Art and the Public Domain
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Class
12 weeks, 15 students
2020

Written and taught with Krzysztof Wodiczko in Fall 2020 at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Guests: Ani Liu, Azra Aksamija, Blackspace, Jackson 2Bears, Jill Magid, Ken Lum, Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar.

What is “the public”? And what, as artists, is our role in it? How can we wield our tools to make this world more just? Is art capable of such repair, anyway? Art and the Public Domain takes on these questions through praxis.

Together we will consider the work of scholars, historians, sociologists, philosophers, psychologists, critics, and intellectuals who themselves have engaged with these questions. We will encounter ideas on freedom, trauma, justice, oppression, community, democracy, otherness, memory, and monuments from aesthetic, critical, critical race, poststructuralist, political, psychoanalytic, queer, and feminist theory. We will examine how artists have given these ideas form. And by semester’s end, we will test these ideas in projects of our own.


1: Art-workIntroduce yourself: in three minutes, share a public space that is important to you. Why is it important to you? Who is its public(s)? What are its social, spatial, and historical contexts? You may share this however you’d like, be that a verbal description, images, poetry, a sketch—anything.

2: Emancipation and Freedom

3: Monuments and (Counter)memory

4: Public Space, Sphere, Domain

5: Publicness Amidst Protest and Pandemic

6: SketchIntroduce three “sketches” of your project. Following the term’s nineteenth-century definition—”an outline or general delineation of anything”— these sketches may be drawings, writings, photographs, songs, or any other media with which you would like to communicate your early ideas.


7: Otherness, Strangerhood, Alterity

8: Democracy as Conflict

9/10: Prototype Develop one sketch into a prototype. Consider its material, social, and theoretical components: what is it made of?; what histories does this material carry with it?; who are your audiences and collaborators?; why is it important?; how will you know it “worked”?; where is your project sited? what theoretical ideas does it cite?; from what prior projects does it draw inspiration?


11: Participation and Play

12: Present Present your project to a panel of guests, including Alicia Olushola Ajayi (of BlackSpace), Ani Liu, Diane Davis, Jayne Wilkinson (of Canadian Art), and Malkit Shoshan.