Who is art for? What does it represent, and why? The cross-disciplinary NYU Shanghai course “Visual Culture and Social Art Practice: Collaborations and Community Interactions” addresses these questions and more through socially-based art projects that allow students to meet and engage directly with diverse communities in Shanghai. In one recent class session, for example, students visited Power Station of Art, the first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art in mainland China, and then led local children in producing work inspired by the exhibition they had seen.
“I’m drawn to this subject because of my own questions regarding the role art plays in contemporary society,” says professor Monika Lin, whose chosen texts for the course include Hal Foster’s “The Artist as Ethnographer?”, Grant Kester’s “Art, Activism, and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage,” Zhao Chuan’s “A New Thoughtfulness in Contemporary China: Critical Voices in Art and Aesthetics,” and Amy Pleasant’s “Artists as Activists: Pursuing Social Justice.”
“Students seem to particularly enjoy discovering how art is a lens through which to investigate the world rather than a product,” she says, “and that they themselves have the ability to interact creatively with others.”