On engagement in contemporary cultural theory & practice

'ART as/is SOCIAL: On engagement in contemporary cultural theory & practice' is a discursive format with close readings, discussions and case studies around the topic of socially engaged artistic practices.

The objective of ART as/is SOCIAL is to evaluate, question and problematize the notion of socially engaged art, and to be able to take position in the contemporary debate from one's own perspective.

The main concern is to examine to what extent contemporary theories on socially engaged art reflect the reality of today’s artistic and curatorial practice, and to approach practical experience within the cultural field as a valuable source of knowledge alternative to academic knowledge production.

This discussion series is thus particularly directed at artists, curators, creative professionals and other actors within the cultural field. Participants are asked to reflect on the texts from their own (professional) position. People with a background in art theory and aesthetics are especially encouraged to participate as well. However, the format is open for anyone with a personal or professional affiliation with or interest in the topics under discussion.

In six consecutive sessions of approximately two hours each, we will discuss topics related to socially engaged artistic practices. For each session, a text by a contemporary theorist, researcher or philosopher is made available beforehand. Participants are very much encouraged to read (selected parts of) the text before attending the discussion. During the respective sittings of the discussion series, we will do close readings of (parts of) the texts. The questions, critiques and ideas that come up during these close readings then spark the discussion that follows. All of the sessions, and thus the conversations, will be centered around a key question and a set of concepts each. Specific examples, practices and case studies will be related to the text under discussion.

All of the sessions will be recorded for research and documentation purposes. Documentation material will not be made public without permission of the participants.

Findings and conclusions of each session will furthermore be reported on

ART as/is SOCIAL is a follow-up project to the discussion series THE NEW ART ACTIVISM that was hosted in October & November 2016 by ZK/U fellow Claudine Zia.


Thursday 27/04/2017 21.00: KICK-OFF session during the ZK/U OPENHAUS (*no reading*)

Tuesday 09/05/2017 19.00: Session #1: The theory of socially engaged artistic practices (Janet Marstine)

Wednesday 24/05/2017 19.00: Session #2: The paradoxes of political art (Jacques Rancière)

Wednesday 07/06/2017 19.00: Session #3: The (public) space of socially engaged art (Chantal Mouffe)

Wednesday 21/06/2017 19.00: Session #4: Socially engaged art institutions (ONCurating)

Wednesday 05/07/2017 19.00: Session #5: Socially engaged artistic practices as urban pedagogy (Nato Thompson)

Wednesday 19/07/2017 19.00: GUEST Session #6: Socially engaged art & the Commons, co-hosted by Rebecca Beinart (Casco Art Institute)

Wednesday 13/09/2017 19.00: GUEST Session #7 by NomadicArt


Participation in the discussion series is free of charge. Registration before attending a session is appreciated. Although participation in the entire series is encouraged, it is possible to attend single sessions. Please sign up for a session by sending an e-mail to lm(at) The reading material for that session will then be sent to you.

As this discussion series is an interactive-collaborative format, participants are warmly invited to propose texts, case studies, topics and questions that they would like to discuss. Not all sessions have been filled in completely yet, and it is always possible to look for ways to extend beyond the given format. Visiting an exhibition, screening, performance, lecture, and so on, could for instance also be taken up in the programme. Especially entries from one’s own practices are welcomed heartily.

Do not hesitate to get in touch anytime soon if you have any suggestions or proposals!

This project is supported by Radboud Honours Academy Nijmegen (NL).

Lianne Mol

ZK/U Center for Art and Urbanistics
Siemensstrasse 27
10551 Berlin