This fall at the School of the Art Institute, we taught a course on “Chicago Social Practice,” a contested and ambiguous territory that was being tested out in various forms in the fall of 2014 in Chicago, through an exhibition at the Sullivan Galleries, curated by Mary Jane Jacob and Kate Zeller, a series of four edited volumes on the history of such practice in Chicago–edited respectively by Daniel Tucker, myself (Abby), Rebecca Zorach, and Stephanie Smith–, as well as a symposium entitled “A Lived Practice.” We didn’t want affirm one particular way of thinking about this field going into the course but we did know that we wanted to impart a criticality onto our students and to think deeply about how social practice could be relevant to all kinds of artists and art-making. It was important for us to ask them to look beyond the emerging canon of projects and artists and to take into account the invisible cultural and artistic histories of communities and neighborhoods far beyond the reaches of the institution. To move beyond simple speculation about who wasn’t included but to take seriously what became part of the exhibition at the same time as discovering those absent. And hopefully, in doing so, question and analyze the processes of exhibition-making, history-making, and the benefits and drawbacks of institutionalization.
The official description is that the Chicago Social Practice Lab course engages students in the burgeoning field of socially engaged art practices, which emphasizes participation, dialogue, and action as a form of making art. Throughout the course we will utilize field visits, artists dialogues, class discussion, and interventions to gain a better understanding of artists as members of society who participate, investigate and disrupt complex social sites of power. Individual and group studio projects will be supplemented with readings about local art history and engagement with the Chicago Social Practice exhibition, on view in the Sullivan Galleries in the fall of 2014.
Diabloglical is the Chicago Social Practice Lab’s class discussion about the Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action exhibition at SAIC’s Sullivan Galleries. This is a collective writing about the show’s relationship to Chicago, its history of socially engaged practices, the artists involved in the show, questions of authenticity, financial and labor costs, and the analyses of the exhibitions effectiveness, goals, and ramifications in terms of the field as a whole. The class felt that a wiki, which can be openly edited by any user (and corrected if need be), would be a more appropriate way to unpack the various issues in the exhibition, rather than a critical or analytical essay. It also allowed the students to write collaboratively, to add to each other’s perspectives, and to follow their interests in the different directions they needed to go.
They distilled our discussion in class to five topics pertaining to each issue regarding the show, inevitably expanding it into a discussion about social practice in its entirety. We hope that this open discussion format can lead to more conversation as to how to work through Proximity of Consciousness and social practice as an artistic discipline in general.
To read and contribute to the students’ blog, see this link: http://sopra-lab-saic.wikia.com/wiki/Chicago_Social_Practice_Lab_(SAIC)_Wiki