As part of Create’s Conversations for Change series with leading practitioners, thinkers and activists, we are delighted to host curator and artist Megs Morley and New York based artist, activist and writer Gregory Sholette. This series aims to amplify the means of creative and social solidarity between artists and communities, much needed in these unprecedented times.
Survival is not Enough!
Covid 19 has magnified what was already broken in a hyper-deregulated economy: its deadly precision targeting the most vulnerable and precarious, including those already falling-through the badly fractured social safety net. But all revelations of what was previously unseen (or unseeable) releases both good – collectively progressive, sharing and politically imaginative – and not so good – resentful, reactionary, xenophobic, anti-democratic – species of dark matter swarm agency.
The crisis of global democracy has been normalized, but with Covid 19, bare-bones governments such as in the US are being forced to remember their role governing capitalism. Our task is to prevent a “return to normal” from ever happening, while realizing that their idea of “normal” means both “like it was,” and like they have always wished it to be: a limitless debt-drive subscription to disciplinary systems of social control.
Drawing from historical and recent examples of civil resistance and artistic disobedience, Morley and Sholette reflect on what moments from the archive act as potential disruptors to our understanding of the now, whilst considering the role that artists might play in the radical reimagination of the world. They ask; how can the tools of socially engaged arts practices reinvigorate critical capacities? How can collaboration, democratisation, critical and creative intervention, trans-disciplinary exchange, and the building of relationships of reciprocity and solidarity create counter political imaginations and be re-purposed for world change?
Dr. Gregory Sholette was a founding member of Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D 1980-1988), which issued publications on politically engaged art and whose archive is now in the Museum of Modern Art; of REPOhistory (1989-2000), a collective of artists and activists who repossessed suppressed histories in New York in the 1990s; and more recently, of Gulf Labor, a group of artists advocating for mistreated migrant workers constructing museums in Abu Dhabi. In numerous installations in the US and Europe, dozens of essays, a special global issue of FIELD journal, and seven books including Art as Social Action (with Chloë Bass, 2018, Skyhorse Press); Delirium & Resistance: Art Activism & the Crisis of Capitalism (2017), Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (2011, both Pluto Press), It’s The Political Economy, Stupid (with Oliver Ressler from Pluto Press, 2012), and The Interventionists with Nato Thompson (MIT 2004), Sholette documents and reflects upon decades of activist art that, thanks to its ephemerality, politics, and market resistance, might otherwise remain invisible. He has contributed to such journals as FIELD, Eflux, Artforum, Frieze, October, Critical Inquiry, Texte zur Kunst, Afterimage, CAA Art Journal and Manifesta Journal among other publications. Sholette holds a PhD in History and Memory Studies from the University of Amsterdam(2017). He is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program in Critical Theory (1996), Graduate of University of California San Diego (1995), and The Cooper Union School of Art (1979), and Bucks County Community College (1974). He teaches studio art, critical theory, and co-directs the Social Practice Queens MFA concentration and certificate at Queens College CUNY, and is an associate of the Art, Design and the Public Domain program of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Sholette blogs at Welcome To Our Bare Art World.
Megs Morley is curator and artist based in Galway. Her work explores intersectional, collaborative and collective practices that provoke the relationship between cultural practice, political imagination and social change. She is currently working with Create, Ireland’s development agency for collaborative arts to develop a national library and archive resource for socially engaged arts. As Curatorial Research Fellow, she is also working jointly with Create and Heart of Glass in the UK, to develop a three year transnational co-operative arts and social justice research programme.
She is the co-editor (with Annie Fletcher) of a major publication on the work of UK based artists The Otolith Group entitled Xenogenesis due to be published by the Irish Museum of Modern Art later this year. Previously, she was part of the curatorial team in the Van Abbe Museum to develop “Becoming More” (2017), a ten-day caucus event that brought artists, organizers and thinkers to consider the role of art in producing new solidarities across multiple spheres of practice in the context of growing concerns on the political future of Europe. She has contributed to the artist-led field in Ireland for over 15 years, via the Artist-led Archive, established in 2006, which documents over 150 artist-led collectives spanning fifty years of artist-led activity in Ireland, and is currently housed in the special collections of the National Irish Visual Arts Library. In 2016 she curated the first solo exhibition in Ireland of film artist Amie Siegel “Imitation of Life” in Temple Bar Gallery &m Studios Dublin, which included the first public screening of the 1990 feminist film ‘The Daisy Chain” by Polly Devlin, resulting in its acquisition into the Irish Film Archives. In 2015 she curated ‘A State within a State’ film festival that brought together thinkers and filmmakers working in the essay film including the work of Harun Farocki, Duncan Campbell, The Museum of Non-participation, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Rabih Mroué and others. Other projects include; The Para Institution (2014) a nomadic, co-operative institution connecting institutions, artist-led organisations and practitioners in Galway interested in the role of contemporary art practices in activating and instituting cultural change. Her work as a film maker in collaboration with Tom Flanagan has been exhibited widely internationally including being screened on national Irish television.