Each week in the PSU Art and Social Practice MFA program we have an hour of what we call “topical discussion.” During that hour we explore a term or topic related to art and social practice. Some of the terms and topics are very basic like collaboration, and site-specificity, but there are also less common terms like “A Touch of Evil” which we heard about from Pedro Reyes when we were visiting him in Mexico City a couple of years ago. Many of the ideas we discuss are not specific to socially engaged art, but we are looking at them from a socially engaged art perspective. Several of the concepts are ones that I have used in my own work but until recently hadn’t named what they were or detailed how they could be used as strategies when developing or analyzing a project. I hope that the list might be useful to people interested in socially engaged art. I’m already working on several additional definitions.
Harrell Fletcher 3.10.19
In comedy they call this “misdirection.” It’s the element in a project that in some way breaks from expectation or logic. The whole project can be constructed as a conceptual twist or it can be added in as an element somewhere.
Touch of Evil
I’m just going off of what I understood Pedro to mean by this, but my recollection of what he said is that it is an element in a project that could come across as challenging, negative, edgy, messed up, etc., but at the same time adds complexity. There is a critique of social practice that it is about trying to “do good” and in fact many socially engaged projects might have an intention of making some sort of positive impact on society, but if you can throw in a “touch of evil” then it makes the project more complicated and less easy to write off as only trying (most likely unsuccessfully) to do good.
This is the creation of an archive, or the augmentation of an existing archive, as the structure and content of an art project.
As Emily Dickenson said, “tell the truth, but tell it slant” or something like that. Just because it is socially engaged art, doesn’t mean that the work can’t have mystery! It’s just a careful balance because too much enigma can make work inaccessible, but not enough can make it dull.
I got this term in relationship to art from the artist Charles Goldman. The way he explained it to me was the idea of making art that barely passes the threshold of being art. He likes that tension of just crossing the line with art, and it is evident in a lot of his work. I’ve expanded that idea when I talk to my students to also include an artist’s whole practice. To consider what you need as opposed to what you might want. Do you need to have art world fame or just neighborhood fame? Do you need to do super elaborate and expensive projects or will more basic ones be satisfactory? It’s a question to pose in all aspects of what an artist engages in, and what’s interesting is that often the more modest a project or practice the more beautiful.
Or in its more explanatory but cumbersome term “system segment replacement.” This is an idea I stumbled on while thinking about a possible project and then realized that it applied to a lot of my past work as well. The way it works is that you take an existing system (any one will do) and you leave the start and end points but take out and replace some part of the middle. In many cases that might mean creating a less efficient system from the point of view of time or costs, but the qualities that can be created are potentially much more interesting.
The process of adding onto something that already exists as a project. That could be an art related institution, event, publication or non-art organization or activity like a library, small business, a festival, etc. The idea is that you are taking something that functions normally and then are adding to that in some way that changes the existing something.
This is the basic Duchamp readymade approach, except it can function not just through re-contextualizing non-art objects into art contexts but can expand that strategy by suggesting that non-art objects, organizations, activities, etc. can be artworks without physically putting them into an art context. Instead, through the use of framing devices, it is possible to achieve the perception that the claimed subject is an artwork. Those devices could include using a title, location, date, etc. in a publication, website, lecture, or listing it as part of a larger art exhibition.
More precisely this could be called the self-initiated residency model. For this approach the artist creates (generally with approval) an artist-in-residence position for them self (or others) at an organization that doesn’t normally have an artist-in-residence program or position. This could be at a school, a business, a library, a park, etc. Once the “residency” is established, (which can be formalized by being listed on the organizations website, through establishing a space for the residency within the organization, through physical signage, business cards, etc.) then the artist can work within that context to develop work that is relevant to the people who exist in that place.
In this case what I’m talking about, and I wrote more extensively in a previous text about this, is the radical potential of conceptual art. By that I mean the use of conceptual art approaches, which require little or no material resources, in circumstances in which people have limitations that make it hard to create physical art works. The place I’m thinking of in particular is prison because I’m currently leading a conceptual art class at a local prison myself, but it could apply to almost any situation with any potential participants who might feel like material-based art making is unappealing or inaccessible and who instead could find conceptual art strategies of interest and use.
