The Vera List Center for Art and Politics
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics (the Center) is a nonprofit research organization and public forum for art, culture, and politics.
|Location||66 W. 12th St., room 604|
Manhattan, New York, NY 10011
Established at The New School in 1992 during a time of rousing public debates about freedom of speech, the arts, and society's relationship to art, the Center explores the role of the arts in developing a civic culture of tolerance and pluralism in the United States, and curates and supports new roles for the arts and artists in advancing social justice.
Through public programs and classes, prizes and fellowships, publications and exhibitions that probe some of the pressing issues of our time, the Center champions the arts as expressions of the political moments from which they emerge, considering the intersection between art and politics the space where new forms of civic engagement must be developed. They are the only university-based institution committed exclusively to leading public research on this intersection.
The first program series launched at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics was the Sustaining Democracy Series, a lecture program that examined the role of art in pushing forward controversial political issues and opening public debate, including government sponsorship of art, censorship and the roles of artists and citizens.
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics was founded with an endowment from university life trustee Vera G. List out of her deep interest in the intersection of education, art, and politics. Carin Kuoni is the Director / Chief Curator.
A leader in the field of art and politics, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics serves a critical mission: to foster a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars, and policy makers who take creative, intellectual, and political risks to bring about positive change.
Centered around the notion that art is politically valiant, the Center aims to make the case that art must play a significant, unusual, and different role in political environments than it does in other forms of expression - a role that is poignant, groundbreaking, and inspiring.
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics is a W.A.G.E. Certified organization. W.A.G.E. Certification is a national program initiated and operated by the nonprofit Working Artists and the Greater Economy that publicly recognizes nonprofit arts organizations demonstrating a history of, and commitment to, voluntarily paying artist fees that meet the minimum payment standards.
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics develops their programs in cycles, habitually identifying a topic of particular urgency and broad resonance that brings together artists, scholars, activists, public intellectuals, and political and cultural leaders to discuss and explore thematic issues and questions, through a variety of programs, over the course of four semesters. The first annual theme for 2004–05 was Homeland, followed by Considering Forgiveness in 2005–06, The Public Domain in 2006–07, Agency in 2007–08, Branding Democracy in 2008–09, Speculating on Change in 2009–10, Thingness in 2011–13, Alignment in 2013-2015, and Post Democracy in 2015–17. The current theme for 2018-2020 is If Art is Politics.
The Vera List Center organizes panel discussions, lectures, conferences, workshops, and online programs that are created in consultation with the center's advisory committee and with current and former fellows. Occasionally, the VLC produces exhibitions.
All VLC initiatives are driven by the live encounter of artists, scholars, historians and other thinkers and makers who together consider topics of broad popular relevance. From these live events spring additional programs such as those featured on the Vera List Center website, including Art & Research Projects, Publications, and others.
Vera List Center Prize
Launched to recognize the center's 20th anniversary, the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics honors an artist or group of artists who has taken great risks to advance social justice in profound and visionary ways. International in scope, the biennial prize is awarded for a particular project's long-term impact, boldness, and artistic excellence.
The prize initiative unfolds across various platforms and over an extended period of time. It serves as a catalyst for activities that illuminate the important role of the arts in society, and strengthen teaching and learning at The New School in art and design, social science, philosophy, and civic engagement. More than a single moment of recognition, it represents a long-term commitment to the question of how the arts advance social justice, how we speak of, evaluate and teach such work.
An exhibition of the winning project, a conference, integration into classes, and a publication featuring select nominated projects complement a cash award and short-term New York City residency for the honoree. In the spirit of the center's twenty-year history, the prize provides the opportunity for an ongoing public conversation on art and social justice as a global issue that engages audiences in New York City, nationally and around the world.
2018-2020 Prize Winner: Chimurenga
The jury was delighted to bestow the 2018-2020 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice on Chimurenga, the Pan African collective who have boldly and unapologetically reclaimed the African imaginary.
Chimurenga invests in deep research on history, representation and culture through a methodology of collective remobilization of knowledge. The artistic process is a forward reimagining of the global polity, through a multiplicity of forms, eschewing the separation of various art forms from one another and from wider social and political practices. This includes the Pan African Space Station, the roaming Chimurenga library and the periodical Chronic, which incorporate the sonic, performative and written experiences in digital and physical spaces through which the project decenters and recreates new centers of knowledge. It reflects on the collective political histories and memories in the pan African community that is world-making.
