it’s all about the experience!


For more about the book and our essay, “Bodies and Objects in Today’s Museums,” click here.

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design as future-making


Click here for more about the book.

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iscp artists at the moore street market


Old New Territories (a short text I wrote), discusses projects installed by residents Minja GuLotte Van den AudenaerenFrancisco Montoya Cázarez & Su Yu-Hsein at Moore Street Market in Brooklyn from 2011 through 2012.  Projects were commissioned as a component of ISCP’s Participatory Projects initiative supporting current residents and alumni producing new works in the public realm.


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“[Y]our study is at the crossroads of magic and positivism. This spot is bewitched.” (Adorno in a letter to Walter Benjamin)

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jameson(from Fredric Jameson’s The Geopolitical Aesthetic).

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touching reality

“Art is a tool used to get to know the world. Art is a tool used to experience the time in which I am living.” Thomas Hirschhorn


Link to Hirschhorn’s essay, “Why Is it Important – Today –to Look at Images of Destroyed Human Bodies.” Still from his video, “Touching Reality” (now at ICP’s triennialA Different Kind of Order).

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appropriate: suitable or proper in the circumstances (adjective). to take something for one’s own use (verb).

photo 1(Astra Howard’s studio, Brooklyn, NY)

I think your work represents a kind of avant-garde of that which could be the action of intellectuals. It could serve as a critical analyzer of the moment of transmission of knowledge in relation to the moment of the conception and of the research itself. Everything makes me think that intellectuals are not at all concerned about the moment of the performance, and that they do not make it an object of research. And it is to a large extent for this reason that they are so little effective. I think they should take inspiration from research like yours…in order to give full symbolic effectiveness to their unveiling of social mechanisms, particularly of those who rule the world of culture. Pierre Bourdieu in conversation with Hans Haacke

In my research, which focuses on social practice and forms of artistic research, I argue that looking at contemporary art stands to show us something about our society’s historical character, the spirit of the times and the social issues that prevail—typical objectives in the sociological study of art (Zolberg 1990; Crane 1987). In researching these forms of artistic practice, sociology stands to learn something about how research from another field takes shape via its investigation of and intervention in the social and how this poses collaborative possibilities for sociologists in terms of sharing methods and knowledge.

Certainly, if societies establish unity and identity through myths, stories, images, and other shared aesthetic significations, creative practitioners are poised as primary leaders in construction of these forms. Both artists and social scientists play principal roles in the ability of society to inaugurate new forms of itself. These practitioners do not just represent what exists in society, rather their work anticipates emergent social experience, rhythms and feelings that have not yet realized their social character—what Raymond Williams (1961) calls “structures of feeling.” These ‘structures’ hover at the edge of semantic availability and it is the creative practitioner who is often the first to access these inchoate tensions and give these rumblings form.

Art reflects its society and works a social character through to its reality in experience. But also art creates, by new perceptions and responses, elements which the society, as such, is not able to realize…in certain forms and devices, evidence of the deadlocks and unsolved problems of the society [are] often admitted to consciousness for the first time in this way (Williams 1961: 86).

I argue in my work that social practice in art embodies the sociological imagination as expressed by C. Wright Mills (1959). On its most basic level, the sociological imagination involves a disposition whereby we seek to understand the individual’s relation to society through the ways in which her biography is related to the larger history and her troubles are related to larger social issues. According to Mills, those who are “imaginatively aware of the promise of their work” consistently ask three sorts of questions: they look at the structure of their particular society and look for possibilities for change; they place this particular society historically and look at how it “moves” in its particular period; and they look at the types of people that prevail in this particular society and period along with those who are coming to prevail (1959: 6). Notably, these are the questions addressed by many artists engaged in social practice. Mills understands the sociological imagination as the common denominator shared by intellectual communities and cultural publics including both artists and social scientists. Critical reflection, according to Mills, allows its user to diagnose society and articulate alternate possibilities. This involves a constructive dynamic that is creative, performative, and imaginative.

As Simon Critchley notes (2012), “It is simply a fact that contemporary art has become the central placeholder for the articulation of cultural meanings—good, bad, or indifferent.” There is arguably  “a need to conduct more research about the phenomenon of social practice and its possible histories, geographies, and interpretations” (Creative Time 2011). Sociologists are well suited for this task and could give such research a grounding that would be add depth and context to the research produced by art historians on these topics. Helguera (2012) argues that there has not been a sociological study of contemporary art since Howard Becker’s Art Worlds was published in 1982. Besides Diana Crane’s research on New York’s avant-garde in the late 1980s, I can think of little evidence to refute this claim. Continue reading

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