Category: Journal

20 Questions

19 Questions I ask of my work:

  1. Is this the right time to ask questions?
  2. Where is my instinct in this process?
  3. How does it feel when I am working on this?
  4. What are the rules/logic/frame of this work? Why?
  5. How will the audience know about the rules/frame – is it necessary?
  6. What is happening? How to capture, frame, condense it?
  7. What are the limitations – can they be materials?
  8. What are the stupid questions?
  9. Can I describe what I’m doing in a sentence?
  10. What is this? (medium)
  11. How can this be simpler? What is the least I can do to realize this idea?(editing)
  12. Who do I need to work with, where are they, how do I reach them?
  13. Who is it for? Where are they? How will they see it?
  14. Is this the right scale?
  15. Am I open or closed? Do I need to be open or closed at this moment?
  16. Who will see this? How will I tell the story of what happened?(documentation)
  17. How would I tell my grandma about this?
  18. What is the space between myself (or us) as the artists and the audience orparticipants? Is this the right space?
  19. Is it done? What else? What next?

7 Questions I do not ask of my work

  1. Who has done this before?
  2. Why am I doing this?*
  3. What does this mean?*
  4. How does this help?
  5. What kind of work is this?
  6. Who cares?
  7. What will this change?

* these are ongoing processes of observation and reflection, rather than questions I’d use to interrogate an idea, or work at an early stage

For more info on Lenka’s work, click here.

Lenka Clayton is a British-American conceptual artist and educator based in Pittsburgh. Her work contemplates, exaggerates and defamiliarizes accepted rules and practices of everyday life, extending the ordinary to the poetic and absurd.

Eric John Olson

Do I already know the answers to the questions this work asks?

Who is this work for? Me, other artists, an institution, or a broader community?

How is the work useful?

How can the work be instrumentalized by its participants, collaborators, or audience?

Where is paradise?

Does this work embody the change I want to see in the world?

Is it radical enough?

How can the work hold many viewpoints together?

If the change that matters is the one that occurs in the imagination first, how does the work inspire or make use of collective imagination?

Does the work challenge me to dream or re-imagine what feels possible?

Where is sustainability in the practice?

What is the work’s relationship to power? How can the work shift power in an equitable way?

How can the work be subversive?

What’s my value-added proposition?

What can I do better? What felt awkward, laborious, excessive, or tenuous? How can every part of the project strengthen the core concept?

Does the project still sound interesting when described in only a couple sentences?

Where does my joy live in the work?

How does the work help us talk about difficult things, or things we don’t want to examine?

If seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees, how can the work help me see?

Where is the light in the dark?


For more about Eric’s work, click here.

Zeph Fishlyn

Daily questions:

  1. Why is it so hard to justify the time I spend on making/planning/practicing/thinking about art? Who am I justifying it to?
  2. Who cares about what I’m doing? Whose caring matters?
  3. What would I make/do if I lived alone in the woods?
  4. How much of myself gets to show up in a work? How much am I holding a framework for others?
  5. When is participatory or service-oriented art just another way of avoiding being seen?
  6. What is the right amount of self-expression that invites others to express themselves too?
  7. How do I invite meaningful exchange without being deadeningly “serious”?
  8. How do I develop a practice that draws from both gut and head?
  9. When it is important to “push through” something that feels hard, and when is it important to relax, wait, and listen for what is quiet and tentative?
  10. What kinds of creative work bring me closer to the sensory world and things that feed me?
  11. When does art make my hands and heart tingle?
  12. How do I bring this into my daily practice?

Specific Projects:

  1. What questions am I asking myself in this work? What questions am I asking others?
  2. Will working on this project deepen connections to people and things I care about?
  3. How much screen time will this project demand, vs. hands-on work and in-person interaction?
  4. How does this project connect me to questions that people in my community are invested in?
  5. How does this project connect me to grassroots organizing? How does it support, or not support, wider efforts towards collective liberation?
  6. In what ways are my experiences of privilege and marginalization showing up in this work? How can I leverage those experiences, and in what ways do they expand or limit what I’m able to accomplish?
  7. How is an artist’s “outsider” position liberating and strategic? How is it alienated and ineffective?
  8. When should I just put all this creative energy into hosting a great BBQ?