Or the “delegated model” where the artist conceives of an idea for a project and then asks a set of other artists (or non-artists) to create an aspect of the project, then when all of the pieces are put together into a single exhibition, event, publication etc. the small delegated parts become a larger whole. It is important in delegated projects, as with all social practice projects, to credit each participant for the role that they have played in the project and to pay them if funding is available. The primary artist is likely in this approach creating the structure that the other people are then filling content into.
The platform is the structure that the project takes place in or on, so that in the case of most object-based art work, the platform is a gallery or museum or quasi- version of those things like an alternative space in a garage or a cafe, etc. In the case of social practice projects and other non object-based work the platform can be a school, a library, a food cart, a radio program, the web, clothes, a podcast, etc., etc.
This is in reference to an artist deciding the parameter for a project. In the conventional approach the object (painting, sculpture, photograph, etc.) is the artwork that an artist makes and nothing else is art. But in a social practice project the artist can decide that the artwork includes the process as well as various tangential elements including publications, events, posters, documentation, etc. It also allows the artist to collaborate in various ways and to create co-authorship as part of a project.
The idea here is that the artist constructs a project that is to take place remotely from where the artist is existing. This could be either done with an initial site visit to the location where the project is going to take place or potentially without ever going to that place. Instead, the project is produced by people in the location where the project is taking place through instructions that the artist has created for that place. The people on the ground in the project location can be thought of as collaborators and should be credited for their role in the project.
The context is the place that a project is developed and produced in, which includes not just the physical elements of the place, but also its history, current and future dynamics, and emotional/psychological elements.
In regards to social practice projects I like to think in terms of three different audiences, the first are people who actually participate in a project directly and also experience it, the second are people who experience the project directly but didn’t participate in the development or construction of the project, and the tertiary audience are people who experience the project through documentation or any kind of mediation including photographs, video, written description, word of mouth, etc.
The act of discussing, brainstorming and working on the concept of a project with another artist or an organization as an artwork in and of itself. This is related to something that Lee Walton has discussed, the idea of an “artist assist” being something that should be valued and credited in the way that an “assist” in basketball (and maybe some other sports?) give credit to the activity of one player helping another player to score a point. It’s interesting that this kind of consulting is highly valued in other occupations, but in art there is no existing form for even acknowledging when an artist assists through consultation.
This is what you do when you come up with a project idea and propose it to a person who has the ability to help facilitate the production of the project. This could be directed to a curator or other art professional, but it could also be a non- art person, someone who works for a city agency, a librarian, a business owner or non-profit director etc. The pitch should be simple and easy so that it doesn’t take up much time and energy before an agreement has been made. In most cases an email with a description of the project idea and the potential resources needed is a good starting pitch. Having some kind of “in” with the person is always helpful but is not totally necessary. One extra related idea is that when it comes to traditional art venues, a social practice type project proposal can be to do work that takes place not in the galleries (which are less likely to be available) and instead in an unorthodox place like the lobby, cafe, bookstore, or outside but in proximity to the art institution.
Instead of working on an object the artist works on a project, which most likely would happen outside of a studio and could have multiple elements and not be designed to be purchased in the traditional sense of an object being bought and sold but could instead be commissioned. In this way instead of the artist making objects and then hoping that they will be sold, the artist is commissioned in advance and then produces work to fill that commission.
This idea is related to using the delegated model but could be done in other ways as well. The way it works is that when designing a project, the artist constructs it in such a way so that if any one (or potentially more than one) part or participant doesn’t work out the rest of the project still happens and is not adversely impacted. The opposite of this approach would be to base the entire project on one or just a couple of people, so that if they don’t follow through on their end of the project the whole thing is no longer possible to complete.
Multiple Points of Access
Having various entry points or interest areas within a project, so that some people might be engaged in one aspect of the project and other people might be engaged in another. This could also apply to how a project functions for a non-art audience in certain ways, while having elements that might be interesting from an art world perspective at the same time.
Social practice people seem to really like publications. It makes sense for a few reasons one of which is that since there are not always objects made for social practice projects, publications can function as a tangible object that represent the project. Also depending on the way the publication is produced (newspaper printing is a good example) it can be done cheaply and in large quantity so that the publication can be given away for free. And again, because objects aren’t always primary in social practice projects documentation is important and publications can serve as one approach to creating mediated forms for tertiary audiences to experience.
Because social practice projects don’t always involve objects that can be transported and re-presented and instead might be totally ephemeral or totally permanent and un-moveable, documentation is important for a tertiary audience to experience the work. This can happen in traditional forms like photographs, video, etc and can be shown on the web, in publications, and as part of lectures. But documentation can also be done is less orthodox ways like through re- creations, drawings, rumors, etc.
