Category: 20 Questions

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.

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a publication dedicated to supporting, documenting and contextualising social forms of art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal takes an eclectic look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions and the public. The Journal supports and discusses projects that offer critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

Created within the Portland State University Art & Social Practice Masters In Fine Arts. Program, SoFA Journal is now fully online.

Conversations on Everything is an expanding collection of interviews produced as part of SoFA Journal. Through the potent format of casual interviews as artistic research, insight is harvested from artists, curators, people of other fields and everyday humans. These conversations study social forms of art as a field that lives between and within both art and life.

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