To learn more about Zeph’s work, go here.

Xi Jie Ng

  1. Where is the magic in social practice?
  2. How do you tend to a plant?
  3. How do I live my life?
  4. Will you pray with me?
  5. Can I teach you to pronounce my real name?
  6. What can you cook with pandan?
  7. Where do fantasy and reality meet?
  8. Where can I sail to?
  9. What to find?
  10. How do I collaborate with, sustain and nourish myself?
  11. Is my grandmother an artist?
  12. What is the essence of this work?
  13. Why make projects with friends?
  14. How do we want to spend time together?
  15. How can I make work a great, deep, patient pleasure?
  16. What are my dreams saying?
  17. What happens if I slow down?
  18. Shall we go on an adventure together?
  19. Shall we keep making things with our hands, for ourselves?
  20. What do I enjoy?

To learn more about Xi Jie’s work, go here.

Carmen Papalia

-Do I have the energy to follow through with what I have proposed; can I leave if I need to?

-Will the work – from concept to implementation – serve and sustain my health and well-being?

-Is the project necessary given what I am experiencing in life / my community / a wider social, cultural, or political context?

-Is it a good use of the opportunity to produce new work and the platform that I have access to?

– Is the value of my contribution to the field / discourse appropriately being acknowledged; how is my practice being instrumentalized by my host and the project’s stakeholders?

-How will the state of accessibility or the social, cultural, or political context affect the development process and how the work is received?

-Does what I have proposed effectively highlight, push against, or disrupt the disabling conditions that obstruct my agency?

-Does it reflect my politics and the ways that I want to live in community with others?

-Should it have a life beyond first being presented?

-Will production require additional expertise; what do I need help with and  who should I ask?

-How should the project be documented?

-Does it have multiple access points; are there a variety of ways in which to enter the work?

-What will the participant experience at various points in the process?

-What does engaging as a participant require; how does the project position the participant?

-How should I approach my role as a facilitator; will I need help holding space at any point in the process?

-Are there barriers to participation based on the needs of those taking part; can I address these barriers as a facilitator?

-Can I describe the process and the implications of the work in ways that cater to the various learning styles in the room?

-How does the story of the project fit in with the other narratives that I have established with my work?

-Does documentation from a prior instance of the project carry its concept and experience?

-Does the project set a precedent that I can engage in the future?

For more information about Carmen’s work, click here.

Lisa Jarrett

Twenty Questions is a series that asks artists to create a list of questions that they ask themselves about their practice. Like the game “20 Questions”, the format offers readers a chance to get to know what a given artist’s practice might be.


Lisa Jarrett


  1. Skylights or Windows?

  1. What do you do for your shadow?

  1. What happens when you accept this work within an artist-defined vernacular rather than an art world defined vernacular?

  1. What emerges when modernism isn’t the framework for producing meaning?

  1. What are systems of connection as opposed to systems of oppression?

  1. What is a distinction without difference?

  1. How do you remain vulnerable?

  1. What social conversations do you have with yourself?

  1. Birds, is flying in wind more like giving up or giving in?

  1. How do you cross a threshold into a living room?

  1. Where are you hiding the honey?

  1. Why do things loom larger in memory, shadow, and reflection?

  1. Where, precisely, are your loved ones?

  1. Is this your weapon of choice?

  1. How do you talk with your blood memory?

  1. What is your innate choreography?

  1. What is the product of your labor?

  1. Is sensory deprivation enough?

  1. Is this a persistent sense of loss?

  1. What if love is a third thing altogether?


You can learn more about Lisa’s work here.

Wendy Ewald

Twenty Questions is a new series created by the Social Practice Journal that asks artists to create a list of questions that they ask themselves about their practice. Like the game “20 Questions”, the format offers readers a chance to get to know what a given artist’s practice might be. Through inquiry, we are offered a look at how other artists interrogate their own actions in relationship to the work they are making.

Wendy Ewald

Twenty questions to approach a socially engaged project.

Part One—Preparation

What questions does a project ask about society?

Why is this work important now?

