Flagged For Review Launch & Open Studio and Social Practice Pot Luck


Can you believe it’s already almost the end of April? We’ve been working out in Vancouver on a new project since January and it’s been an amazing experience, we’ve met so many incredible new friends, we’ve got to dig into our work face to face again, and we’ve got to make a bunch of new work! And so, as we wind down our residency at the Contemporary Art Gallery’s Field House Studio, we have two events to announce, both of which we’d love to see you at…


We’ll be unveiling the flags we’ve been working on…


…and our mobile flag beacon, which we’ll parade around (if the weather holds)!

Two Events…

Flagged for Review Launch and Open Studio
Tuesday, April 22, 7-8.30pm

Marking the end of our residency, we’ll open the doors to the Field House for an open studio gathering, as well as the launch of Flagged for Review. Look for these bright and beautiful flags to be temporarily installed in and around the building.

Social Practice Pot Luck
Saturday, April 26, 7-9pm

To celebrate Broken City Lab’s Field House residency we are hosting a pot luck and conversation regarding social practice with special guest artist and Founder/Director of the Art and Social Practice MFA program at Portland State University, Harrell Fletcher. Fletcher is visiting Vancouver as a part of the Working as an Artist workshop series at Purple Thistle. He will be giving an artist talk there on Friday April 25, 7:30pm and leading a workshop the following day, Saturday April 26, 1-4pm, with local artist Carmen Papalia. www.purplethistle.ca

Bring a snack and join in on the conversation.

The Field House Studio Residency Program is generously supported by the Vancouver Park Board and the City of Vancouver.

Learn More About… Darren O’Donnell! Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias Keynote Panelist

Mammalian Diving Reflex - Haircuts by Children

Darren O’Donnell – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We’re already less than one month away from Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias and we can confidently say that our excitement is growing. We have a solid weekend planned for all attendees and everyone who is able to watch the conference from home. For more information and to register to attend, please click here.

Darren O’Donnell is one of three featured keynote speakers who will be presenting at Homework II. Darren is a novelist, essayist, playwright, director, designer, performer, and Artistic Director of Mammalian Diving Reflex. His books include: Social Acupuncture (2006), which argues for aesthetics of civic engagement and Your Secrets Sleep with Me (2004), a novel about difference, love and the miraculous. His stage-based works include White Mice (1998), [boxhead] (2000), and All the Sex I’ve Ever Had (2012), all produced by Mammalian Diving Reflex. He has a BFA in Acting, studied Shiatsu and Traditional Chinese Medicine at The Shiatsu School of Canada and is currently an MSci candidate in Urban Planning at University of Toronto.

His work with Mammalian Diving Reflex is extensive, and in the past few years they have collaborated with Toronto youth, eventually leading to the formation of a group aptly titled “The Torontonians” in 2010. Since that time, they have been collaborating on projects that span performance, video, mentorship, and much more. One of Mammalian’s most popular and critically-acclaimed projects is Haircuts by Children (pictured above), a project in which children are trained by professional hairstylists, and then paid to run real hair salons, eventually giving members of the public free haircuts. The project has been performed in many locations; Toronto, Glasgow, Prague, and Milan are just a few examples. It’s fantastic stuff, and I highly recommend visiting Mammalian’s site and browsing their Projects section.

Using his experience working closely with and within communities, with youth, and with a variety of organizations, Darren will be presenting on the first evening of Homework II (Friday, November 8th) with Jeanne van Heeswijk and Steve Lambert.

Darren O’Donnell – Interview with Rabble.ca

Homework II will run November 8-10, 2013 in Windsor, Ontario at Art Gallery of Windsor and CIVIC Space.

Our featured keynote speakers this year will be Jeanne van Heeswijk (Rotterdam), Darren O’Donnell (Toronto), and Steve Lambert (New York). In addition to our keynotes, we’ve also invited a series of curatorial partners to develop panels that tackle the conference themes. And, to top it all off, everyone who attends will be co-authors of a book that captures the ideas and conversations from this year’s conference through a series of interviews with presenters, attendees, and organizers alongside collected materials from our 2011 conference.

For more information, please email homework@brokencitylab.org

Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias is made possible with generous support from the Ontario Arts CouncilOntario Trillium Foundation, Art Gallery of Windsor, and IN/TERMINUS.


Broken City Lab Publications Featured in “On the Road: Detroit”


The Art Book Review, a Los Angeles-based compendium of reviews about books relating to the subject of art, is including a selection of Broken City Lab publications as part of “On the Road: Detroit“, a collaboration with Creative Rights, a legal service for creative folks based in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan.

They are including three mini publications: Shortcuts and other Practices: 10 Days in a Western City, Hamilton: Two Tales of a City, and Invented Emergency (for Small Cities & Big Towns). Also included is the hardcover publication How to Forget the Border Completely, which investigated the numerous ways one could approach the Windsor-Detroit border as a concept, an object, and an obstacle.

