FIELD: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism
We are living through a singular cultural moment in which the conventional relationship between art and the social world, and between artist and viewer, is being questioned and renegotiated. FIELD responds to the remarkable proliferation of new artistic practices devoted to forms of political, social and cultural transformation. Frequently collaborative in nature, this work is being produced by artists and art collectives throughout North, South and Central America, Europe, Africa and Asia. While otherwise quite diverse, it is driven by a common desire to establish new relationships between artistic practice and other fields of knowledge production, from urbanism to environmentalism, from experimental education to participatory design. In many cases it has been inspired by, or affiliated with, new movements for social and economic justice around the globe. Throughout this field of practice we see a persistent engagement with sites of resistance and activism, and a desire to move beyond existing definitions of both art and the political. The title of this journal reflects two main concerns. First, it indicates our interest in a body of artistic production that engages the broadest possible range of social forces, actors, discursive systems and physical conditions operating at a given site. And second, it signals a concern with the questions that these projects raise about the “proper” field of art itself, as it engages with other disciplines and other modes of cultural production.
How do these practices redefine our understanding of aesthetic experience? And how do they challenge preconceived notions of the “work” of art? For many in the mainstream art world this opening out is evidence of a dangerous promiscuity, which threatens to subsume the unique identity of art. As a result this work has been largely ignored by the most visible journals and publications in the field. At the same time, an often-problematic concept of “social engagement” has become increasingly fashionable among many museums and foundations in Europe and the United States. There is clearly a need for a more intelligent and nuanced analysis of this new tendency. However, it has become increasingly clear that the normative theoretical conventions and research methodologies governing contemporary art criticism are ill-equipped to address the questions raised by this work. FIELD is based on the belief that informed analysis of this practice requires the cultivation of new forms of interdisciplinary knowledge, and a willingness to challenge the received wisdom of contemporary art criticism and theory. We seek to open a dialogue among and between artists, activists, historians, curators, and critics, as well as researchers in fields such as philosophy, performance studies, urbanism, ethnography, sociology, political science, and education. To that end the journal’s editorial board will include a diverse range of scholars, artists, historians, curators, activists and researchers. It is our belief that it is only at the intersections of these disciplines that can we develop a deeper understanding of the cultural transformations unfolding around us.
–Grant Kester, founder and editor, FIELD
FIELD Editorial Collective
Erika Barbosa is a doctoral student in Art Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD. She is a design researcher and digital media artist. Her practice-based research takes interest in the genealogies of emerging technology, and the impact of historical ideologies on forms of contemporary data discrimination. Her MFA thesis explored the technological and tactical landscape of policing in the United States through the lens of design history and practice. Video works from this research will be on view at the Femmes Video Art Festival during Miami Art Week, December 2017. She has exhibited locally and internationally.
Noni Brynjolson is an Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Indianapolis. Her research focuses on themes of repair and construction within socially engaged art, and has included book chapters, journal articles and presentations on feminist political organizing, craft making, and urban development and gentrification, among other subjects. She is currently working on an edited book exploring links between pedagogy, art and activism.
Jonah Gray is an art historian and curator. He is a regular contributor to C Magazine, and has written features and reviews for Canadian Art and ReIssue. He has worked at Presentation House Gallery, Artspeak and Or Gallery in Vancouver. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History, Theory and Criticism at University of California, San Diego. He holds an MA in Critical and Curatorial Studies from University of British Columbia.
Grant Kester is a Professor of Art History at the University of California, San Diego and the founding editor of FIELD. His most recent books are The Sovereign Self: Aesthetic Autonomy from the Enlightenment to the Avant-Garde and Beyond the Sovereign Self: Aesthetic Autonomy from the Avant-Garde to Socially Engaged Art (Duke University Press, 2023 and 2024).
Jae Hwan Lim is an artist-activist and researcher focusing on human rights and the struggles for equity in the Korean Peninsula. Lim is the co-founder/director of Humans of North Korea (HNK) and is pursuing his doctoral study at UCSD’s Art History and Practice Program.
Elize Mazadiego is an Assistant Professor in World Art History in the Institute for Art History and Walter Benjamin Kolleg at the Universität Bern, where she works on Modern and Contemporary art from a global perspective. Her fields of interest include postwar modernities and contemporary practices, with a focus on Latin America, the relationship between art and politics, global conceptualism(s), artistic mobility and histories of migration, spatial and environmental praxis and feminism. She also serves as Chair of the International Committee in the College Art Association. Her publications include Charting Space: The Cartographies of Conceptual Art (University of Manchester Press, 2023) and Dematerialization and the Social Materiality of Art: Experimental Forms in Argentina 1955-1968 (Brill, 2021).