Social practice type projects often involve publications, posters, and other design related materials so it can be very useful to either develop good design skills or to cultivate good relationships and collaborations with designers.
The creation, as an art project, of an “institution.” It could be ongoing or temporary, for instance a contemporary art museum in school, an artist residency in a prison, a small personal library inside of a college library, etc. Various formalizations can be employed to enhance the sense that the self-initiated institution is real like a website, signage, staff positions, etc.
The use of curatorial strategies as an artwork or art practice, so that the artist may function in some ways like a curator selecting and presenting work but doing that while still seeing themselves as artists not traditional curators.
Local Audience Engagement
Constructing projects so that wherever they take place the local audience feels interested and invested in the project. This can be done at both art and non-art venues by exploring who lives, works, hangs out at or near the location that the project is being presented at and to then make work that those people can have a role in or is at least of interest to them.
The use of various disciplines, medias, and approaches as an artist in any project, as opposed to functioning as an artist who only works in one medium.
Working on a project with more than one person and or designing a project so that other people can participate in it. There is a range of ways that people can collaborate on and participate in social practice projects. If we start with passive viewership as the least involved way that someone can engage in an artwork, we then move on to simple interactions where the people involved are not significant as individuals but are necessary to push a button or eat some food, then into more involved types of participation where the participants are important as individuals and have agency in the content of the project, and eventually onto partial collaboration with grater agency and involvement, and ending with full collaboration in which the project is totally conceived of, developed, and produced by two or more people. Collaborations can happen with artists and non-artists as well.
Making work that is responsive to the location that the work is being made in including the physical elements of the space, but also the broader contextual elements as well—the history, social dynamics, resources, etc. This could also be called “context-specific” or “circumstance-specific.”
There are various advantages to working with arts organizations and some downsides. Contemporary arts institutions know about and understand contemporary art and are open to the idea that artist will do unorthodox things and are supportive of that kind of activity. But doing socially engaged project work is sometimes hard to accommodate for organizations that are primarily used to putting on exhibitions. Additionally, art organizations (especially smaller ones) tend to attract only art audiences, which can be limiting.
There are various advantages to working with non-arts organizations and some downsides. Non-arts institutions have access to non-art audiences of various sorts depending on what kind of organization they are and where they are located, and they have resources that are sometimes more interesting than arts organizations have depending on the kind of work that they do. But non-arts organizations are not necessarily familiar with contemporary art and may not be supportive of the weird ideas that artist want to do with them. They also might have pre-conceived concepts of the ways they think art might be useful to their organization, which may not be of interest to artists.
Making projects that have funny elements is one way of making them more accessible. Personally, I like my humor pretty dry.
Like films or plays or music recordings it is also important to credit the people involved with art projects, it is also an opportunity to counter the status quo idea that artists need to work solo and in proprietary ways.
Inhabiting existing forms can sometimes be more effective and efficient than trying to always create new ones. That’s partly why painters continue to use canvas and oil paint over and over again, but when it comes to project based work sometimes there is a sense that the form needs to be different for each project. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, project structures can be reused in different circumstances to create very new content. Also, you can use non-art existing forms like a cafe, library, making furniture or clothes, offering counseling or education, etc. as your art project.
Replicating a preexisting project, event, exhibition, etc. as an art project. The re- contextualization of the original project is what makes the new version of interest to do. Crediting the original project and producers of that project are important and if possible, asking their approval to do the re-creation.
Constructing a project that shows something that is normally hidden or not focused on, it could be a system, a history, a person’s activities, a place, etc.
Using the action of taking away something that exists somewhere, but in some way making the erasure evident as the art project. For instance, removing a confederate civil war general’s monument but replacing it with a plaque that explains the reasons for the removal.
The amount of time spent working on a project is one way of looking at the duration of the project, though it could also be referring to how long the project is active too, or both of those two together. There is a sort of knee jerk idea that when it comes to socially engaged work that long duration equates to being better, and that short duration is less good. I’ve always felt that this was not an accurate assumption, and as I have said many times, if a bad project lasts a long time it doesn’t make it better, it just means it is bad longer. My feeling instead is that duration is just another factor in determining the best way to approach and develop any given project. Some projects, based on resources available, circumstances, etc. are best when they are very short term. There are ways to avoid the problems that come when an artist is “parachuted” into a project, primarily by setting up the work so that the artist allows local people to present content creating a situation in which the artist becomes an audience to the project that they have conceived of and or facilitated.