The Social Practice Workbook – Artist Talk with Jen Delos Reyes (watch it online now!)


Jen Delos Reyes–a Portland-based artist and educator–has curated an exhibition here at Civic Space called The Social Practice Workbook. This exhibition is a collaborative effort between students of Portland State University (PSU) and takes the form of an assemble-it-yourself display of short writings and assignments from PSU’s Art & Social Practice MFA Program. Jen took the time to supplement her exhibition with an artist talk held at The University of Windsor’s School of Visual Arts today.

The entire talk can be viewed below and on our YouTube channel.

Upcoming Exhibition & Artist Talk: The Art and Social Practice Workbook with Jen Delos Reyes + Many More!

Social Practice Workbook Press release

Introducing: The Art and Social Practice Workbook (March 20 – April 7, 2013 @ CIVIC SPACE)

A new exhibition featuring the Art and Social Practice Workbook; an edited volume of assignments from students, faculty, visiting artists, and alumni of Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice MFA Program, comes to CIVIC SPACE!

Visitors of the exhibition will be able to assemble their own workbook from printouts of the text designed by students of the program, Erin Charpentier and Travis Neel. Visitors will also be invited to submit their own assignments for possible use in the workbook. This exhibition will accompany a lecture by Professor and Co-director of the program Jen Delos Reyes, regarding the topic of education and Art and Social Practice. Also on display, a collective bibliography and relevant framing questions by Paul Ramirez-Jonas, a visiting professor in the program.

Also, with the support of the University of Windsor’s School for Arts and Creative Innovation, Jen Delos Reyes will be giving an artist talk on Thursday, March 21 at 12pm in Room 115, Lebel, followed by an open house at CIVIC SPACE from 7pm-10pm (also on March 21).

Participating Artists:

Erin Charpentier
Jen Delos Reyes
Heather Donahue
Fallen Fruit
Farm School
Harrell Fletcher
Zachary Gough
Alexi Hudon
Grace Hwang
Betty Marin
Mario Mesquita
Adam Moser
Travis Neel
Carmen Papalia
Douglas Paulson
Paul Ramirez Jonas
Sean Schumacher
Alysha Shaw
Molly Sherman
Temporary Services
Lexa Walsh
Caroline Woolard

BCL @ PSU MFA Art and Social Practice Conversation Series


Justin heads to Portland to present at the PSU MFA Art and Social Practice Conversation Series this week.

The PASPWACS is a brand new series of presentations by people and organizations related to Art and Social Practice including artists, non-profits, writers, and architects. The presentations are free and open to the public and take place on Wednesdays at 1 pm at Field Work, an off-site social practice classroom and civic space at 1101 SW Jefferson Street, Portland, Oregon.  The conversations are streamed live and archived as podcasts. The presentations function as extended Q and A sessions with an expectation that participants and listeners will educate themselves in advance about the work of the presenters. The series is coordinated by PSU associate professor Harrell Fletcher and run by the graduate students of the PSU Art and Social Practice MFA program. For more information go to: http://www.psusocialpractice.org/

Also, an interview with Justin and his recent “Methodologies of Failure: Evaluation Practices for Socially Engaged Art” appear in the latest issue of PSU’s Art and Social Practice journal.


Sue Bell Yank on Art and Social Practice

from suebellyank.com/

This is part of an ongoing set of one-question emails sent to people we know, or would like to get to know, about things that interest us and inform our collective practice. They’ll be featured on the site weekly, usually on Fridays. These questions are more about unfolding ideas than about the people we’re asking, but we do ask those kinds of questions too.

We’re ecstatic to launch this project with a question for Sue Bell Yank.

Is social practice, as a term or label, more valuable in extending the reach and possibility of visual artists, or more valuable as an articulation of an entirely different space and mode of production?

Social practice falls under the rubric of art, but it doesn’t really extend the reach and possibility of artists, because its realm has always been the artists’ realm – or perhaps art in an expanded form as it has existed since the 1960s. But if one draws an arbitrary line at the 60s, which saw the birth of land art, performance art, conceptualism, one can then extend to the precursors of those works, to Dada, to surrealism, to then the precursors of those movements…to Impressionism…

So how can it be anything but art, historically and practically? Social practice is a convenient (if perhaps indelicate) name for current practices that have grown from important artistic concepts that have been around for decades. The best artists of any time challenge hegemony, attempt to break through the complacency of their audiences to awaken them to alternate possibilities (the very raison d’etre of the avant-garde), investigate societal problems and (sometimes) create new ones, break apart systems and ways of being and re-envision them poetically.

