Your Art is in my _______________, Fall 2016

DA4270 / Fall 2016

Your Art is in my _________

Contact: Nancy Nowacek [nancynowacek at]
Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor
Credits: 4
Time: Wednesday 10:10-12:00, 2:10-4pm
Office Hours: Wednesday 12-1pm 4-5pm; By email appointment

Course Description

Now over 10 years old, “Social Practice” is a term broadly applied to a variety of art-making strategies that implicates other people and/or social systems in their making. The genre has diversified from representing social forms (dinner parties, conversations) into stand-alone museums, real estate cooperatives, and schools: projects that intervene into real-world systems on their own terms.

This class will engage systems thinking as a lens in making artworks that interrupt and/or reimagine our contemporary experience from personal to global scales. We will look at game design and the writings of Donella Meadows, as well as design processes, other artworks, and the world around us in practicing this lens and pursuing socially-based artworks. Through lectures, reading assignments, discussions, project frameworks and critiques, students will work to define their own interests in and forms of systems interventions.

Students will work collaboratively and independently on projects that critically engage contemporary and relevant topics and contexts, local or global, online or offline.


By the successful completion of this course, students will have

  • A foundation in the formative themes of socially-based artworks
  • An understanding of the basics of systems thinking and ways to apply it to future topics and sites pursued in socially based works
  • An understanding of the design process’ potential in socially-based projects
  • Experience in creating socially-based artworks 
  • Working in group collaborations


Active participation in class and engagement with the course materials as well as with one another as collaborators is necessary and critical to this work. Active participation includes thoughtful listening when others are speaking, asking questions when they arise, and readily offering ideas and opinions in class discussions. 

Students are expected to be present at every class, and on time to each class beginning. Showing up more than 15 minutes late to any class session without prior communication will be counted as an absence. Communication is essential: please email me if you must miss a class, and text me if you are experiencing an emergency situation that will delay your arrival in class.

Missing two or more classes may dramatically impact your final grade.

Students will be graded on participation, project collaboration, and reading responses, case studies, discussion leadership, as well as project information posted to their wikis.

Late work will not be accepted.

Course Components:

Collaborative projects

This class is a studio-style course that will focus on project development and completion. All projects in this class will be collaborative. The scale of projects will start small and increase in scope and length over the course of the semester.

Individual Wikis

Each student will be required to post brief 100-300 word reading responses, as well as discussion research, case study research, and post weekly updates on project research, development and documentation on a personal wiki page. Students much post reading responses, case studies, and discussion questions/research by 6pm Tuesday evening.

Jackson Moore will be available to help troubleshoot any wiki questions/problems you may have. Email him at to make an appointment.

Readings & Discussion Moderation

Many weeks will feature reading(s) applicable to a sub-theme of the class. All students are required to post a brief 100-300 word reading response on their wikis.

Readings will be discussed in class each week, and discussions will be co-lead by two students. Students are required to co-lead at least two reading discussions over the course of the semester. The goal of the discussion is not to summarize the reading, but rather to voice an opinion on how the text relates to personal interests, current projects, and current events. Wiki postings for the weeks you will be leading discussions should be longer 300-500 words and include any additional research undertaken to engage with the writing.

When possible, weekly readings are posted as PDFs here.

Project Case Studies

Each student will be required to present on a particular artist and art work (if not two) over the course of the term. In addition to the 5Ws & H of the project, please include an analysis of the systems at work in the project—with what systems does the project interact? Intervene? How is the project itself a system? This is a research project and should include multiple source citations that can include images, video or other resources where applicable. All presentation materials — text, image, links etc. — should be posted on your Wiki. You do not need to write out every portion of your presentation, but you should include an annotated bibliography for all the sources you find.


The semester will consist of 3 collaborative projects, of increasing scope, as well as 2 (or more) very very small warm-up exercises. Project process and development should be logged on your wikis, as well as documentation of process and completion. It will be the storytelling and evidence of your project work, and long with your reading moderation, case studies, and in-class participation, will contribute to your final grade.


I would like you to commit to the following this semester:

  • That you will be respectful of both your peers and my time and efforts with your own: that you will show up prepared for every class and work your hardest; be self-motivated and learn through trial and failure, sharing what you learn and/or know freely with all.
  • That you will push yourself beyond the bounds of your comfort zone, and be brave, adventurous 
  • and surprising.
  • That you will be respectful to your public, their time, and aspects of their lives they share with you. Reciprocate with thoughtful and courageous work.

A few additional words…

Discomfortability: this work can be inherently uncomfortable at times, and very messy. If it feels like this is happening, take comfort, you are doing it well. If things become overwhelmingly discomfortable, please talk to me.

Working and learning styles: everyone has different ways of learning and working. Please always start your collaborations with a  conversation about the ways in which you work and learn best.

Office hours and help

I am available by appointment on email for time in-between class sessions or after class. When I’m not in Bennington, I’m also happy to do Skype/Facetime appointments as my schedule permits. Please do not call or text me for an appointment: please email me. If you have not heard back from me by the end of the day, then please text me to make sure I received your email.