There is often a confusion that social practice work inherently needs to be about social justice issues. I don’t think that’s the case, if it were it would be called “Art and Social Justice” not “Art and Social Practice”. Many artists doing socially engaged work are interested in and engaged with social justice issues, and that can of course be the subject and purpose of their work if that is what they want to do, but social practice work could also be about non-political, non-social justice type topics, and or can be indirectly addressing social/political issues in various ways.
Many socially engaged projects have educational components built into them. One of the advantages of project-based work is the opportunity to use the process as a way to learn about topics that the artist is interested in from experiential, direct, and indirect approaches. I like to position myself, when working on a project in a place that I am not familiar with, as the one who is learning from the people who I meet and interact with, often creating project structures that allow those local, and more knowledgeable people to be the ones providing content and leading the education process.
Artists have the chance to construct situations in the way that they would like them to be as opposed to the way that they might normally exist. For instance, just because kids are not normally included in the art world, at least not in positions of agency, it is still possible for artists to create projects that allow kids to take those kinds of roles. That same approach can apply to anything else that an artist would like to see happen within the small-scale realm of possibilities that they have control over when producing a project.
In general, it is important to be able to determine how to behave and operate in life so that you are functioning within both personal and societal ethical practices. There are of course constructed laws that we each need to decide if we will follow or not follow and in what ways. This might be partially considered from the point of view of self-interest, familial interests, societal interests, and based on if the laws make sense in any particular situational circumstances or not, though some people prefer to use precedent and generalized moral codes instead of having to make ethical decisions based on each issue and experience that they encounter. There are pluses and minuses for both approaches, but I favor the situational ethics one even though it requires a lot more work.
Artists need to also figure out their own ethical ideas, methods, and value systems and then try to apply them as they do their work. I tend to think that common sense and following basic social contracts of not harming others (or annoying them too much) is the best approach, but it could be that many artists are not aware of the potential harm they might cause through their work and so need to educate themselves to have greater understanding of their own biases, privileges, power etc., so that they can effectively do the work that they want to do in meaningful and useful ways.
I have encountered the idea that social practice artists need to be especially conscious of their ethical responsibilities because of the social nature of their work, but I have always contended that everyone (including studio/gallery artists) should be engaged with understanding their impacts on other people, the environment, wealth distribution, hierarchies, etc. and that artists who are interested in socially engaged practices are generally at least already somewhat aware of these dynamics, whereas non-socially engaged artists often times are less conscious of the ways they are making impacts with their work from ethical perspectives. Also, when faced with this question I often ask for an example of a
socially engaged art project that has had a negative ethical social impact and have not yet been given a good suggestion (though I’m sure there are a few out there). Considering a socially engaged project to just not be very good from a subjective point of view doesn’t qualify. There is lots and lots of “bad” art being made out there (and because there are a lot more paintings and sculptures than socially engaged projects that means there are also a lot more “bad” paintings and sculptures than there are “bad” socially engaged art projects) but that is no reason for artists to stop doing work, at least not from an ethical point of view.
Many socially engaged projects have featured walking as a primary element (including several of my own). There are many reasons why walking is appreciated from a social practice angle. Walking is something that is free and available to most people in some form or other and does not require special skills to do. It provides an opportunity to get exercise while holding conversations, examining the environment that is being walked through, and providing self- transportation. Walking can easily be combined with other activities like presentations, readings, and performances. I also just really enjoy walking, so when given the opportunity to do any kind of project that I want to do I often choose to include walking as some part of it.
In the US the typical ways that artists fund themselves are through commercial sales, teaching, or arts grants. In reality most people who think of themselves as artists don’t receive any funding at all for their art practice, and probably most of those artists don’t even bother trying to get funding. There is a big disparity between the number of artists and the capacity of commercial galleries to show and sell those people’s work, as well as a limited number of art teaching possibilities and arts grant opportunities. Those options are all available to project based socially engaged artists, but there are other ways to fund that kind of work as well. Working on commissions from arts and non-arts organizations is one example. Sometimes the commission can be for a project that does not interfere with regular exhibition and other programming at the institution, which makes it more likely and increases the number of possibilities (temporary event- based projects or exhibitions in non-gallery parts of museums like cafes and bookstores for instance). Another approach is to create projects that function as self-initiated institutions or artist residencies within existing organizations like schools, libraries, park systems, or sanitation departments (Mierle Laderman Ukeles work is a great example) and to apply for funding that is not normally available to individual artists through those entities. A small business model is another option. It is important to see funding approaches as part of projects and not just as the support system for them.