That being said, the space and mode of production of social practice is indeed broader than what we traditionally think of as studio practice, object-making, but grows from and infects those realms as well. It is hybrid, it is vigorous, it reaches into many other systems and aspects of being beyond the art context. It manifests programmatically as conferences, participatory activities, workshops, dinners, shops, performances, community centers, even housing tracts – reaching beyond the cube to the board room and proscenium and public park and neighborhood.

Is the term itself valuable? Why are such labels valuable in the first place? Primarily, for access. Yet for many of these projects, it seems unimportant precisely how participants access them, as long as they do. They don’t necessarily need to understand them as Art. In fact, sometimes labeling a project as Art, to a general public, allows them to dismiss it as something wackadoo and not worth much thought or attention. But the term “social practice” is also unintelligible to a general public, so not very useful in that effort either. People tend to take these projects on their own terms.

Another value to a label is categorization within the industry itself, that industry being Art. In that case, the label social practice indeed allows for an extension of the artists’ reach in a more mainstream fashion. Artists who work in this way are gaining traction at more and more institutions, increasingly in demand for participatory, engagement-based, or community-based projects that are extremely attractive to cities and cultural institutions. Social practice becomes a useful umbrella term, though its vagueness also leads to powerful misconceptions and mismanaged expectations. This is the dark underbelly of labeling – putting these artists and their projects into a convenient box as “audience development tools,” able to do the hard work of reaching underserved demographics, of creating inclusive and festival-like environments where everyone can participate in making art and feeling good about themselves. We then begin to forget that social practice is really about challenge, and problems, and that hard work of practicing new systems of the social, of reworking dysfunctional aspects of society.

Like it or not, we are stuck with the term for the time being, and it is important for artists, arts organizers, and writers to diligently re-examine our understanding of it again and again, in all its complexity.

Sue Bell Yank is a writer and arts organizer. She is currently the Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Hammer Museum, and adjunct faculty in the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. She graduated from the Masters of Public Art Studies program at USC, and completed her thesis on the role of contemporary art in rebuilding efforts after a crisis, focusing on post-Katrina New Orleans. She has worked with artist Edgar Arceneaux as a co-founder and Assistant Director for the Watts House Project, and has a deep-seated investment in non-profit organizations and arts-based urban planning practices. She was part of the curatorial team for the 2008 California Biennial, and most recently served as a curatorial advisor for the Creative Time Living as Form exhibition. Her writing has been featured in the 2008 California Biennial exhibition catalogue, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, the Huffington Post, Mammut magazine, and various arts blogs including her ongoing essay blog entitled Social Practice: writings about the social in contemporary art (www.suebellyank.com).

BCL Interview on Bad at Sports!

Danielle and Justin were recently interviewed by Sarah Margolis-Pineo, a curator and collections fellow at Cranbrook Art Museum, Homework conference participant, and writer for Bad at Sports (an incredible contemporary art blog, podcast, and interview series). Founded in 2005 by Duncan MacKenzie, Richard Holland, and Amanda Browder, Bad at Sports (B@S) now features over 20 principle collaborators and is a weekly podcast, a series of objects, events, and a daily blog produced in Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and New York City that features artists and “art worlders” talking about art and the community that makes, reviews and participates in it.

B@S can be tricky to describe: it acts as a curious investigator, an archivist, oral historian, and occasionally as a provocateur. We produce content that lies somewhere on the venn diagram of art, journalism, media, intellectualism, and “the naughty bits.”  We represent artists and their art world through an archive that is text, audio, physical, ephemeral, historical, and constantly evolving through ongoing and unique projects.

Sarah did a great job at framing the context of Windsor and Detroit and the interview covers a lot of ground, charting a bit of history for us, collectively, and the way we work together alongside some thoughts on moving in and out of a gallery and spatially-based public practice. The interview was a lot of fun and we’re flattered to be covered alongside so many incredible artists, curators, thinkers, and doers.

Check out the interview and be sure to dig deep into the Bad at Sports archives here:

And, you should check out the show Sarah recently co-curated over at Cranbrook, No Object Is an Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection Through March 25, 2012!

Power House Detroit: Artists as Community Leaders

I’ve written about Power House over in Detroit before. Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert of Design99 started this Hamtramck-based neighbourhood project a couple of years ago now. Able to take advantage of the radically declining real estate market, they bought up a house for $100 and have since been working in the neighbourhood on small and large scale projects that tackle the potential of art affecting change.

They’ve since been featured in exhibitions at the DIA‘s project space and at MOCAD, but the really interesting stuff is, of course, happening on the ground. Juxtapoz assisted Cope and Reichert in buying more foreclosed homes to be used as project spaces, Power House is now Power House Productions and a formal 501(c)(3) Non-Profit, and they’re thinking about doing things like creating a Neighborhood Bike Shop and Skate Parks and Bike Courses.

Model D‘s latest article on Power House Productions frames the work well:

They’ve been organizing block clubs with their neighbors where they’re tackling everyday concerns like garbage pickup and snow removal — not ruminating on notions of gentrification and art theory. They are knee deep in the notion and practice that art can fuel community development — and not necessarily just the community that typically “consumes” art.