Does it come out of an issue that I’m thinking about already?

How does it engage me as an artist?

Can I approach it in a way that is new for me?

Who are my partners/collaborators?

What is the design of the collaboration?

How does it include the vision of the collaborators?

Part Two—In the Middle

Am I able to be open to what’s happening?

Can I be flexible enough to change my vision?

Can I bring the collaborators into my vision so we can agree on how to make the most powerful work?

What do we think is the best way to reach our audience?

What do we want to say?

Part Three—Looking at what we have

How has the process of making the work changed how I see the outcome?

How will it affect the final product?

Who is the audience? (I ask this question all the way through.)

Is it important that the process be included in the piece to reach them?

What form should it take?

What further work do we need to do to engage the audience?

Is the work respectful to the audience, collaborators and my initial idea?


You can find more information about Wendy’s work here.

Existing on the Periphery

The Centre for Art and Social Practice reports from Kolkata, India with a project by Anuradha Pathak, in collaboration with Chander Haat and the Shelter Promotion Council.


Sarsuna Theke Jana / Derives from the Metropolis

Public Art Festival | Sarsuna | Kolkata, India

June 1-10, 2016

In collaboration with Chander Haat & Shelter Promotion Council, India.

A community based art project developed by Anuradha Pathak (CASP-Kolkata), Existing on the Periphery dealt with the migration history of a community involved with the trade of selling puchkas, a famous street food of Kolkata. The project developed through various site visits to Phuchkapara at Khudirampally in Sarsuna, a village in South West Kolkata. This area is a marshy land very close to the Sunderbans, and has a history of migrants from Bangladesh who settled here around the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Phuchka is made famous by migrant communities from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. A small group of Puchkawallas (around 4 families) reside in Puchkapara and continue this generational trade, while others have shifted to alternate professions. Through several interactions, Pathak engaged with their migrant histories and their experience of place and belonging. The four families at Phuchkapara, are from the Nabada Zila in Bihar, but from different villages. They felt despite being residents of that area for around 20 years, they were not given importance like the immigrants from Bangladesh, presenting a complex layer to the discourse of migration in Bengal.

Questions of economics and livelihood emerged along with their daily experiences of selling puchkas in the glass and wood box on a mobile cart. Design ideas emerged from the families to make the box more convenient and user friendly. Pathak improvised the traditional box design by making the box bigger for containing the puchkas and added two small wooden boxes with three compartments each to hold the six accompanying ingredients. All the six compartments had six bowls to hold the ingredients. This refurbished box became a part of the participatory installation at the courtyard of the Mittir Bari, the house of one of the rich traders in Sarsuna. The installation was meant to symbolize the economic binary existing in Sarsuna and the marginalized position of the phuchkawalas in society.

The interactivity with the four families was transferred as text excerpts on the box, and the bowls had actual ingredients covered with text that underlined their health benefits. After the display, the box was returned to the community as a replicable design model and future projects with the women and families of this community are in discussion.

Transformative Change: The Summit at the Rauschenberg Residency

Madeline Gallucci reports from The Summit at the Rauschenberg Residency as co-director of Front/Space, a DIY art gallery in Kansas City, MO. Madeline’s weekly reports are part of a large project called Program Report, collecting writing from art spaces around the world that focus on creating accessible, socially engaged programs for the communities the reside within.

Transformative Change: The Summit at the Rauschenberg Residency

Every year, approximately 70 artists, activists, and organizers from all over the country convene in Captiva, FL to attend The Summit hosted by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Each of these organizations received a three year installment of a $10,000 SEED Grant, nominated anonymously, to use to continue their practice, fund operations, launch fundraisers, and special projects. Front/Space received the SEED Grant in late 2012 which further legitimized and funded the work of this small DIY project space. In 2014, Kendell and I attended our first Summit nearly one month after we assumed the new title of Co-Directors. In addition to these SEED Grantees, we share the honor of attending the conference with the 2015 and 2016 Artist as Activist Fellows. These fellows are given the opportunity to develop a project relating to social justice at The Rauschenberg Residency.

