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Social Works


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Table of Contents

1. Performance, Aesthetics, and Support 2. Quality Time: Social Practice Debates in Contemporary Art 3. High Maintenance: The Sanitation Aesthetics of Mierle Laderman Ukeles 4. Staged Management: Theatricality and Institutional Critique 5. Tech Support: Labor in the Global Theatres of The Builders Association and Rimini Protokoll 6. Welfare Melancholia: The Public Works of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset 7. Unfederated Theatre: Paul Chan Waiting in New Orleans

About the Author

Shannon Jackson is the director of the Arts Research Center at University of California at Berkeley where she is also Professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. Her award-winning previous publications include Professing Performance (2004) and Lines of Activity (2000).


'Social Works takes an interdisciplinary look at the forms, goals, and histories of innovative social practice in contemporary performance and visual art. Shannon Jackson presents a range of case studies and contemporary methodologies to examine the fields for performative and visual art studies.' - Public Art Review, 2011, Issue 45

`Shannon Jackson offers vivid close readings of art and performance ... and she considers social issues relating to welfare, sanitation, urban planning, and globalisation, and how they coincide with class, gender, race, and - especially - labour...This will be a useful, enriching, and stimulating book for artists, students, and academics across art, performance, and social theory.' - Jen Harvie, Contemporary Theatre Review

'Throughout the various studies that comprise Social Works, Jackson demonstrates the critical mobility across psychoanalysis, feminist, queer, and critical race theory needed to produce interpretations that trouble the very grounds of what constitutes art, life, and the public.' - Jennifer Cayer, e-misferica

'Jackson presents an informed and critical exploration of the 'social turn' in contemporary art, and overall, what is offered here is a thorough re-visioning of how the social phenomena of theatre and performance might be thought about and understood...This brilliant book asks us to think about art and performance as forms of human welfare, performatively creating and sustaining systems of social support, and working in ways that secure the maintenance of life.' - Jenny Hughes, New Theatre Quarterly

'Shannon Jackson's superb new book is, in a very challenging way, about vocabulary. Bypassing-even eschewing-language sometime dissed as "jargon," Jackson forces readers to think and think again about basic terms such as "performance," "social practice," "art," "politics," and "public".......Jackson's book is an invitation to consume art promiscuously but to choose words as if the future of the world depended upon them." - Dorothy Chansky, TDR: The Drama Review

'This is a subtle, nuanced and socially committed book that should be widely read.' - Stephen Bottoms, Theatre Research International

'Amidst the upheaval of the 'social turn', Social Works is a pivotal landmark. As we attempt to conceive of 'the aesthetic' and 'the social' together in performance and across the arts, Jackson's articulation of what she calls the "support" of a performance, that is, the real social, economic, and even logistical conditions that allow it to come to be, is a great contribution to the debate. In her distinctive voice, Jackson offers pertinent and noteworthy examples to unfold a sophisticated framework for understanding the political, ethical, and aesthetic implications of the social turn. She 'explore[s] the social aspirations of socially engaged projects less as the extra-aesthetic milieu that legitimates or compromises the aesthetic act and more as the unraveling of the frame that would cast "the social" as "extra"' (16). This stance subtly rewrites the grounding of performance studies, and Jackson's far-reaching book is thus a vital reference at this moment of transition.' - James Andrew Wilson, PhD Candidate, University of Warwick

'Jackson's phenomenal book shifts the discussion from taste to ethnography in her critical examination of the intersection of social art, performance and theater. Not only a must read for those interested in the intersections of art and social change, but perhaps more importantly, for those searching for a calibrated compass in the age of vast interdisciplinary art production.' Nato Thompson, Chief Curator, Creative Time

'Social Works is a thrilling encounter: a politically important and intellectually innovative book. Shannon Jackson's exploration of the social work that underpins and enables the making of art is wonderfully judged. She draws out the ways in which art, politics and the public realm are intimately interwoven. The book is itself a vital and generous piece of social work.' John Clarke, Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University

'Social Works is essential reading for anyone interested in the past, present and future of art at the intersection of performance and social practice. Shannon Jackson combines impeccable research and rigorous critical thinking with a lucid, approachable writing style. I have found this book invaluable in my work as both a curator and a critic.' Andy Horowitz, Founder,

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