Founded by Ntone Edjabe in 2002, Chimurenga performs as a pan-African platform that promotes voices of culture, arts and politics from Africa. As one of Chimurenga's outputs, Pan African Space Station (PASS) is an online radio station and pop-up studio, simultaneously, "a performance and exhibition space; a research platform and living archive." Developed by Chimurenga in collaboration with musician and composer Neo Muyanga in 2008, PASS is a virtual and material space that reflects on the collective political histories and memories in the Pan-African community. With its slogan "There are other worlds out there they never told you about," the interdisciplinary station intersects sound, music and words, further engages in conversations including art and technology, community and borders, utopia and oppression.
As an internet based radio station, PASS explores the possibilities of creating new knowledge across distributed networks of time and space. Through live performance, stories about music in Africa and archival exhibitions, PASS plays a significant role in challenging existing ideas about Africa and bringing unique aspects of the interconnection between music and history. At the same time, PASS also expands its projects to physical spaces such as cities of Johannesburg, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Cairo. Chimurenga uses a metaphorical term "landing" to emphasize the ways in which the virtual "space station" enters into physical spaces. Upon landing each city, Chimurenga collaborates with local cultural producers to organize conferences, festivals and exhibitions. As such PASS is a catalyst for idea-sharing and innovation of African art and culture. As noted on its website, PASS investigates "how we locate ourselves and how we mediate our human and historic commonality."
2016-2018 Prize Winner: Maria Thereza Alves
Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves' research-based practice, literally and metaphorically holds open a space at the intersection of art and science to challenge and think expansively about the social history and possible futures that germinating seeds hold within themselves. Though her project Seeds of Change Alvs explores the social, political and cultural history of ballast flora in port cities and, in so doing, reveals patterns, temporalities and instruments of colonialism, commerce and migration going back many centuries.
Seeds of Change is a long-term project that so far has been presented in several European port cities – Marseille, Liverpool, and Bristol among them. It examines the legacies of colonialism and the global commerce of goods and people through the displacement of plants, focusing on the scientific, social and political history of ballast, the waste material used to stabilize ships in maritime trade and dumped in ports at the end of the ships' passages. Ballast contains "dormant" seeds that can remain viable in the soil for hundreds of years before germinating and growing. As Alves grows young plants from these dormant seeds – often in floating barges or gardens, developed in collaboration with local communities and scientists – she examines how we understand the identity of a place and its sociopolitical histories. As such the project questions the official accounts of culture as well as the lands it is built on and through.
2014-2016 Prize Winner: Abounaddara
Abounaddara, the anonymous film collective based in Syria, was the recipient of The New School's 2014 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. Throughout the course of the 18-month collaboration, the Vera List Center and Abounaddara worked together to bring the collective's work to the United Nations where there was a panel discussion on civilian representation and freedom of speech in Syria. The final culmination of the prize initiative, titled, “Abounaddara. The Right To The Image” was a series of events consisting of a gallery exhibition, conference and various film screenings, that explored the ways in which civilians are represented in times of conflict.
Emerging from the civil uprising in 2011, Abounaddara is known for its “emergency cinema” which seeks to transcend mainstream war reporting. The collective's work highlights individuals, coming from all sides of the conflict to remind viewers both of the daily life and complexity of the civil war unfolding in Syria. Their weekly video vignettes published on their Vimeo account are intimate, jarring, and poignant. Abounaddara's driving force within their work is the belief in the “right to the image” which they define as upholding the dignity of civilians who otherwise might not have a say in how they are represented.
2012-2014 Prize Winner: Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates was the 2012-2014 prize recipient for, Dorchester Projects. Theaster Gates: A Way of Working was an 18-month collaboration between the artist and The New School that culminated into a two-day forum and gallery presentation. This exhibition examined the ways in which the artist develops synergies with his work and the complexities of working in an expanded studio practice within the institutional framework. The exhibition featured several works of the artist including drawing, sculpture, installation and video.