So, art as social practice? Certainly, yes. This work will undoubtedly become a touchstone for writing around social practice, publicly-engaged practices, and contemporary art at the end of first decade of the 2000s. However, even framing the discussion around art is perhaps doing the project (and neighbourhood) an injustice. These artists are taking on the role (or is it responsibility) of being community leaders in the neighbourhood — artists as community leaders. Not artists performing the role of a community leader, not artists creating an exhibition on community leaders, not merely facilitating workshops on what it means to be a community leader, but really stepping into a role that raises a lot of questions and maybe, just maybe, does some real good.

And there are questions, of course. One has to wonder about what’s at stake when a real neighbourhood becomes an art project (and we have to look no further than the Heidelberg Project to see some of these implications), and one also has to keep a suspicious eye open around issues of gentrification, or the parachute effect of public art practices,  or even just the moral and ethical dilemma of spurring a kind of development in a place that didn’t necessarily ask for it.

For the moment though, I think we need to step outside of those issues and look at the project with some fresh curiosity. Perhaps aside from the 17-year-long Project Row Houses, there isn’t a readily available model to understand this kind of art practice, and I’m ready to start wondering about what a model of artists as community leaders/activators/instigators with a long-term investment can do to change a place. And of course I’m curious — that’s pretty much what I hope we’re doing here.

via Model D Media

Creative Time Summit: Some Reflection with 4 Days of Distance

There’s a lot to say about the Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice 2, though I’m not really sure where to start. You should start by visiting the Creative Time Summit site and watching the presentations for yourself, then you should read the excellent recap essay by Gregory Sholette and the somewhat brief, but engaged, corresponding conversation that includes some powerful ideas by Stephen Wright (whose presentation we unfortunately missed).

And, perhaps Sholette’s essay is the best starting place to articulate how I felt about the Summit, as it offers a level of complication that seemed to be missing from the Summit’s presentations and panel discussions. For all the effort to create a dynamic structure, something seemed to stall the questions and discussion that I had hoped to hear. 8-minutes presentations have the potential to create a rapid fire overview and starting place for dialogue, but it didn’t often work out that way. Some ideas and arguments needed more time to unfold, but the types of frustrations (productive or not) that came out of last year’s summit were provoked under similar circumstances, and yet Danielle and I left with no more questions than what we arrived with — and that was dissapointing.

We looked at this as an occasion to disrupt the things that we’ve come to take for granted in the type of practice in which we’re engaged, we wanted to hear tough questions that would make us fundamentally take stock in how we think about things like social practice.  It could be though that we are just frustrated with the foundational location of these discussions that revolve around an art world — one that we haven’t really experience nor do we have any interest in experiencing in the sense of an art market or even really gallery exhibitions that really admit to being in a gallery.

I suppose we were hoping to have a conversation that could start with something like,

Ok, let’s assume that there is something possible in art beyond being either inside or outside of a gallery context, and let’s assume that there are models of production that can understand capitalism but at the same time leave the critiques thereof at the door; now about this whole social practice thing…”

That is to say, certainly there is value in those discussions, but if we could just reorient these conversations about social practice and public practice and political art and art made politically to occur around different types of contexts and complications (even just briefly), what might come out of that?

Maybe, though, everyone is just at that same mental point — exhaustion and insatiability at the same time. Certainly, we didn’t help the situation; we went looking for questions that we didn’t know how to ask ourselves, and maybe everyone else in the audience did the same thing. Maybe we were all there, having been the choir that’s been preached to for so long that we’re more confused that ever in wondering about what’s at stake in all of this socially-engaged art.

This isn’t to say, of course, that there weren’t questions asked. To the contrary, compelling dialogue cropped up around a number of the session, and in particular, those on on Schools and on Geographies, but at other times old arguments were rehashed and panel members danced around questions or quietly refused to answer at all.

The highlights were — and I mean to say this with as little cynicism as possible — the opening remarks and curatorial statement by Nato Thompson and the closing essay by Sholette. The concerns articulated in both instances got very close to the issues I had hoped to hear about for two days straight. Questions about ethics, efficacy, and aesthetics start to complicate this way of working in a very useful way for me.

Perhaps it was because we went to Open Engagement and heard some of the same conversations there that we felt a level of rigour was missing or maybe I’m just overestimating what is possible in an 8-minute presentation * 4 + 30-minute discussion format, but I really, really wanted the summit to inspire and challenge me more than it did.

So, all of that aside, I can safely say that we walked away with at least two things: We can’t wait for an opportunity to see Nato Thompson speak again, and we anxiously anticipate Gregory Sholette’s new book, Dark Matter. And, we’ll be excited to see what comes up Creative Time Summit 3.