Open Engagement is an international conference that sets out to explore various perspectives on art and social practice, and expand the dialogue around socially engaged art making.
It is directed and founded by Jen Delos Reyes. For spring 2014 Open Engagement is co-presented by the Queens Museum and A Blade of Grass, and takes place at the Queens Museum, New York Hall of Science, the Queens Theater, Immigrant Movement International, and various locations around New York. Open Engagement is a free conference that will take place May 16–18, 2014.
Artists have a way of provoking new forms of being, examining and challenging the ways that we live and work, proposing alternative approaches, and suggesting ways of navigating and negotiating existing systems. Open Engagement 2014 features keynote presenters Mierle Laderman Ukeles and J. Morgan Puett, and focuses on the theme of Life/Work. The conference examines how economic and social conditions connect to life values and philosophies and situate the everyday in relation to larger political and social issues including labor, economics, food production, ways of being, and education. What are the impacts of artists living and working in community? What is the work of art today? How has the idea of life’s work changed in the 21st century?
The legacies of these two seminal figures have through their practices defined and redefined how life and work can be the foundation for artistic exploration.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles is a defining artist in the history of performance, feminist, and socially engaged art and has been the official artist in residence with New York City’s Department of Sanitation for over three decades. Her work models possibilities of how an artist can create long-term, sustainable alternative contexts within which to situate and create their work.
J. Morgan Puett is an interdisciplinary artist, cultural producer, fashion designer, and Co-Founder and Director of Mildred’s Lane and The Mildred Complex(ity). Her work explores pedagogical structures, systems of labor, sociality, ethics, and all-encompassing lived experience.
The work of both of these artists challenges the segmented notions of art and life, challenges expectations of an artist’s work, explores the relationships of art and service, art and infrastructure, and looks at ways that art is embedded in our daily lives.