Art & Social Justice Working Group
Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Art Case Study

Yams Collective

HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?

This collective of artists, writers, composers, academics, filmmakers and performers from around the world collaborate across disciplines and cities. Their exact membership is always in flux, and by their own definition they are "mostly black, and mostly queer." Their desire to collaborate extends through online chat, email, telephone, text and airplanes, enabling the Yams to connect across Seattle; New York; Paris; Edmonton, Alberta; and Los Angeles. They have been working together informally in various formations for more than a decade but united as the YAMS in 2013.

Their film "Good Stock on the Dimension Floor: An Opera" mixes diverse genres from theater, dance, electronic music, poetry, performance art, and political manifesto to create "a visual collage" and "a modern spiritual" according to YAMS member Christa Bell. The film re-imagines the traditional opera through a spoken, chanted, sung and screamed libretto, exploring the consequences of centuries of global racial strife thrust upon those of African descent. The dynamic libretto, written by poet Dawn Lundy Martin, poses the central question: "What happens to the black body when it is haunted by a blackness outside of it?" Disputing the notion that identity is static, the piece presents identity as evolving and multifaceted.

Readings
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Welcome to the Art & Social Justice Working Group.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The purpose of the Art + Social Justice Working Group is to examine core conflicts that propel, enrich, and complicate artistic efforts that assume agency to enact social change. In this examination the group expects to foster clarity around both terminology and effective artistic and curatorial practice.

This site is home to the developing dialogue of glossary terms for describing this work and strategies for enacting it.





Core Conflicts

The ASJWG is organized around conflicts central to current conversations and practice in socially and politically engaged art. The six initial conflicts include: Accountability: Artist, Curator, Institution, Funder; Authorship, Collective and Other; Audience, Participation, Spectatorship, Modes of Address; Aesthetics and Usefulness; Local and Global, Specific and General; and Now and Forever: Do Gooding, Criticality, Oppositional.


Case Study

Each conflict is grounded in a case study to provide context about a specific project and artist's practice. For example, the first conflict Accountability: Artist, Curator, Institution, Funder begins with Thomas Hirshhorn's Gramsci Monument as a case study to launch a larger dialogue.


Readings

Writing from artists, scholars, community members, curators, and others augment conversation about each conflict. You are encouraged to add your own favorites to further the conversation.


Glossary Terms

These key terms and concepts evolve out of the conflict and case study. There is no single official definition, rather many perspectives are aggregated here about each glossary term to develop a complex understanding.


Strategy

Following a similar format to the glossary, effective strategies for enacting this work in artistic and curatorial practice are aggregated from many individuals. Together they create a series of suggestions, guidelines, and warnings for all participants in this work.

Your comments, fresh perspectives, and contributions of new strategies and glossary terms are welcome and needed to advance this field and support our work.


Commissioned Artwork

Artists were commissioned to attend the initial six conflict meetings and develop new artwork in response to the ideas and perspective shared. Artists include: Liz Slagus and Norene Leddy, Laura Chipley, Fran Illich, and Nobu Aozaki.


Core Group Members

Thomas Anesta
Sascia Bailer
Beka Economopoulos
Deborah Fisher
Elizabeth Grady
Gordon Hall
Larissa Harris
Kemi Ilesanmi
Jason Jones
Kim Katatani
Grant Kester
Pam Korza
Carin Kuoni
Cynthia Lawson
Laura Raicovich
Paul Ramírez Jonas
Yasmil Raymond
Prerana Reddy
Christopher Robbins
Barbara Schaffer Bacon
Robert Sember
Greg Sholette
Radhika Subramaniam
Johanna Taylor
Niels Van Tomme
Christian Viveros-Fauné
Jennifer Wilson

Plus additional guest participants.

The Art + Social Justice Working Group is launched by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School and A Blade of Grass, with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Vera List Center and A Blade of Grass are both dedicated to supporting individuals in pursuit of the intersection of art and social justice, and to developing related programs and scholarship.

Questions? Comments? Contact vlc@newschool.edu.
1. What would you like to contribute?
2. To which conflict does this pertain?
3. What is the definition?
3. What is the link to the reading?
4. Who are you? (We promise we won't share your information.)
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