There has been a pervasive idea in the past that artists were supposed to pick a medium and develop a style for their art and work on that for the rest of their lives. There has always been lots of deviation from this approach, but it still persists as a concept that is often taught to art students. The primary benefit of artists working in that way is to be able to deliver consistent product for the commercial gallery system and all of the other art world elements that rely on that system. Artists, on the other hand, rarely only want to work with just one medium and style and have to be conditioned into finding value in that approach. Any kind of artist can free themselves from that way of thinking and create a more interesting, varied practice for themselves, but socially engaged artists are particularly well situated to work in that way because they are generally not directly connected to the commercial gallery system and work on different kinds of projects that can be situationally determined, so that in one case the artist might use photography in an exhibition form, and in another creates participatory sculpture for a public context, or mixes up multiple mediums and styles in one project, anything is possible when the artist has a variable practice.
As I mentioned in the “education” topic, an artist can position themselves as someone who is given an opportunity to learn through the process of creating a project. That could include anything from learning a new media to learning about the culture and history of a project location. The shift is that in normal conditions it is the artist that is supposedly offering up culture and education to the public and in this scenario the artist is instead learning about existing culture and knowledge from local people and then helping to make that knowledge more accessible to wider audience.
Going to a place where a project will be happening to have a personal experience evaluating the nature of the place and the type of project that would be interesting to develop there based on resources, social dynamics, histories, chance encounters, etc.
Hanging Out Method
A process which can be used during a site visit or during the research phase of any project in which the artist wanders around, talks to local people, and spends time casually observing in the location where they will be developing a project in order to come up with ideas for the concept of the project and to make connections with local potential participants.
Within a socially engaged art project the artist has the opportunity to be as inclusive as they would like to be in various ways, that could include who the collaborators and participants are, how accessible the project is to local and diverse audiences, and in what ways the project is made available in documentation form, which could include free publications distributed publicly etc. to allow the project to be known by people who might not normally go to a contemporary art venue or presentation.
The art world system is built on status and hierarchy, but artists can deviate from that approach if they want to. That can include not going along with the idea that you can only go up the steps of “art world success” which would dictate that once you move from showing in alternative spaces to commercial galleries, to fancier commercial galleries, to museums, that you cannot move backwards for fear that your value as an artist will go down. Instead, if artists showed their work based on what they actually thought was interesting that could mean that they worked with a whole range of different status level organizations (alternative spaces, community college galleries, museums, etc.) in different places (not just art world hubs like NYC, and LA) and as part of socially engaged projects that might take place at schools, prisons, hospitals, the list goes on). If artists make it clear that they don’t want to be limited to art world status conventions and hierarchies then the system can change, but examples need to be made by people in power to correct that situation.
Artists can also use their agency to dissolve or diminish hierarchy through collaborating with people who have less art world status (kids, non-artists, artists with little or no art world connections, etc.) and can also alter audience hierarchy by privileging and creating access for local audiences and people who are generally given less value by the art world system.
The use of instructions, prompts, scores, or assignments as part of a participatory art project. In many cases the artist comes up with the instructions and others (who should receive credit for their roles) respond by producing whatever the instructions suggest. This can be used as part of “distance projects” but you really have to be careful about who is on the other end facilitating the instructions, because if they don’t know what they are doing or deviate from the specific instructions without consultation with the artist things can fall apart or turn into something undesirable.
Typically, it is assumed that artists want to primarily show their work as part of exhibitions, but in the case of socially engaged projects an exhibition might not be the best platform for the work. Sometimes an opportunity for an artist is tied to doing an exhibition even if that is not the primary interest of the artist. In that case the exhibition can be seen as a resource for the project that can also include non-exhibition work (workshops, public art, performances, web, publications, etc.) which happen both inside and outside of the exhibiting institution.
