Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen


As organizers of Complaints Choir, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen have heard it all: “My dreams are boring.” “My grandmother is a racist.” “My neighbor organizes Hungarian folk dances above my bedroom.” “I am fat and lazy and half-old.” Since 2005, the artists, who live in Helsinki, Finland, have invited people to sing their gripes in unison, in public, and online. The process is simple. First, invite others. Then, find a good musician. Once complaints are collected, written in verse, and rehearsed, participants are asked to record a public performance and submit it to the Complaints Choir website, a warehouse for songs with submissions from Japan to Chicago.

Complaints include the overtly political–for example, social injustices in a small, Brazilian town–to the deeply personal, like having too much sex on the brain. But “the private, the personal, can be very political,” Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen write on their website. “‘I have too much time!’ can be seen as a personal tragedy, but also points to a major defect in capitalistic society, which sidelines people because they are of no use in the production cycle.”In Cairo, Egypt, a recent complaints choir drew so much interest and such large crowds, that it evolved into the “Choir Project,” an ongoing, local version that generates reflections and concerns about current political conditions in the region.

Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen make work that often documents daily experiences, such as on-the-job mishaps, and doctor-patient relationships. The artists first got the idea for Complaints Choir while living in Finland, where the word for those who complain literally translates to “complaint choir.” They compiled their first choir in Birmingham, England, with the help of two arts organizations; since then, over seventy choirs have formed around the world.


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Chto Delat? (What is to be done?)


On the 100th anniversary of the first Russian Revolution, collective Chto Delat? (What is to Be Done?) organized activists in protest of contemporary labor inequities on the square at Narva Gate in St. Petersburg, the site of the original uprising in 1905. In this contemporary staging, Chto Delat? invited low-income workers who normally wear sandwich boards advertising local businesses to participate by wearing new boards bearing language from Bertolt Brecht’s poem, “In Praise of Dialectics” as well as a series of questions. “Are you being exploited? Are you exploiting somebody? Is exploitation inevitable?” The first Russian Revolution was a violent and failed attempt to dislodge government; Angry Sandwich People aimed to reflect on the political implications of this failure.

Chto Delat?, which takes its name from Vladimir Lenin’s historic political pamphlet, consists of poets, artists, philosophers, singers, set designers, critics, and writers who appropriate the iconography and terminology of Communism in their work. They work as “art soviets,” inspired by the councils formed in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Relying heavily on political and artistic theory, Chto Delat? explores the idea of “participatory democracy,” and the history of the word “solidarity,” through exhibitions, artworks, and projects in public space.


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When former DJ Nick Szuberla launched the only hip-hop radio program in the Appalachian region, inmates from the two neighboring SuperMax prisons began writing him letters, recounting the racism and human rights violations they suffered while incarcerated. He responded by initiating an on-air chess game with the prisoners, a simple gesture that acknowledged, and provided brief respite from, their hardships. Szuberla soon began broadcasting the voices of prisoners themselves via a variety of artistic projects, including poetry segments, rap sessions, and collaborations between hip-hip artists and local mountain musicians. In one episode of the show, an imprisoned man expresses, in verse, a long overdue phone call to his brother, shortly after his mother’s passing. In another, titled Calls from Home, a mother updates her incarcerated son on family events and describes daily activities like her morning routine.

The radio show has since expanded into Thousand Kites, a “national dialogue project” and non-profit organization based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, that advocates nationally for prison reform, primarily by creating transparency around injustices that occur within the system. Szuberla sits at the helm of the organization, whose name is derived from the phrase “to shoot a kite,” which in prison slang means to send a message. At the heart of the Thousand Kites project is a vast website that features the stories of prisoners, their families, activists, and artists in the form of video and radio programs, blogs, and letter-writing campaigns. The site also includes news clips, press releases about legislative changes, and accessible educational activities such as “We Can’t Pay the Bill,” which outlines the rising costs of maintaining prisons.

Thousand Kites operates under the 40-year-old umbrella non-profit Appalshop, which supports regional arts in the Appalachian region, documents local traditions, and works to abolish stereotypes of the area’s residents.


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Lara Almarcegui and Begoña Movellán


A national highway runs through Fuentes de Ebro, yet the small, ordinary Spanish village rarely receives visitors. In order to draw attention to the area, Lara Almarcegui and Begoña Movellán converted the local train station, which had been abandoned for 20 years, into a free hotel for one week. “The town is not beautiful, and not the kind of village people would likely visit,” Almarcegui says. “So, I thought it would be a kind of extreme gesture to propose that people spend a week there.”

She used $400 from a small grant to renovate the concrete, two-story building, which with high ceilings and tiled flooring was an apt candidate for use as a hotel. Almacegui and Movellán painted the interior walls, brought in furniture donated by the town’s residents, installed electricity and plumbing, and advertised the repurposed station in the neighboring city of Zaragoza. Though the hotel was completely booked during the project’s run, the effort remained somewhat clandestine, since Almarcegui originally received permission from railway officials to use the station as an exhibition venue, not a residential facility. “They never would have let me create a free hotel, especially since there was no museum” backing the project, she says. “So the event was a secret among the guests. I even asked them to hide their luggage–I was so afraid.” Fuentes de Ebro residents continue to use the building as a meeting and event space.

