Aesthetics of Doing: Tangible Utopia


A view of the Waterpod Project by ABOG Fellow Mary Mattingly and collaborators, 2009. Photo: Mike Nagle.

A conversation exploring utopian models in socially engaged art, with artists Lex Brown, Sasha Chavchavadze, and Dylan Gauthier, moderated by 2015 ABOG Fellow Mary Mattingly.

Art can often provide a glimpse into a more equitable world, and socially engaged artists often use utopian examples or create new utopian models. But how do you engage utopian thinking without being overly idealistic? Without becoming burned out in efforts to live up to utopian ideals? How can we fuel utopian imagination, both in creative practice and in communities working with artists? How can we bridge the gap between utopian thinking and reality?

Lex Brown Lex Brown is a writer and artist pursuing an MFA in Sculpture at Yale University. This fall, Badlands Unlimited published her first work in fiction, My Wet Hot Drone Summer, a sci-fi erotic novella that takes on sex, surveillance, and social justice in the near future. In the summer of 2013 she was the lead teacher and workshop coordinator at Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument. She is a member of the 2012 class of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received her BA from Princeton University in 2012. Her works have been exhibited at the New Museum in New York, REDCAT and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Learn more: lexbrown.com

Sasha Chavchavadze 2 Sasha Chavchavadze is an artist whose interdisciplinary projects have bridged the fields of visual art, historical inquiry and community. She is the founder and a creative director of Proteus Gowanus, an interdisciplinary, community-based exhibition and project space that was an inclusive, cultural hub in the Gowanus for ten years. She is the lead artist of two Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary collectives: the D’Amico Gowanus Laboratory Collective and the Battle Pass Collective. Her Cold War project Museum of Matches included public installations, publications and an interactive “one-room Cold War museum,” open to the public from 2005 – 2011. Chavchavadze has exhibited her work widely for twenty years in the U.S. and abroad.

IMG_1144 2 Dylan Gauthier is a Brooklyn-based artist working at the intersections of media, architecture and ecology. His practice takes the form of soundtracks, images, websites, publications, environmental research, and social sculptures, and explores the residues of temporary occupations, invisible infrastructure, and utopian systems. Gauthier is co-founder of the artist-boatbuilder collective Mare Liberum, and of Sunview Luncheonette, an art and social center located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In 2015, he was an NEA supported Ecological Artist-in-Residence at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP). Learn more: floatingcity.us

ABOG_Headshot_Mattingly-150x150 2015 ABOG Fellow Mary Mattingly is an artist working in varied forms of sculpture and photography focusing on environmental, economic and political change. Her ABOG Fellowship supports Swale, a mobile food forest, grown on a 50-foot diameter floating platform, which will dock at different piers around New York City’s harbor for months at a time. After an initial year of planning sessions and building in collaboration with local community groups, nurseries, and schools, Swale will function as a floating island, open for public visits, and welcoming participation in maintaining the forest and collecting fresh food. Learn more: swaleny.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.

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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By Mary Mattingly
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