The Art of Participation, 1950-Now, Rudolph Frieling, SF MOMA/Thames and Hudson, 2008

Everyday Practice of Public Art: Art, Space, and Social Inclusion, Edited by Cameron Carrier and Martin Zebraki, Rutledge, 2016

Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, bel hooks, South End Press, 1984

One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. Miwon Kwon, MIT Press, 2002.

Participation, Edited by Clarie Bishop, Whitechapel, 2006

Publics and Counterpublics, Michael Warner, Zone Books, 2002

Rock the Boat: Localized Ethics, the Situated Self and Particularism in Contemporary Art, Tere Vladen and Mikka Hannula, Salon, 2003

Social Acupuncture, Darren O’Donnell, Coach House, 2006

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, William Holly Whyte, Project for Public Spaces, 2001

Thinking in Systems, A Primer, Donnella Meadows, Earthscan, 2009

What We Want is Free, Critical Exchanges in Recent Art, Edited by Ted Purves and Shane Aslan Selzer, SUNY Press 2013

Suggested Readings:

Artificial Hells, Claire Bishop, Verso, 2012

Art and Social Function, Stephen Willats, ellipsis, 1976

Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Ranciere, Verso 2009

Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers, Astra Taylor, The New Press, 2009

Happenings and Other Acts, Edited by Mariellen R. Sandford, Rutledge, 1995

Living As Form, Nato Thompson, MIT, 2012

Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century, Nato Thompson, Melville House, 2015

Weekly Syllabus

SUBJECT TO CHANGE Check back often

Week 1: Introductions and Overview

Who are we and why are we here? Etc.

Readings: Darren O’Donnell, Social Acupuncture

Exercise: Meet a staff member (and maybe we'll turn it into a book or pamphlet!)
How to Talk to Strangers
13 Simple Journalist Techniques for Effective Interviews
30 Tips on How to Interview Like a Journalist

Week 2: Social Practice and Design

Reading discussion: Maria & Jordan

Case Studies: Kate Rich, Feral Trade—Hadil; Marie Lorenz, Tide and Current Taxi—Jessica

Overview: IDEO Field Guide & Design Process

Project 1 Assignment: Hyperlocal Intervention (in pairs)

Reading: Donnella Meadows, Thinking in Systems, A Primer, Chapters 1, 6, 7

Optional: Listen to the Revisionist History podcast Food Fight

Week 3: Systems

Systems Thinking Workshop with Susan Sgorbati

Reading discussion: Nila & Yanan

Project 1 team reports

Readings: Michael Warner, "Publics & Counterpublics"; Ted Purves, "Throwing Stones at the Sea"

Week 4: Publics

Reading discussion: Drew & Nam; Yanan & Jessica

Case Studies: Simone Leigh, Free People’s Medical Clinic—Nam

Phil Collins, The World Won’t Listen—David

Project 1 presentations

Readings: Rudolph Frieling, “Towards Participation"; Ted Purves and Shane Aslan Selzer, “No Longer Normal”

Exercise: In pairs, go to town and meet 2 strangers. Find out what they think of you. Find out what you think of them. Get stories, dreams, regrets—some definitive moments and ideas that transform these strangers into real, living, vital people.

Week 5: Participation & Exchange

Reading discussion: Hunter & Nila;  Maria & Hadil

Case studies: Jeremy Deller, The Battle of Oargreve—Nam

Fallen Fruit—Jordan

Introduction to Project 2: Walking tour of downtown Bennington

Readings: WATCH “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”Miwon Kwon, “The Wrong Place”

Project 2 assigned

Week 6: Place & Site specificity

Reading discussion:  Hadil & Jordan ; Hunter & Roma

Case Studies: Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, Complaints Choi—Nila

Katarina Szeda, Nothing Happens Here—Carina

Team Project ideas

Reading: Selections from Participation, Selections from Rock the Boat

Week 7: Audience & Community

Reading discussion: Nam & Roma; Jessica & David

Team Project updates

Case Studies: Laundromat Project—Roma

Thomas Hirschhorn, Gramsci Monument—Maria

Readings: bell hooks "Marginality As A Site of Resistance" WATCH: Judith Butler & Sunaura Taylor, Examined Life; Sharon Irish, “Tenant to Tenant”

Optional: Avital Ronell on meaning in Examined Life

Week 8: Power & Privilege

Reading discussion: Carina & Drew ; Carina & David

Case Study: Feminist Wikipedia & NY Times Reading Group—OPEN

Midterm meetings

Week 9: Topical Interventions

Project 2 Presentations

Allison Rowe via Skype

Case Studies: Not An Alternative, Natural History Museum—Hunter

Tattfoo Tan, NEMRE—Yanan

Caroline Woolard et al, REIC—Drew

Week 10: Plan Day No Class

Week 11: Research

Research workshop in library with Oceana

In-class time to start project 3

Readings: Self-assigned

Week 12: Projects

Team research presentations & preliminary project ideas

Week 13: Give Thanks, no class

Week 14: Group meetings and in-class work time

Week 15: Final Project Presentations