Theaster Gates, an American artist, activist and Artistic Director for the Rebuild Foundation, focuses his work on political enfranchisement, historical reclamation, and social inclusion. His Dorchester Projects started in 2006 with the transformation of two buildings into community gathering spaces on Chicago's South Side. Gates uses art, spirituality, and community engagement as a way to analyze urban renewal and social justice.
The Vera List Center Fellowships support artists, curators, writers, and scholars whose exemplary work advances the discourse on art and politics. Drawing from the academic resources of The New School, the appointments provide the opportunity to develop a fellowship project in exchange with New School faculty and students and with the support of a graduate student assistant. In addition, the fellowship offers a financial stipend and a production budget to bring the project to the public through the Vera List Center's interdisciplinary program initiatives, ranging from events to installations and publications.
Other past fellows include Bouchra Khalili, Joshua Simon, Robert Sember, Lin + Lam, Marjetica Potrc, Andrea Geyer, Margarita Gutman, Susan Hapgood, Sharon Hayes, Danny Hoch, Walid Raad, Wendy T. Ewald, Ashley Hunt, Kobena Mercer, Lorraine O’Grady, Olu Oguibe, Silvana Paternostro, Wendy Perron, Leslie Prosterman, Walid Raad, Edward Rothstein, Katya Sander, Elisabeth Sussman, David Thorne, and Jonathan Weinberg, Sarah Rothenberg, and Maurice Berger.
As an extension of its public programming, the Vera List Center produces publications ranging from occasional papers, exhibition guides and books to interactive online artist projects. Following the center's interdisciplinary model, these publications respond to themes explored in the context of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and other programs, and frequently incorporate new texts commissioned from event collaborators and others.
Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production
Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Productionis the essential reader for today's creative leaders and cultural practitioners, and includes original contributions by artists, scholars, activists, critics, curators and writers examine four key areas: the historical precedent of South Africa; the current cultural boycott of Israel; freedom of speech and self-censorship; and long-distance activism. Far from representing withdrawal or cynicism, boycott emerges as a special condition for discourse, artmaking and political engagement. It features twelve newly commissioned essays and six contributions by Nasser Abourahme, Ariella Azoulay, Tania Bruguera, Noura Erakat, Kareem Estefan, Mariam Ghani with Haig Aivazian, Nathan Gray and Ahmet Öğüt, Chelsea Haines, Sean Jacobs, Yazan Khalili, Carin Kuoni and Laura Raicovich, Svetlana Mintcheva, Naeem Mohaiemen, Hlonipha Mokoena, John Peffer, Joshua Simon, Ann Laura Stoler, Radhika Subramaniam, Eyal Weizman and Kareem Estefan, and Frank B. Wilderson III.
Entry Points: The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice, No. 1
Entry Points: The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice, No. 1 is a collaboration of artists, writers, policy makers, and scholars coming together to analyze the integral role of the arts in advocating for social justice. The book reflects on key moments in history at the global level where justice has been advanced by art. The first half of the work consists of three essays by Thomas Keenan, João Ribas, and Sharon Sliwinski, in addition to featuring twenty other artist projects that speak to the role of arts in social justice. The second half of the book features Theaster Gates's The Dorchester Projects, which was the recipient for the inaugural Vera List Prize for Art and Politics in 2013. Essayists include Horace D. Ballard Jr., Romi N. Crawford, Shannon Jackson, and Mabel O. Wilson. This section also features an interview between Gates and Vera List Center director, Carin Kuoni. Editors include Chelsea Haines and Carin Kuoni.
Speculation, Now is a collection of essays and artwork that offers radical, interdisciplinary concepts challenging our understanding of reality and how these new integrative perspectives can potentially alter reality.The book is a collaboration of images, concepts and language edited by Vyjayanthi Venuturupalli Rao, Prem Krishnamurthy and Carin Kuoni and includes an afterword by Arjun Appadurai. Artists and essayists include Arjun Appadurai, William Darity Jr., Filip De Boeck, Boris Groys,Hans Haacke, Darrick Hamilton, Laura Kurgan, Lin + Lam, Gary Lincoff, Lize Mogel, Christina Moon, Stefania Pandolfo, Satya Pemmaraju, Mary Poovey, Walid Raad, Sherene Schostak, Robert Sember, and Srdjan Jovanović Weiss.
