Today, we take you to a place where art meets the world. We delve into art that connects with communities and environments, introducing curators and artists whose passion is social engagement. Their experiments in relational aesthetics—participatory performances, interactive installations, community events, and inside/outside exhibitions—invite viewers to become co-creators, to take ownership in the creative process.

Curators Jochen Volz (São Paulo Biennial, Live Uncertainty, 2016), Susan Cross (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Material World, 2010-2011, The Workers, 2011-2012), James Voorhies (Bureau of Open Culture, MASS MoCA, The Workers) and Stephanie Smith (SMART Museum of Art, FEAST, 2012, and Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond, Declaration, 2018) share their perspectives, as do artists William Pope.L (Baile, 2016), Theaster Gates (Soul Food Pavilion, 2012) and Marinella Senatore (Estman Radio, ongoing).

When we meet curator Jochen Volz in 2016, he talks about his approach to organizing the São Paulo Biennial titled Live Uncertainty. The international art exhibition stands apart from most: Free and open to the public, the biennial takes place in a legendary pavilion at the heart of they city’s most popular park.

Speaking to us from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, aka MASS MoCA, curator Susan Cross explains how the history of the building informs her practice. The Workers: Precarity/Invisibility/Mobility was a show that sparked social engagement at MASS MoCA as never before. We reach out to James Voorhies to hear what it meant to bring his Bureau of Open Culture into this context.

Stephanie Smith, currently curator at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art, joins us to talk about a project she organized at the University of Chicago’s SMART Museum of Art. FEAST: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, not only displayed the history of this idea, but also initiated participatory events and offered meals in collaboration with local artists and communities.

These projects invite you to consider how artists and curators pose enduring questions about the meaning of art. In work that translates the diverse activities of labor unions, communal dinners, beer gardens and political protests, they offer potent reminders of our collective capacity for change.

Our conversation is featured in Issue 7 of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation’s new online periodical Exhibitions on the Cusp. We’re honored to be among the publication’s contributors.

Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Photography credits noted in gallery

Special Audio:

William Pope.L, Baile, São Paulo Biennial
There Is Only Light (We Do Not Know What To Do With Other Worlds) performance-reading, July 2011, MASS MoCA. Produced by Bureau for Open Culture
Theaster Gates, FEAST, SMART Museum of Art, University of Chicago
Marinella Senatore and Estman Radio recording, courtesy Marinella Senatore and Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Contemporary Art

Fresh Art International
Beginning with research, networking, and field recordings, independent curator Cathy Byrd works with a team of creatives to script, direct, produce, publish, and promote a range of perspectives on contemporary art. Fresh Art International models the fresh thinking and positivity essential to building a sustainable professional practice in the field. With her supporters, Byrd has effectively invented a vital new art media platform that offers a globally-informed assessment and a virtual archive of contemporary art and culture.

For more than 20 years, Byrd has engaged in extensive field work, traveling across the U.S., and to Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Turkey. To capture the voices you hear in our Fresh Art International podcast series, she records in-person, via Skype and by mobile phone. Fresh Art International features the voices of Claire Tancons, Tania Bruguera, Theaster Gates, Joan Jonas, Jason Moran, Franklin Sirmans, Marinella Senatore, Cesar Cornejo, Antoni Muntadas, Janet Biggs, Valerie Cassel Oliver, Trenton Doyle Hancock, William Pope.L, and many more. Select sounds and photographs illustrate Fresh News and Fresh VUE features on Miami Art Week, São Paulo Biennial, dOCUMENTA, Venice Art Biennial, Istanbul Biennial, Lyon Biennial, SXSW, ARCO Madrid, Armory Arts Week, Frieze New York, Cartagena Biennial, Havana Biennial, and Prospect New Orleans, among other international exhibitions and events.

Notably, each Fresh Art International podcast episode features an introductory text, photo feature and signature sound. All are archived on multiple platforms, and the full series is downloadable for free on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Android, Google Music Play, and Public Radio Exchange, where we make our podcast available for public radio broadcast.

Our Global Initiative
Since the launch of this platform, our reach has spanned the U.S., including residencies on Miami Beach, in Baltimore, Newcastle, Austin, Brooklyn, Chicago, and New Orleans. In Europe, we’ve set up shop in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Engaged with the diverse character of creative practitioners globally, we’ve recorded conversations with visual, performance and sound artists, curators, architects, and filmmakers, among other culture makers. We’ve toured exhibitions and art fairs, attended performances, experienced public art and explored architecture. We’ve captured field recordings worldwide in cities and remote sites including São Paulo, Brazil; New York City; Lubbock; Roswell, NM; Marfa; Baltimore; Washington, DC; Madrid; Lisbon; Istanbul; Bergen (Norway); The Hague; Frankfurt, Brooklyn; Providence, Rhode Island; New Orleans; Chicago; Atlanta; Austin, Texas; and Key West, Florida.