Sep 7, 2017
Art History, Arts Council

This Arts Council-funded Project is entitled Non-Symbolic Interventions: A Visiting Artist Series.  The project was proposed by Assistant Professor Christa Noel Robbins of UVA’s Art History Department.

This Arts Council grant is to fund the visits of three artists in conjunction with an undergraduate colloquium ARTH 3591 “Art & Activism,” to be taught in the Spring of 2018. The theme of these visits is “NonSymbolic Interventions.”  “Non-symbolic interventions,” meaning the artistic practice that engages social and political problems through non-representational and non-object-based means. Often the work produced is performative, ephemeral and research-based.

The purpose of the course and the visiting artist series is to expose students to artists working at the intersection of art and social reform via anti-aesthetic means, most often involved in research initiatives, direct-action and legislative reform. The artist visits will include a talk with the “Art & Activism” class,  a public lecture/demonstration, to which faculty, students and members of the public will be invited.

The course begins in the early twentieth-century with the historical avant-garde (such as Italian Futurism, Russian Constructivism, Dada and the Situationist International) and moves into the late twentieth-century, attending to the work of artist-activist groups such as Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (founded in 1969 in order to redress the lack of diversity in museums),  Gran Fury (the arts branch of the AIDS activist group ACT UP) and the Critical Art Ensemble (an artist and activist collective that stages didactic performances in order to demonstrate the average person’s ability to participate in specialized fields of scholarship and industry such as the development and distribution of genetically modified organisms).

The course concludes in the twenty-first century with a discussion of artist-activists today. The purpose of bringing artist-activists to Grounds is to both expose students to practitioners in this field and to provide them with an opportunity to enter into a dialog with these artists. Students often ask why an artist-activist bothers with art at all—why not simply be an activist. Having practitioners present to respond to such questions can be a hugely productive entry into both aesthetic and political theory.

Three of the following artists will be invited to UVA Grounds to speak for the Non-Symbolic Interventions lecture series:

  • Julie Ault: Artist, curator, researcher and founding member of the artist-activist collaborative Group Material
  • Gregg Bordowitz: an artist-activist and former member of Gran Fury
  • Ashley Hunt: CalArts—an artist-activist interested in mapping, urban planning and access to public discourse
    Andres Luis Hernandez: a researcher and artist-activist focused on the intersection of race and use of public space
  • Tania Bruguera: Social activist, performance artist and founder of the Catédra Arte de Conducta in Cuba and the Immigration Movement International

In summation, this course and lecture series is meant to expose liberal-arts students to the expanded contribution art practice has to make to social and political concerns, beyond helping raise funds through sales or fomenting empathy through symbolic and representational means. This will also serve to initiate a cross-Grounds conversation concerning what role the arts can play in helping to expand methods of research, engagement and critical inquiry. Success can be measured in numbers of students in attendance and interest in similar projects to be pursued in the future.

Check back for more information on this Arts Council-funded project’s unfolding timeline.

The Arts Council provides advocacy, advice, and support in the Arts at the University of Virginia. It strives to develop and strengthen the bonds of interest and participation among the Arts Departments, their associated programs,  and their alumni and friends; to advocate on their behalf; to advise and assist with communications; and to help raise funds in support of academic programs, facilities, and special events. Among its multitude of arts advocacy efforts, the Council awards annual Arts Council Grants. These grants have, and continue to play an instrumental role in a number of  residencies, workshops, project and research-based endeavors proposed across Arts Grounds annually. This series of articles will highlight each funded project and serve to inform the UVA community of their unique timelines, progress and outcome reports.

See all 2017-2018 Arts Council Grants Awarded


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