An Artists' Congress

Artists Congress at Block Museum


The Artists’ Congress is an interdisciplinary public forum bringing together artists, scholars, and activists to address contemporary issues of art and social change. Organized in conjunction with the Block Museum’s current exhibition The Left Front: Radical Art in the “Red Decade,” 1929–1940 the Artists’ Congress will take place Saturday, May 17 from 1:00 – 5:00pm at the Barber Theater and Block Museum with a social to follow.

The Congress takes Left Front member Louis Lozowick’s question "What Should Revolutionary Artists Do Today?” as its inspiration.

The Congress’ presentations include:

  • John Murphy, co-curator of The Left Front, on the political context and aesthetic controversies that gave rise to the American Artists’ Congress;
  • Scholar Christina Kiaer on the historic Artists’ Union in Russia;
  • Artist Paul Durica on representing labor history in his Pocket Guide To Hell series of tours and reenactments;
  • Artist and critic Eric Triantafillou on his experience as the art director for SEIU’s “Take Back Chicago” campaign during the Occupy protests in Fall 2012;
  • Community and political organizer Don Washington’s Mayoral Tutorial “What Do You Know About the Mayor's Agenda?”;
  • Curator and scholar Romi Crawford on the Speakers’ Corner and speech acts in Chicago;
  • Performance artist Baraka de Soleil on resistance as physical force;
  • Musical interludes curated by scholar and critic Michael Kramer

The event features a public forum facilitated by artist/educators Anthony Romero and Nicole Garneau focused on responses to an Open Call, that addresses critical issues including:

  • the productive function of history beyond nostalgia
  • emerging and perennial forms of propaganda and tactical media
  • the “social engagement” of today’s pluralized politics rather than the monolithic issue of fascism artists addressed in the 1930s

In advance of the Congress, the Block Museum of Art invites you to respond with your own perspective to the question “What is revolutionary art today?,” and to add your thoughts to the Open Call.

The Congress is organized by Susy Bielak, artist, writer and Associate Director of Engagement/Curator of Public Practice at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art; Daniel Tucker, artist, writer and organizer of Never the Same, an oral history and archive project on Chicago’s socially-engaged art practices; and Michael Rakowitz, artist and faculty in Northwestern’s Department of Art Theory & Practice.

The Congress is one of a series of ongoing programs hosted by the Block Museum to explore the role of the museum as a convener for interdisciplinary dialogue and as a crossroads for campus and community.

The Congress is made possible by funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. For more information contact Susy Bielak at susy.bielak@northwestern.edu