Alex Nicholls is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History, Theory & Criticism at UC San Diego. She has been a part of FIELD‘s editorial collective since 2020. Her research interests are centered on the lineage of American contemporary art, with attention to issues of gender and identity as they coincide with materiality and methodology. She has also held curatorial positions at various museums and institutions, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, UCLA’s Hammer Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Primrose Paul is an artist, writer, and curator currently pursuing her BFA in painting at the University of Indianapolis. In curatorial work, Paul has worked with topics on the relationship between visual language and cultural essentialism. As an artist, Paul works mainly with oil painting experimenting on the relationship between the foreground and background with more emphasis placed on the background as the focal point.
Jordan Rose is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Visual Arts. Before joining the faculty at UCSD in 2016, he taught at the University of Vermont and UC Berkeley. His first book, The Revolution Takes Form: Art and the Barricade in Nineteenth-Century France, will appear in Penn State University Press’s spring 2024 catalogue.
Hande Sever is a Los Angeles-based artist and author originally from Istanbul, Turkey. Sever’s scholarly and artistic research often deals with her family’s history of persecution to explore intertwined lines of inquiries—including military violence, surveillance, and censorship—as they converge to explore the postcolonial politics of memory studies and new historiographies. Her critical and scholarly writing has been published by the Getty Research Journal, the Stedelijk Studies journal, MARCH Journal of Art & Strategy, Frieze and X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, among others. Her research-based works have been supported by grants from the Félix González-Torres Foundation, California Arts Council, Getty Foundation and Hrant Dink Foundation.
Laura Thompson is a Ph.D. student in Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the University of California, San Diego. She has been a member of the FIELD editorial collective since 2021. Her research interests include socially engaged art, activist practices, craft processes, and experimental and oppositional cinema with a particular interest in gender. She has held positions at the Denver Art Museum and the University of Colorado Boulder Art Museum. She holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in Art History from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Wei Wu (Maggie) is Ph.D. Candidate in the History of Art at the University of California, San Diego. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese art, in particular Republican Chinese visual culture, print culture, and intellectual history. Her dissertation investigates how Republican woodcut artists formed and articulated their understandings of the public and the nation through their works.
• Rajashree Biswal, Department of Visual Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi)
• Zheng Bo, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
• Mai Corlin Bagger-Petersen, Department of China Studies, University of Amsterdam
• Carlos Garrido Castellano, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, University College, Cork (Ireland)
FIELD Editorial Advisory Board
Tania Bruguera is an artist and the founder of Immigrant Movement International. Her most recent project is The Museum of Arte Útil.
Teddy Cruz is Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism in the Visual Arts department at the University of California San Diego, and Director of the UCSD Center for Urban Ecologies.
Tom Finkelpearl is the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for New York City and the editor of What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation (Duke University Press, 2013).
Fonna Forman is Associate Professor of Political Science, founding co-director of the UCSD Center on Global Justice and author of Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and Moral Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Dee Hibbert-Jones is Associate Professor of Art and Founder and Co-Director of the Social Practice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz.
Shannon Jackson is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley and author of Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (Routledge 2011).
Michael Kelly is professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, author of A Hunger for Aesthetics: Enacting the Demands of Art (Columbia University Press, 2012) and editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics.
Rick Lowe is an artist, founder of Project Row Houses in Houston, and member of the National Council on the Arts.
George Marcus is the Director of the Center for Ethnography and Chancellor’s Professor and chair of the department of anthropology at UC Irvine, and author of Ethnography Through Thick and Thin (Princeton University Press, 1998).
Paul O’Neill is the Director of the Graduate Program, Center for Curatorial Studies, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, New York.
Raúl Cárdenas Osuna is an artist, theorist, and the founder of Torolab collective and the Transborder Farmlab in Tijuana, Mexico.
Francesca Polletta is Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine and author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics (University of Chicago Press, 2006).
Greg Sholette is an activist, artist and professor in the Social Practice Queens program at Queens College and the author of Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (Pluto Press, 2011).
Nato Thompson is Chief Curator, Creative Time, New York City and editor of Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 (MIT Press, 2012).
FIELD would like to acknowledge the generous support of the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the UCSD Division of Arts and Humanities, and the UCSD Visual Arts department.