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Lately, as a matter of course, art and aesthetic
practices are called on in contemporary campaigns
to advance social justice. This book captures some of
the most significant examples worldwide and intro-
duces an interested audience of artists, policy makers,
scholars, students, curators, and writers to new ways
of thinking about social justice: how it is represented,
defined, and practiced through the arts. It assembles
and analyzes some of the latest scholarship at the
intersection of art and social justice in order to investi-
gate the underlying motivations and strategies that
constitute this increasingly robust discourse.
On the fault line between individual ethics and
institutionalized protocols for justice, where many
current political debates erupt, complicated terrains
appear that are often the site of provocative artist
projects. These projects share with (social) justice that
they correspond to continuously evolving systems of
values. The need for unceasing articulation renders
them infinitely demanding (to paraphrase philosopher
Simon Critchley) and elusive but also primarily visible
in practice. Thus, in a number of ways this book marks
the temporary nature of this discourse, acknowledg-
ing—even embracing—the fact that vocabularies are
not set, standards not established, and that the way we
learn, communicate, and teach this field is continu-
ously evolving. Hence Entry Points is only the first in
a series of future biennial publications. Hence also
the frame of an almanac or chronicle, a gauge of what
is happening right now coupled with both the risk of
speculation and the exuberance of original exploration.
Entry Points accompanies the biennial Vera
List Center Prize for Art and Politics, launched at The
New School to celebrate the twentieth anniversary
of the center’s founding in 1992. The prize honors an
artist who has taken risks to advance social justice
in profound and visionary ways and is awarded for
a particular project’s long-term impact, boldness, and
artistic excellence. Following an extensive research
and evaluation process that enlisted a stellar jury
as well as the exemplary Nominators Council of
leading artists, art historians, and curators worldwide,
American artist Theaster Gates was named the
inaugural recipient of the prize for Dorchester Projects
in Chicago. The paradox of any award—that is, to
select the best among the best—is incorporated
in this publication, where the winning project is seen
as part of a diverse and international field of equally
significant projects, the finalists to the prize.
* * *
Part One, “The Field,” is testimony to this range of
visions, providing a lively snapshot into the state of art
and social justice on a global level with reflections on
key concepts and a survey of the field at large. Here,
twenty-two distinct projects are introduced—through
photographic documentation chosen by the artists,
their statements, as well as the voices of the curators,
writers, and scholars who advocate for their projects
and who constituted the original Nominators Council
for the prize. The flavor of a campaign, with its transla-
tion into a passionate language, is maintained in these
contributions in order to keep the arguments open
and flowing. What we arrive at is not a list of “the best
of” but a curated, carefully considered map of artists
and projects suggested by a number of leading inter-
national curators and art historians that identifies key
moments in the growing field of art and social justice.
The project pages are introduced by three
keynote essays by leading thinkers, including literary
theorist Thomas Keenan with a conversation on
Entry Points:
The Vera List Center
Field Guide on Art and
Social Justice, No. 1
Carin Kuoni
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