Considering Forgiveness (published in 2009) examines issues of social, cultural and political relevance from a multitude of perspectives and is edited by Aleksandra Wagner with Carin Kuoni, with curatorial advice by Matthew Buckingham. It features textual and visual contributions commissioned for this publication from scholars, activists and artists, including Anne Aghion, Ayreen Anastas, Gregg Bordowitz, Omer Fast, Rene Gabri, Andrea Geyer, Mark Godfrey, Sharon Hayes, Sandi Hillal, Alessandro Petti and Eyal Weizman, Susan Hiller, Julia Kristeva, Lin + Lam, Jeffrey Olick, Brian Price, Jane Taylor, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.
OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding Exhibition Guide
OURS: Democracy in the Age of Branding Exhibition Guide was on view at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design from October 15, 2008, to February 1, 2009. It was an interdisciplinary investigation of democracy positioned as a consumer brand that included original commissions by Alexis Baghat, Erick Beltran, Kota Ezawa, Liam Gillick, Emma Kay, Runo Lagomarsino, Aleksandra Mir, Nadine Robinson, and The Yes Men, and works by Sam Durant, Miguel Luciano, Carlos Motta, Trevor Paglen, Judi Werthein and many others.
Advisory board members
- James Keith (JK) Brown, Chair
- Carlos Basualdo
- Frances Beatty
- Michelle Coffey
- Gabriella De Ferrari
- Ronald Feldman
- Andrew Francis
- Marilyn Greene
- Susan Hapgood
- Elizabeth R. Hilpman
- Norman L. Kleeblatt
- Carin Kuoni
- Thomas J. Lax
- Jane Lombard
- Lydia Matthews
- Susan Meiselas
- Megan E. Noh, Esq.
- Mendi and Keith Obadike
- Nancy Delman Portnoy
- Ingrid Schaffner
- Mary Watson
"The Vera List Center for Art and Politics has become a pillar of a new type of artistic practice that is coming to define the 21st century…[it] is undeniably a leader in the field of art and politics, particularly at a time when the two are increasingly inseparable and the relationship between them is rapidly changing. Like the understated but essential philanthropy of its founder, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics is asking difficult questions about the place of culture in times of crisis.” - Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, in The Growing Necessity for the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, November 21, 2017
The Vera List Center's website, is an online extension of live programs with links to debates, issues, projects, and people within and outside The New School. It includes video and audio of public programs, which can also be viewed on their Vimeo page, creative material generated in advance of and in response to events, special projects by artists, video interviews with event participants, and, more recently, downloadable Resource Guides to public programs. Also accessible are more information on specific exhibitions, publications, the Biennial Prize, Fellowships, student Writing Award, and the full archive of events since 1992.
- Donovan, Thom. "5 Questions with Carin Kuoni of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics". Art 21 Magazine.
- Vartanian, Hrag. "The Growing Necessity for the Vera List Center for Art and Politics". Hyperallergenic. Hyperallergic Media Inc. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "What is W.A.G.E.?". Working Artists and the Greater Economy. Wage for Work. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "Wage for Work". W.A.G.E. Wage for Work. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "Focus Themes".
- Greenberger, Alex. "Dealer Jane Lombard Gives $5 M. to Vera List Center for Art and Politics". ARTNEWS. ARTNEWS. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Kennedy, Randy. "Syrian Filmmaking Collective Wins Social Justice Art Prize". Arts Beat NY Times. The New York Times.
- Kennedy, Randy. "New School Prize Goes to Theaster Gates". Arts Beat NY Times. The New York Times.
- "May Day book launch and celebration— Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production". Art&Education.
- "Entry Points: The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice No. 1". Project Projects. Project Projects.
- Garrison, Brendon. "Speculative Compilation". The Brooklyn Rail. Brooklyn Rail.
- "Considering Forgiveness". Artbook.
- Archibald, Sasha. "Considering Forgiveness". Blouin Art Info.
- "Ours: Democracy in the Age of Branding". Project Projects. Project Projects.
- Vartanian, Hrag. "The Growing Necessity for the Vera List Center for Art and Politics". Hyperallergenic. Hyperallergic Media Inc. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "How Artists Participate in World-Making" by Contemporary And (C&)
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