XXA Extreme Arts Administration


Extreme Arts Administration  (SAIC: 2001)

Wednesday’s from 4:30 to 7:30                4th floor, 37 S. Wabash

Instructor: Gregory Sholette

Master of Arts in Arts Administration,

Visual and Cultural Studies and Art History.

This class is an investigation into new (as well as some old, but overlooked) ways of organizing cooperative, cultural spaces; inter-active, public-art projects; art actions for political demonstrations; as well as even community gardens and recycling centers. Our critique and re-thinking of contemporary administrative practices will be fashioned from select readings, class discussions, media presentations and will culminate in the development of new, organizational prototypes. Meanwhile, frequent guest seminars by noted and unorthodox arts innovators and cultural activists will provide a variety of working models from which to travel to the edge of the known organizational universe where art, politics and institutional planning converges. Throughout the course, we will ground our critique of contemporary institutional practices in historical and sociological analysis with a strong materialist bent.

Course themes:

I Exploring “normal” verses “aberrant” arts administration and introducing some counter-practices.

II Writing, Documenting, Archiving, Distributing.

III Leveraging institutional power.
IV “Marketing” as guerrilla action and the tactics of organizing the “in-between.”

V Towards a Critical Autonomy?


  1. Attendance. (More than two unexcused absences is a No Credit.)
  2. Thinking, discussing and full, active participation in class.
  3. Reading. (Note: you are responsible for picking up all readings distributed in class as well as knowing about any changes in the syllabus that arise during class.)
  4. Making a Class Presentation (and a paper), OR
  5. Creating a Project (see below).


Because one of the aims of this class is to propose new forms of cultural organizing it is up to each of you (individually or working in a group) to make a presentation to the class or produce a project. The presentation or project should be about art collectives, experimental institutions, public actions, collaborative publications, web networks, community gardens and other, similar examples of alternative cultural organizing. The emphasis should be at least in part on HOW these entities came together and continue to work (or fail to work, as the case may be.)

Your presentations can be informal, but I will ask that you submit your research in the form of a short paper (4-5 pages) with sources.

(NOTE: if you should decide to do a project for the Smart Museum exhibition, this would substitute for a paper by incorporating the research directly into the form.)


The SMART Connection:

The other important thing to note has to do with an exhibition at the Smart Museum entitled Critical Mass being organized by Stephanie Smith. It opens on April 25th. I am making a work for this show along with several other Chicago-based artists/art groups including, Ha Ha, Bob Peters and Temporary Services. The concept of the exhibition deals with the same content as our class. Meanwhile the artist Brett Bloom, who is part of Temporary Services, is simultaneously teaching a class at the University of Chicago. What we hope to be able to do is join forces so that both classes meet on occasion in order to discuss projects, ideas as well as to have access to our special visiting lecturers (see syllabus.).


  1. Anti-Symposium:

One possibility related to Critical Mass is to have both classes organize an Anti-Symposium for the exhibition at Smart. NOTE: THIS WOULD CONSTITUTE YOUR ASSIGNMENT FOR MY CLASS IF YOU WANT TO GO THIS WAY.

  1. Critical Mass exhibition:

Another possibility is to have you contribute directly to the exhibition based on your research. For example: what about making a HOW-TO publication about alternative forms of organizing in the form of a video, cd or website, zine?. (Note however that these projects may be contingent on funding/timing.)

  1. Other Projects:

Projects that you define yourself or are already involved in that relate to the class, for example an installation or performance at 1926 ES Space with Mary Patton.


XAA Syllabus


(*Note: all readings will be hand-outs in class and keep in mind that most of this syllabus is subject to change if deemed necessary.)

I Exploring “normal” verses “aberrant” arts administration and introducing some counter-practices.

Reading for week one: “How To Best Serve The New Global Contemporary Art Matrix” by Sholette. (Email attachment or pick up a copy at my office on 4th floor of the Sharpe Bld., 37 South Wabash. See Melody Aleene.)

Jan 30th

Introductions, class outline and discussion of possible presentations and projects.

What should we know about “normal” institutions and arts administration? A visit with artist Anaida Hernandez and Betty Rymer Gallery Assistant Director Trevor Martin to discuss organizing the exhibition Interrogating Diversity (opens 2/1.)

Reading for next week: “Art Workers Coalition: Not a History” by Lucy R. Lippard.

Feb 6th

Encounters in anti-institutional activism and organizational tactics from the Art Workers Coalition (late 1960s) to the Barbie Liberation Organization or BLO (early 1990s).

Setting up an alternative, not for profit space in Chicago: A visit with Shelby Richardson, the founder and director of the Hot House.

Reading for next week: Hand-outs about the Heresies Collective, Red Herring, Fox Magazine, Art and Language, AMCC and PAD/D (Political Art Documentation and Distribution.)

II Writing, Documenting, Archiving, Distributing.

Feb. 13th

The potential and the pitfalls of publication collectives and radical archives as activism; from the late 1970s and early 80s.

A “visit” to some on-line publications and zines.

Reading for next week:

Alan Wallach on the “Anti Catalog.”

Feb 20th **

Presentation on the process of organizing the “Anti-Catalog.”

Reading for next week: Sholette: “News from Nowhere: Activist Art and After, a Report from New York City.” and “Dan Peterman’s Universal Lab and the University of Chicago.”

III Leveraging institutional power.

Feb. 27th

Presentation on Carnival Knowledge and Group Material.

Special Guest Speaker Dan Peterman.

Reading for next week: Readings from Alan Moore’s book, “ABC No Rio: History of a Lower East Side Gallery”

March 6th

Teleconference with Alan Moore?

Reading for next week: A text by Gregg Bordowitz, TBA.

IV “Marketing” as guerrilla action and the tactics of organizing the “in-between.”

March 13th

Gregg Bordowitz will be the guest instructor.

Organizing tactical media.

Reading for next week: A text by Jeffrey Skoller, TBA.

March 20th

Jeffrey Skoller will be the guest instructor.

Organizing mobile media agitation.

Reading for next week: Sholette, “REPOhistory: Anatomy of an Urban Art Project.” Guy Debord: selections from the “Situationist International.”

March 27th

REPOhistory and spatial mapping as “in-between” activities.

Presentation by Reverend Billy or curator Mari Bartolomeu.

Reading for next week: Selections from Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s book, “Empire” and Sholette: “Counting On Your Collective Silence: Notes on Activist Art as Collaborative Practice.”

V Towards a Critical Autonomy?

April 3rd

Presentation: From an imaginary autonomy to autonomous collectivity? A discussion about the current state of art and politics and where we might go from here.

Reading for next week: TBA

April 10th

Guest Instructor TBA

Reading for next week: Critical Art Ensemble, “Observations on Collective Cultural Action.”

April 17th

? Change class to Thursday or Friday to meet with Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble? (Note: the opening of Critical Mass is April 25th)

April 27th

A walk-through discussion of SMART Museum installations and Anti-Symposium.

Reading for next week: Brian Holmes, “The Flexible Personality — For a New Cultural Critique

May Day

(note: class starts at 6)

Possible visit by theoretician Brian Holmes, formerly of Ne pas plier?

May 8th

Wrapping it up/just getting started…