Our fellow SEED Grantees are from similar mid-sized cities that are experiencing cultural growth like Kansas City. These regions include Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, Phoenix, Atlanta, Boise, Santa Fe, Providence, Houston, Portland, Appalachia and New Orleans. Although each organization spans different media and content (from theater to performance, non-profit to DIY)  as well as stages of growth and longevity, our common thread and mission is to advance cultural labor and develop innovative work.

The Summit, like other conferences, brings in speakers and special guests to touch on common topics and challenges each organization is dealing with such as Governance, Cyber Security and Fundraising. Unlike other conferences, this intensive week of group activities and deep listening highlights the connections between these cities through intensive peer-to-peer learning. Rather than solely relying on “experts” in the field, we use each other as our greatest resource, sharing specific strategies and personal experiences. The Rauschenberg Residency campus is the ideal location for this kind of group thinking. On an island with limited distractions, we spend the week together in both work and play and develop strong bonds that further build our communities.

Now, after our third and final Summit, I think back on Front/Space’s experience over these last 3 years. Since this magical time in Captiva is critical to the growth of all these organizations I want to extend some questions to consider from Vision Change Win. I hope these questions bring an insightful and introspective look into the operations of your organization to better understand and formalize your mission and vision:

What is your work?

What are your values and structure?

How do you grow your vision?

What are your top three things you are grappling with?

What resources do you HAVE?

What resources do you NEED?

Who is supporting you?

What additional support do you NEED?

How do you recruit support?

How are decisions made?

What is the financial cost of your work?

How is this work currently funded?

What opportunities or barriers does your current structure provide to generate funds to support the work?

Based on the answers to these questions… consider what other structures could address some of the items raised and how do they align with your values?What ways can you maximize and deepen  your current structure?

What steps will you take to continue to identify, build and implement a structure that might benefit  your organization and work?


Some mantras to consider:

We need TRUST to begin COLLABORATION and we need COLLABORATION to move FORWARD.

Notice the power of “YES!”

Yes to PROCESS.  

Practice VUCA: Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

Move away from Obligation and move forward to Inspiration, move away from Transaction and move forward to Transformation.

A complete list of SEED Grantees as well as Artist as Activist Fellows can be found here:

Kendell Harbin from Front/Space in our Peer Consultancy group with fellow SEED Grantees Cattle Track (Phoenix, AZ) and ELAB (Buffalo, NY).

The Rauschenberg Residency is the former studio of the artist Robert Rauschenberg where he spent nearly 40 years making work.

Speaker Caroline Woodlard explaining the Solidarity Economy.

Time for relaxation is also a time for connection.

Facilitator Gibran Rivera inviting the group to explore the paradigm shift.

PSST: Mack McFarland

Our new season of Portland State Social Practice Talks focuses on activism. Over the next six weeks we will explore activism in its many forms, and how it relates to art and social practice.

To inaugurate our new term, we are joined by Mack McFarland, an artist and curator at Pacific Northwest College of Art.

You can find the full conversation here.

Mack McFarland is an artist and has worked as Curator for Pacific Northwest College of Art since 2006. Currently McFarland is the Director of the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA. His past exploits have included commissioned projects of new works from tactical media practitioners Critical Art Ensemble, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Disorientalism.  He has also curated survey exhibitions such as a review of Luc Tuymans’s printed works, a group exhibit marking the centennial of John Cage’s birth, and a comprehensive look at the process of the comic journalist Joe Sacco.  McFarland’s current focus swirls around issues of class, representation, information environments, and phenomenological perception. These ideas manifest in the forms of exhibitions, postcards, performances, and videos. With his artworks and exhibitions McFarland aims to develop a space for the viewer to experience an intersection of visceral aesthetic and cognition via contemplative sensory experiments.

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a bi-annual publication dedicated to supporting, documenting, and contextualizing socially engaged art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal focuses on a different theme in order to take a deep look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions, and the public. The Journal seeks to support writing and web based projects that offer documentation, critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

The SoFA Journal is published in print and PDF form twice a year, in June and December by the PSU Art & Social Practice Program. In addition to the print publication, the Journal hosts an online platform for ongoing projects.

SoFA Journal
c/o PSU Art & Social Practice
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207