2015 Wasserman Forum on Contemporary Art Public Art and the Commons

November 14, 2015


Bartos Theater, 20 Ames Street, Bldg. E15-070, Cambridge MA 02139

Public art has emerged as a crucial issue over the past decade. In response to conditions of intensifying economic and political precarity, artists have renewed a dialogue on those social and cultural resources held in common, including media, education, language, the environment, and housing. The 2015 Wasserman Forum: Public Art and Commons, November 13-14, will examine this development with a keynote address and three panels of practitioners from the visual arts, critical theory, and political activism.  Registration for this event is required. To register click here.


All activities take place at MIT List Visual Arts Center. Panel discussions take place in the Bartos Theatre, lower level atrium.

9:30-10:30 PM – Tour

Public Art Collection at MIT, led by Courtney Klemens (Campus and Community Outreach Coordinator, List Center)

Panel Discussions

11-12:30 PM – The Square

The public square has once again become an important site for political as well as artistic engagement. It serves not only as a geographic anchor, but also provides a conceptual framework for rethinking contemporary public art. This panel explores the public square as a provocative site and metaphor, focusing on its role in the work of socially engaged artists responding to developments in Egypt and Turkey.

Jasmina Metwaly (Artist and Filmmaker, Cairo)
Philip Rizk (Filmmaker and Writer, Cairo)
Hakan Topal (Artist, New York and Ankara; Assistant Professor, Purchase College, SUNY)
Moderated by Henriette Huldisch (Curator, List Center)

2-3:30 PM – The Network

From grassroots organizing to state surveillance, forms of communication relying on the Internet play an increasingly prominent role. Debates over networked-based information now in large part define the perimeters of privacy and transparency. This panel examines this development and considers the ramifications of digital media for democratic exchange and the public sphere. 

Jodi Dean (Professor, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY)
Daniel van der Velden (Designer and Co-founder, Metahaven, Amsterdam)
Moderated by Gediminas Urbonas (Associate Professor and Director, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology)

4-5:30 PM – The Institution

Since the 1980s, public goods have become more and more privatized. At the same time, a growing number of US cities now require that private development set aside part of its budget for public art and have begun to elicit private partnerships to complete public projects. This panel takes MIT and Boston as contexts for a discussion on the viability of public art in an era of privatization.

Bill Arning (Director, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston)
Lina Viste Grønli (Artist, Cambridge, MA, and Oslo)
Lawrence Weiner (Artist, New York and Amsterdam)
Moderated by Alise Upitis (Assistant Curator, Public Art and Exhibitions, List Center)

  • Thomas Hirschhorn, Gramsci Monument, 2013
    School Supplies Distribution by Forest Resident Association Forest Houses, Bronx, New York
    Courtesy Dia Art Foundation
    Photo: Romain Lopez