Shannon Jackson

Social Art Works: Social Turns and Reciprocal Systems

Date 9/19/11

Affiliation Professor, UC Berkeley, Berkeley


When people talk about socially-engaged art, they often frame it as a trade-off: As social engagement increases, the artfulness and conceptual rigor decreases.   Are there ways to get out of this impasse?  

This lecture explores recent experiments in socially-engaged art and performance, focusing particularly upon artists who conceive social problems as formal puzzles.  Surveying key questions and issues in aesthetics and media history, the talk lingers an artists and art groups such as Rimini Protokoll, Joanna Haigood, and others who use cross-media forms to explore social issues.  What does it mean to incorporate the support systems and infrastructures of the social into the interior of the artwork?  What new provocations come forward when we take an aesthetic stance on the support systems of labor, global communication, and human welfare?  Why are we more likely  to find cross-media artists working on questions of social engagement?


Shannon Jackson is currently the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in the Arts and Humanities and Director of the Arts Research Center. Her most recent book is Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (2011). Previous work has explored the relation between performance and Progressive Era social reform (Lines of Activity, 2000) and between performance and the disciplines of higher education (Professing Performance, 2004). She is working on a book about the relation between new media and theatre in the work of the The Builders Association to be published by M.I.T. Press. She serves on assorted boards, has published in assorted journals, collections, and catalogues, and is currently working on a number of community art projects in the Bay Area.

-- As of 9/19/11