Experimental Ethics in Art

Monday, March 18⋅7:00 – 9:00pm

SVA MA Curatorial Practice, 132 West 21st Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10011


Free and open to the public.

What does it mean for artists and art workers to intervene in the cultural and legal codes governing how their labor is compensated? Is it possible to use algorithmic and financial tools to decide the way art work circulates in the world—who can own, modify, or even view an image file? Jonathan Beller, Lise Soskolne (WAGE), and Joan Kee discuss artists’ contracts, smart contracts like blockchain, and grassroots solidarity networks in the art field. Moderated by Brian Kuan Wood.

Jonathan Beller is one of the foremost theorists of the visual turn and the attention economy. He works on the history of cinema and the way in which the screen-image has altered all aspects of social life. These alterations range from the lived experiences of gender, sexuality and race, to the socio-economic reorganization of peoples, governments and the environment. His research and pedagogy is undertaken with a commitment to those struggling for social justice in what he calls “the world-media system.” Books and edited volumes include The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle; Acquiring Eyes: Philippine Visuality, Nationalist Struggle and the World-Media System; and Feminist Media Theory (a special issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online). His current book projects are entitled The Rain of Images and Computational Capital. Beller also serves on the Editorial Collective of the internationally recognized journal Social Text, and is the current director of The Graduate Program in Media Studies. He teaches Mediologies I and a variety of electives.


Joan Kee focuses on modern and contemporary art from multiregional and crossdisciplinary perspectives. Her first book discussed the emergence of Tansaekhwa, a loose constellation of Korean abstract paintings first exhibited in the 1960s and 70s. One of the most important artistic movements in 20th century Korea, its representative artists used certain materials that eroded prior assumptions about painting and opened up new space for a different narrative of abstraction in the face of numerous social and political pressures. A finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Prize for the most distinguished book in art history, Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (2013) has been credited by numerous publications for bringing international attention to Korean abstraction.  Drawing from previous research in a range of topics from 18th century Choson landscape painting to Southeast Asian performance, and from her interest in working with multiple subfields, another book in progress explores bodies of thinking produced by artistic engagements between artists and subjects of black and Asian descent.

Kee is especially  interested in what might be called an applied art history, where methods central to the discipline -- close visual analysis in particular -- offer a lens for thinking about extra-artistic phenomena, from law to digital communication. Her second book, Models of Integrity: Art and Law in Post-Sixties America (2019) discusses how art historical and legal analysis together can offer insights of problems having wide currency, from concepts of value to civil society as a function of acceptable behavior.  The book discusses how artists engaged with U.S. law from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s when significant legal changes profoundly affected daily life.  Kee is presently researching a book about the role and relevance of emojis.

Kee is a contributing editor at Artforum, as well on the advisory boards of Art History, the Oxford Art Journal and Art Margins.

Lise Soskolne is an artist and core organizer of W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy). W.A.G.E. is a New York-based activist organization whose mission is to establish sustainable economic relationships between artists and the institutions that contract their labor, and to introduce mechanisms for self-regulation into the art field that collectively bring about a more equitable distribution of its economy. An organizer within W.A.G.E. since its founding in 2008 and its core organizer since 2012, she began working in arts presenting and development at downtown New York City nonprofits in 1998. Venues have included Anthology Film Archives, Artists Space, Diapason Gallery for Sound, Meredith Monk/The House Foundation for the Arts, Participant Inc, and Roulette Intermedium.

Image: Palestinian wall art about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, by lochness93. imgur, https://imgur.com/gallery/dqtkB accessed 3/15/2019