The ability to occupy the city, to make oneself visible, to address and mobilize a public, has been drastically diminished as a result of encroachments on public space under neoliberal programs of urbanization. What would it mean to insist on the public function of art today? As opposed to traditional conceptions of public art as work that occupies or constructs physical spaces and addresses preexisting audiences, Rosalyn Deutsche has argued for the necessity of artistic practices that actively constitute a public “by engaging people in political discussion or by entering a political struggle.” In recent years, a growing number of artists have produced work that not only calls for new forms of participation in public space, but also demands a critical reconsideration of the function of speech within those spaces. Calling attention to the linguistic constitution of collective subjectivity, this work sets out to transform networks of atomized and disembodied communication into conditions for the articulation of alternative forms of political identification. My talk will address writings and performances by Vito Acconci, Andrea Fraser, Sharon Hayes, Adrian Piper and Paul Chan.
Chad Elias is a graduate student in art history at Northwestern University. His research focuses on contemporary art practices in Beirut.
The Public Culture Lecture Series, co-organized by Randall Szott and InCUBATE, seeks to highlight examinations and enactments of public culture. Rather than following a preformed idea of what public culture actually is, the lecture series treats it as an open question and invites attendees to explore the question with us. A variety of people and practices will be drawn on to present the ways that the notion of “the public” emerges in their work and/or informs it.