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



Mockstitution, n. (neologism) similar to the concept of Artificial Institution (see Marina Naprushkina), or para-fictional institution (C. Lambert-Betty, C. Bishop), a mock institution or "Mockstitution" is an informally structured art agency that overtly mimics the name and to some degree the function of larger, more established organizational entities including schools, bureaus, offices, laboratories, leagues, centers, departments, societies, clubs, bogus corporations and institutions. Mockinstitution thrive within the voids left by an increasingly fractured social framework whose coherence is faltering thanks to rampant privatization, economic deregulation, ubiquitous social risk and day-to-day precariousness. Inserting themselves into these deterritoralized spaces, Mockinstitutions typically sport their own ersatz logos, forged mission statements, and fake websites, all the while engaging in a process of self-branding not aimed at niche marketing or product loyalty, but rather at gaining surreptitious entry into media visibility itself. The Yes Men, for example, embody stereotypical business executives with such uncanny precision that they gain access to "real" corporate conferences, press events, and mass media coverage in order to carry out "image correction" on these same business enterprises. Likewise, the Center for Tactical Magic mixes together Wicca paganism and interventionist maneuvers in an effort to bring about "positive social transformation." Curiously, the longer a Mockstitutions manages to operate the more likely its ironic identity will migrate from the sphere of rhetoric to that of logistical necessity, as if the fictional organization was doomed to re-enter the realm of true institutional authority through the "back-door." One question this giddy confusing raises is whether or not a simulated institutin functions as well as, or perhaps even better than, a so-called actual institution? At the same time, the overall spirit of this new, social-interventionist culture reveals a curious similarity at times with the anarcho-entrepreneurial spirit of the broader neo-liberal economy, including a highly plastic sense of collective identity, and a romantic distrust of comprehensive administrative structures (see Participation).

—Greg Sholette
Contribute a Definition

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.)