5 days & counting

…and I’ll be up-in-the-air on my first flight to NYC.

I’m attending the last iteration (in its current form) of  Open Engagement:

Open Engagement (OE) is an annual, three-day, artist-led conference dedicated to expanding the dialogue around and creating a site of care for the field of socially engaged art. The conference highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time.


What follows is an abridged account of the blog post published by Gretchen Coombs, titled: Two Images and Ten Years Between:

‘Open Engagement (OE) has grown, had growing pains, and has begun aligning itself with urgent social and political concerns. Some of the more prominent debates have faded into the background, some remain. Sometimes it feels less like art and more like politics or activism, but that’s OK. Artists think of efficacy, ethics, and social justice more now, which they should if they work with communities or form provisional publics.


Working with institutions becomes a necessary for sustainability. And while this may take the perceptible edge off radical practices, it also advances and funds those practices. Artist Jeanne van Heeswijk famously declared, “Instrumentalize me!” and Nato Thompson works strategically with institutions to push art and politics onto different registers. To think that OE could have stayed grass roots seems naive, to think that social practice wouldn’t grow in popularity through educational programs, conferences and residencies dismisses the urgency in which artists view the world.


I want to consider for a moment Open Engagement as an artwork so I can understand how its agency forms its legacy––a space for other people to speak, for others to listen, and for everyone to act.’


You can find a fuller account of all the featured practitioners essays here:





Gretchen Coombs lives and works in Brisbane, Australia, where she teaches in the School of Design at Queensland University of Technology. Her interests include art and design criticism/activism.