mehretu; Kobena Mercer, Yale; Martha Rosler; and Nato Thompson, Creative Time.

"Throughout the last 20 years, there has been a growing awareness and interest in the intersections of art and politics, and the Vera List Center has been a trailblazer for this exploration," said Vera List Center director Carin Kuoni. "'From "Sustaining Democracy" to the State of the Civic' gives us occasion to reflect on our two decades, and to examine how new technologies, and recent social movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring are transforming civic discourse and artistic expression."

Organized as a series of roundtable call-and-responses from some of the most astute and insightful individuals analyzing these issues today, the role of art and artists, in both manifesting and developing formats for a new civil society, serves as the basis for lively discussion.


10am-10:15am   Welcoming Remarks
David E. Van Zandt, President, The New School
Carin Kuoni, Director, Vera List Center for Art and Politics

10:15am-11:45pm Call & Response I: Art and Activism
How does the current moment of awareness in the social value of art relate to previous movements and longstanding debates? The social, economic and political conditions in which we work affect have become increasingly visible frameworks for both the production and reception of art as well as its portended political efficacy.
Wendy T. Ewald, photographer, 2000 Vera List Center Fellow, New York
Andrea Geyer, artist, 2006-07 Vera List Center Fellow; Assistant Professor of Fine Arts / New Genres, Parsons, New York
Assistant Professor of Fine Arts / New Genres, School of Art, Media, and Technology
David Scobey, Executive Dean, The New School for Public Engagement, New York
Robert Sember, artist, 2009-11 Vera List Center Fellow, New York

Moderated by Nato Thompson, Chief Curator, Creative Time, Vera List Center Advisory Committee member, New York.

12pm-1:30pm Call & Response II: Identity Politics Revisited
Twenty years ago marked the height of the culture wars, 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 amongst 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, New Haven
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.

1:30pm-2:30pm Interlude by artist Reena Katz; Lunch

2:30-4pm 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. Is “the political” as a driving force in art making here to stay as we grapple with its changed meaning in light of the 2011 global protests?
Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research
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.

4:15pm-5:30pm Call & Response IV: People's Panel
In homage to Komar & Melamid’s People’s Choice (1994-97), the People’s Panel invited the public to play with 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, touching on the complex and shifting role of institutional history and remembrance. The People’s Panel has been curated in collaboration with Paul Chan, artist, New York.

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 of the Vera List Center Advisory Committee, in particular Frances Beatty and Allen Adler.

For a full conference description, visit our website.

About the Vera List Center 20th Anniversary Programs
Other anniversary activities have included the inauguration of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, which in 2013 and 2014 honors Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates; the commissioning of 20th anniversary art projects by Paul Ramírez Jonas and Reena Katz; and the creation of the Vera List Anniversary Print Portfolio has been created in recognition of the exceptional legacy of philanthropist Vera List, with new art commissions from Dan Graham, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Sarah Morris, Matt Mullican, Fred Tomaselli, and Fred Wilson. In addition, to honor the Vera List Center’s legacy of compelling public programming, tuition for all 2013 public events has been waved, and video, audio and other documentation from many of the hundreds of public programs the center has curated are now made publicly available in the form of a living, interactive archive. For more information on the 20th Anniversary programs, visit our website at

About the Vera List Center for Art and Politics
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics is an idea incubator and a public forum for art, culture and politics. Named in honor of the late philanthropist Vera G. List, it was established at The New School in 1992 – a time of rousing debates about freedom of speech, identity politics and society’s investment in the arts. A pioneer in the field, the center’s mission remains critical: to foster a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars and policy makers who take creative, intellectual and political risks to bring about positive change.

We champion the arts as expressions of the political moments from which they emerge, and consider the intersection between art and politics the space where new forms of civic engagement must be developed. We are the only university-based institution committed exclusively to leading public research of this intersection. Through publications and exhibitions, public programs, conferences and classes, prizes and fellowships, we curate and support new roles for the arts and artists in advancing social justice.

The New School
Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The New School welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and calendar of lectures, screenings, readings, and concerts. Through its online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence. Learn more at


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