Public art has typically been thought of as permanent sculptures or mural type projects that are funded by government percent for art programs or corporate entities. There are several alternatives that could also be thought of as public art including non-sanctioned street art of various kinds, temporary public art in the form of fliers, posters, performances, or interventions, and site-specific participatory projects. Over the last couple of decades there has been a slow but promising shift towards using percent for art government funding to support less orthodox ideas of public art. Social Practice seems to be included in that development.
A big part of typical art world success is based on the museum and private collections that an artist’s work has been acquired by. But what if as an artist you don’t make objects that are easily bought and sold and shipped? If your work is project based and possibly ephemeral or site-specific it might not be able to be collected in typical manner, and that reduces the status (and funding) that an artist can receive. But there are examples of artist’s works that have somehow made their way into art collections while not being object based. Roman Ondak’s piece “Good Feelings in Good Times” which is owned by the Tate Modern in London is a good example. The project is a set of instructions detailing how a group of actors should be hired to stand in a queue attracting members of the public to line up behind them until they disperse and reassemble somewhere else to repeat the process. Apparently, the work operates in the collection in a similar way to a painting—it was purchased, it is listed as belonging to the Tate, it can be borrowed by other institutions, etc. So, instruction-based work is one approach to use for entering into the arena of a museum collection (and you would think the Tate would be very happy with it because of the lack of need for storage when it is not in use) but there are other methods as well. Documentation and artifacts from a socially engaged project can also be collected, and if a curator is open to it, a project could be designed by an artist specifically to function as part of the museum’s collection. When artists who have different kinds of practices are treated equitably by art world powers then it will be more likely that artists will be able to choose the ways that they want to work without systemic structural pressure and conditioning determining that for them.
I have realized over the years that much of my work is based on creating alternatives to various status quo situations that I run across in society. You could say that “conceptual twists” use similar dynamics—taking something that has a normal way of operating and then tweaking it into some alternative form so that it breaks from our status quo understanding. This has made me think that it is important to understand and recognize the status quo in various situations so that you can then contemplate deviating from whatever that is to create an interesting project. But the status quo is not always bad and a twist on the status quo is not always good, so just making an alternative is not necessarily the right thing to do in every situation, but it usually useful to understand the status quo of a given situation and to critically evaluate it for yourself when working on socially engaged projects.
This is the idea that, like a movie producer or other kinds of producers who handle logistics for a director or team of people working on a film etc., there could also be producers for socially engaged art projects that are not the main artist or artists and not a participant of the project, but instead help to produce the project by handling budgets, scheduling, paperwork, brainstorming ideas etc. It would be interesting if artists took this role for other artists. I have not run across any formalized version of that in the US but have encountered something like that in Canada and parts of Europe for some public art projects, but in those cases the “producers” were not artists and instead were administrators or curators of one kind or another and the process was not considered art.
This involves making projects that the artist has a personal connection to as a starting point for something that could then be made of interest through participation and other involvements by a wider audience. One of the current students in the PSU Art and Social Practice program, Xi Jie Ng has created several projects that operate in this way, one was based on her interest in her grandmother’s bunions, and another that she is working on now is about the apartment complex where she lives. Xi Jie suggested this term as one that should be added to this list after I described a project that I was working on that had to do with my grandfather and his work as a farm manager at a university in California.
Another example is The Quiet Music Festival, a project that Chris Johanson created because of his own hearing issues and his desire to attend a musical event that was specifically designed for very quiet music.
An approach to making work that very literally just renames existing things in the world. That could include existing buildings, streets, geographic areas, monuments, everyday objects, systems, jobs, activities, etc.
I’ve always had a resistance to reading and giving legitimacy to theory in its typically canonized forms. I always found comfort in the supposedly Yogi Berra quote “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is” finding in that assessment a very true statement, from my experience and perspective, that makes it hard for me to value totally abstracted theoretical ideas (in terms of art) that have no applied, concrete elements to them. But it could be that my aversion to theory has also led me towards an unnecessary bias that could be more nuanced and less polarized. I have read and appreciated lots of “theory” that is related to direct experience on topics including alternative education, farming, politics, ethics, etc. I also realize, especially as I have been writing these term and topic definitions, as well as earlier writing of various kinds, that I have been in some ways creating a kind of theory, but one that is based on my thoughts, conversations, and readings, coupled with applied experiences of producing socially engaged art projects for over half of my life. It could be that like many other examples of redefining for myself what I consider to be valid forms of various things–education, art, history, etc. that I also just need to think of theory differently, allowing it to be another resource that I can tap into, in ways and at times that I find useful.