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



Define Ownership as Responsibility. Make it task oriented.

I think it is art. He thinks it is free babysitting. She thinks it is changing the world. They think it is a good way to warehouse the property until demand rises.

There are many ways to own a project. The artist may need to own the authorship as a tool to access new sources of funding and partners. The neighbors may need to own the property so that they are not gentrified out once the project is "successful". The outside project manager may need to own the scheduling.

Consider ownership a tool that has many aspects, each important to different groups of people.
—Christopher Robbins

Yams is a mode of operation that is unfamiliar – most are a multiplication of authorship not a blurring of authorship (like a neighborhood that makes a carnival).

—Christopher Robbins

What does it mean to own an idea or a task? How is this different from owning a commodity?

What's interesting about Chris' definition is that this ownership is inherently shared. Most definitions of ownership are zero-sum--if I own it, by definition, you don't. If you own it and I own it, we define that by saying we co-own it. When we work on this together, we co-labor.

Is it accurate to define an art project, in this case, as a thing that's owned by a multiplicity of stakeholders? I think so. How many things do we do that with? There are a lot of big, societal things that we all own--a flag, a country, a team, a corporation. But how many things do we as individuals own in a way that involves a multiplicity of people but does not require co-language that defines co-ownership, co-labor, co-operation?

What else do I share in a way that is so basic that it needs no clarification?

—Deborah Fisher

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.)