Aesthetics of Doing: Sleeping with the Enemy




A conversation featuring artists who work in cooperation or collaboration with companies or institutions whose values don’t necessarily match their own, with artist Steve Kurtz, 2014 ABOG Fellow Jan Mun, and Not An Alternative, moderated by ABOG Executive Director Deborah Fisher.

Artists and art collectives sleep with the enemy in countless ways. This panel will explore how artists and collectives have strategically embedded themselves within powerful organizations, corporations, and institutional sectors by performing as researchers, consultants, spokespersons, museum professionals, and corporate decision-makers. Addressing the limitations, practical challenges, and creative possibilities that appear when artists collaborate with institutions of power, we will think together about the range of tactics and tools artists can use to affect change from the inside.

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Steve Kurtz is a founding member of internationally acclaimed art and theory group Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), a collective of five tactical media practitioners who focus on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology, and political activism. The collective has performed and produced a wide variety of projects for an international audience at diverse venues ranging from the street, to the museum, to the Internet. Learn more: critical-art.net

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Jan Mun is a 2014 ABOG Fellow for Socially Engaged Art who explores the generative principles of how complex systems such as botany and fungi, economies, and social networks function and the effects of interactions between different entities, whether cultures, plants, or people. As the artist-in-residence at the Newtown Creek Alliance she has previously partnered with ExxonMobil, one of the stakeholders conducting the cleanup of the Greenpoint oil spill, to create The Fairy Rings, a mycoremediation-inspired art installation. Learn more: janmun.com


Not An Alternative

Not An Alternative is an arts collective and non-profit organization with a mission to affect popular understandings of events, symbols, institutions, and history. Through engaged critical research and design, the group curates and produces interventions on material and immaterial space, bringing together tools from art, architecture, exhibition design, and political organizing.


Their most recent, ongoing project is The Natural History Museum, a new museum that offers exhibitions, expeditions, educational workshops, and public programming. Unlike traditional natural history museums it makes a point to highlight the socio-political forces that shape nature. These forces include those affecting the atmospheric climate on Earth, as well as the political/funding climate within museums of science and natural history. Learn more: notanalternative.org + thenaturalhistorymuseum.org

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


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Aesthetics of Doing is a series of panel discussions that bring together artists, scholars, administrators and other members of the art community for discussions that critically address socially engaged art as it is practiced and defined.


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The Natural History Museum’s diorama depicting the dinosaur hall in NY’s American Museum of Natural History several hundred years into a dystopian future. Photo: NAA

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