SAIC’s Mary Jane Jacob defends the artist’s contribution to social justice.
SAIC’s Mary Jane Jacob defends the artist’s contribution to social justice.
February 15

Standing Up for Social Practice

Professor and Executive Director of Exhibition Studies at SAIC Mary Jane Jacob is the new guest writer for Bad at Sports, contributing to a blog on social practice to be updated every second Tuesday this spring. “Last month we closed a trio of social justice exhibitions at Sullivan Galleries—and Laurie Jo Reynolds closed Tamms, the state’s solitary confinement prison. Art did that,” she writes in a post published on February 12. Exhibiting artists Tirtza Even, Laurie Palmer, Mary Patten, and Ellen Rothenberg “made art better,” Jacob states, because they “cared and had practical, human rights goals about which they were clear on both the subject and their commitment.” Citing the success of these artists, Jacob counters three critical points made by Grant Kester in Engagement Party: Social Practice at MOCA, 2008-2012, arguing, “we have to move beyond the passive/active participant paradigm.” Seeking a better understanding of “the origin of making art, participation and the society” and the “Chicago Attitude” manifest by the city’s artists, Jacobs consults Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, whose News from Nowhere will be featured this fall at the Sullivan Galleries. “Having participated in a number of exhibitions together since 2007, we began discussing our thoughts and concerns on contemporary art, including the meaning of art, the expendability of exhibitions, and the absence of the critique,” the artists state. “We came to think we should create art that is not only practical but also introspective, that is, in the sense that it would provide us with the opportunity to reflect upon ourselves.”