Marketing & Communications: SAIC Kicks Off Its 148th Year of Visiting Artists

CHICAGO—This fall, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), a global leader in art and design education, will host a distinguished lineup of visiting artists who exemplify the boundary-blurring nature of contemporary art. Beginning in September, SAIC’s Visiting Artists Program will feature a diverse group of artists including: Claudia Rankine, a Jackson Poetry Prize recipient and the author of “Citizen: An American Lyric,” the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category; Chinese artist Cao Fei, who mixes fantasy, documentary and virtual reality to reflect on the ways China’s rapidly changing economy has transformed the everyday lives of its citizens; and Juliana Huxtable, an artist whose work utilizes race, gender and queerness to explore post-identity politics. The fall season kicks off on September 1.

This fall, SAIC will present the following visiting artists:

  • Cao Fei is one of the most innovative young Chinese artists to have emerged on the international scene. Currently living in Beijing, she mixes social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to surrealism and documentary conventions in her films and installations. Her works reflect on the rapid and chaotic changes occurring in Chinese society today. Cao Fei’s talk is presented in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Museum Education.
  • Fischerspooner—Warren Fischer (SAIC 1991–93) and Casey Spooner (SAIC 1989–93)—first met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1998 founded Fischerspooner, an ongoing sound and performance project about the relationship between art and entertainment. Fischerspooner uses the languages of popular entertainment as its media; music, performance, dance, fashion, film, design, publicity and photography are all elements that Fischerspooner employs to fabricate its illusion of glamor and excitement.
  • Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including “Citizen: An American Lyric” and“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”; two plays including“Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue”; and is the editor of several anthologies including “The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind.” Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.
  • Tal R creates expressive paintings, collages, sculptures and installations that depict figurative and abstract imagery culled from diverse sources. He was born in Tel Aviv to a Danish mother and Czechoslovakian Jewish father. Raised in Denmark, his childhood was defined by his family’s split identity: the orderly Scandinavian society of his maternal side contrasted with his father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor. Drawing provided a needed escape during childhood. Tal’s self-identification as an outsider, caught between two worlds, fueled a fertile artistic landscape of shifting realities.
  • Juliana Huxtable’s work explores the fragmented and mutable nature of identity by utilizing race, gender and queerness as media to explore the possibilities of post-identity politics. She uses a range of outlets to unpack these themes including self-portraiture, text, performance, nightlife, music and poetry. The ubiquity of social technology figures centrally in her work. She explores the ways these structures reveal and conceal certain histories while seeking ways to liberate new histories and speculative worlds. Her modes of expression are fluid, which is reflected in her musical arrangements and performance art.
  • Josh Kline creates artworks and exhibitions that consider the ways in which our humanity has been transformed, commodified and instrumentalized within neoliberal society. Examining the regimes of control to which the human body is increasingly subjected—ranging from governmental and corporate surveillance to the relentless pursuit of youth—Kline addresses the erosion of boundaries between labor and leisure and the incursion of consumer culture into the most literally intimate aspects of life: blood, DNA, and neurochemistry.
  • Ann Cvetkovich is the Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her project,“The Queer Art of the Counterarchive,” chronicles the recent increase of LGBTQ archives and uses them as a departure to ask more extensive questions about the power of archives to transform public history. This project operates in the tensions between activist calls for archival visibility and critiques of archives as politically suspect and impossible. Cvetkovich explores these tensions by investigating archival case histories as well as projects by artists whose creative and queer approaches to archives are both critical and transformative.
  • Caroline Bergvall is an international artist and performer based in London who works across various art forms, media and languages in a multilingual space. Bergvall often works with a mix of collaborators, and her artistic output takes many multisensory forms, such as poetry, audio pieces, drawings, installations and live performances. For example, Bergvall’s large-scale collaborative performance, "DRIFT,” combined a rewriting of the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Seafarer” alongside reports from recent sea migrants and refugees.

“Historically, artists, designers and scholars have provided insight and reflection on the challenges of the world around us. It is especially fitting that this fall’s visiting artists explore themes of culture, society and self,” said Andrea Green, director of SAIC’s Visiting Artists Program. “We are pleased to host a diverse group of artists to reflect on some of the most important issues of today.”

The Visiting Artists Program, founded in 1868, is one of the oldest public programs in Chicago. In addition to bringing some of the leading artistic voices to SAIC, the program plays a critical role in informing the curriculum by arranging studio critiques and roundtable discussions with students, providing them with direct access to world-renowned speakers working across disciplines. This program is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Visiting Artists Program Schedule

All presentations are free and open to the public, begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. and take place at the Rubloff Auditorium at The Art Institute of Chicago, 230 S. Columbus Drive.

Cao Fei

September 1

Presented in Partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Museum Education


September 21, Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series

Presented in partnership with SAIC's Office of Alumni Relations

Claudia Rankine

September 27, President's Inaugural Distinguished Lecturer

Presented in partnership with SAIC's Office of the President and Diversity Advisory Group

Tal R

October 4

Presented in partnership with SAIC's Department of Painting and Drawing

Juliana Huxtable

October 11

Josh Kline

October 17

Ann Cvetkovich

November 2

Caroline Bergvall

November 15


About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked No. two by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave and LeRoy Neiman. For more information, please visit

Cao Fei, Same Old Brand New, 2015, large-scale LED screen installation with sound. Courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

Press/Media contact

Bree Witt
P: 312.499.4211 (office)