What responsibility does art have to its public? How is art a “social practice”? What is the model of the “cultural commons” and how might it be reshaping the way we make art today? This combined seminar and studio course will begin by exploring the concept of the “commons” as a cultural resource belonging to all members of a community. Drawing from recent scholarship, theory and debates across disparate fields (law, economics, history, theatre and performance studies, and art), we will first define the “cultural commons” of Williams College and Williamstown. We will then design and implement a series of art and performance projects involving participation, collective labor and ownership, community building, utopianism, active spectatorship, and public space. Students will also conduct and present to the class independent research on contemporary artists (Theaster Gates, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Santiago Sierra, Francis Alÿs, Tino Sehgal, Paul Chan), collectives (The TEAM, The Civilians, Gorilla Girls, Sojourn Theatre, The Neofuturists, Ghana Think Tank), and community-based initiatives in our local art institutions (WCMA, Mass MoCA, The Clark). Readings on participatory art, happenings, relational aesthetics, social works, and utopia may be drawn from such authors as: Allan Kaprow, Theodor Adorno, Augusto Boal, Nicolas Bourriaud, Jacques Rancière, Peggy Phelan, Shannon Jackson, Claire Bishop, Grant Kester, Nicholas Ridout, Jill Dolan, José E. Muñoz, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and Rebecca Schneider. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative by engaging directly with questions of how diversities of gender, race, class, and sexuality may be embraced rather than negated by communal forms of art making.
The Class: Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly writing; two "workshop" showings; public art or performance project; one 15-minute oral presentation; one 10- to 12-page paper; active participation
Enrollment Preferences: Art Majors, Theatre Majors
Unit Notes: this is both a studio and seminar course, with both a workshop/lab and discussion
Distributions: Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative