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

Conflict no. 2

Authorship, Collective and Other

December 10, 2014

When artworks are authored collectively, either by groups of artists working together or in a co-creative relationship with non-artists, it becomes important to understand the project in terms of its process over time, and to develop a different understanding of mastery, skill, credit, and social and cultural capital. How does this process of collaboration become visible and readable to an audience that is not actively participating in the work? Is it important that it does? What does masterful co-created work look like, and how is its aesthetic quality evaluated? Is it possible to share artistic identity, and the social and cultural capital that is associated with it?

These questions impact the temporal framework for looking at a socially engaged artwork as a non-participant, how the mastery and value of it is assessed, and the economic models that can be successfully applied to it. To perceive an artistic process, when must an external audience start looking, and how does this looking manifest itself? When a project initiated by artists is sustained long-term by a community of non-artists, does it remain an artwork? Does it change character? Does it achieve permanence? What economic models can be applied to collective creative practice? Is the active participation of non-artists in a project a declaration of its value? How does this value relate to other arbiters of value in contemporary art?

This episode looks at hybrid forms of often long-term collaborations where authorship is shared among groups of artists or participants or dispersed with and among audiences, with a particular focus on the temporal frame required for understanding works that are initiated by someone and expanded on – even completed – by someone else, and the value of shared authorship and artistic process.


Welcome to the Art & Social Justice Working Group.


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.


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.


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
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.)