Almarcegui lives in Rotterdam. In preparation for Hotel Fuentes de Ebro, she spent one month in Spain researching unused architectural spaces that offer potential solutions to housing and urban dilemmas. Her work often explores different methods for forming relationships to communities, usually though long-term research, interviewing residents, investigating new possibilities for aging infrastructure.


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Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla


Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla placed 12 five-foot columns of chalk in public squares in Lima, Paris, and New York, ephemeral public monuments that would crumble and dissolve over time into smaller pieces and pools of liquid. The artists then invited people to use the fallen pieces of chalk to write messages on the ground, doodle, or express themselves in any fashion they chose, thereby transforming the material decay into a fleeting opportunity for creative possibilities. In Lima, Allora and Caldazilla placed the chalk columns directly in front of government offices, which incited passersby to convert the nearby ground into a large blackboard overflowing with messages intended to critique the state. This activity evolved into an impromptu, peaceful protest as civil servants gathered in the square, waving banners and hoisting posters above their shoulders. Eventually, military officers, who were standing by in shields and helmets, confiscated the chalk, and washed away the incendiary political statements.

Puerto Rico-based Allora and Caldzadilla represented the United States in this year’s Venice Biennale–the first performance artists, and artists collaborative, to do so. Since the late 1990s, the artists have used sculpture, performance, and video to transform common objects into politicized tools. Their projects often explore the act of mark making–how temporary actions can yield permanent effects.


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Ai Weiwei


For his contribution to Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, artist Ai Weiwei brought to town 1,001 residents of China during the well-known art fair. With $4.14 million from funding sources such as Documenta’s sponsors, three Swiss foundations, as well as the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ai arranged all aspects of travel. He paid for airfare, processed visa applications, refurbished an old textile mill into a temporary hostel, transported Chinese chefs to cook meals, designed travel items such as clothing and luggage, and organized tours of Kassel’s landmarks. He also installed 1,001 empty antique chairs throughout the exhibition pavilion to represent the Chinese participants’ presence in Kassel. His visitors acted as both tourists and subjects of his art–viewers of a foreign culture, as well as signs of another.

Within three days of advertising the free trip on his blog, Ai received 3,000 applications. He privileged those with limited resources or travel restrictions; for example, women from a farming village, who lacked proper identity cards, were able to obtain government-issued travel documents for the first time. Other participants included laid-off workers, police officers, children, street vendors, students, farmers, and artists. They arrived en masse, in groups of 200. However, Ai solicited their individual voices through filmed interviews with each traveler, and also a lengthy questionnaire–99 questions–that focused on personal histories, desires, and fantasies.

Kassel is best known as home to the Brothers Grimm, famed collectors of fables from the region. Ai named his project Fairytale in reference to their tales, and as a nod to the spirit of the trip, which likely felt mythical to many of the tourists, who had perhaps never before dreamed of leaving China.


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Curator Statement

In this first decade of the 21st century, a critical mass of activism has emerged.

Likewise, socially engaged art is on the rise, shaking up foundations of art discourse, and sharing techniques and intentions with fields far beyond the arts. But unlike its avant-garde predecessors such as Constructivism, Futurism, or Dadaism, socially engaged art is not an art movement. Instead, these cultural practices indicate new ways of life that emphasize participation, challenge power, and span disciplines ranging from urban planning and community work to theater and the visual arts.

This explosion of work in the arts has been assigned catchphrases such as social practice, relational aesthetics, new genre public art, and dialogic arts. Yet, the projects themselves defy easy categorization, and raise contradictions regarding issues of authorship, and traditional notions of art. In fact, they often have more in common with guerrilla and urban gardens, alternative economic and education experiments, and civic-minded, nonprofit organizations. Such efforts might not be described as artworks, but their collaborative spirit, investment in community engagement, and deployment of cultural programs as part of their operations compel us to consider what they do, not who they say they are.

With the aid of numerous curatorial advisors, Living as Form searches the post-Cold War era, and the dawn of neoliberalism, for cultural work that embodies these tendencies. The projects in this exhibition serve as points of departure for specific regional and historic concerns that find common ground. In response to austerity measures that continue to ripple across the planet, pockets of autonomous, collective action have become integral to daily life. Just as the Situationists of Paris 1968 predicted a world in which relations are mediated through images, people now intuitively understand reality in terms of spectacle. Art production in the 20th century might have been a rarified field, but in the 21st century, cultural production has become a necessary component of organizing social action. In other words, if the world is a stage, then the players must learn the skills of theater.

Site-specific and event-driven, the projects in Living as Form resist display in an archive such as this one. They address multiple audiences, and pay equal attention to the power of media. Each video, pamphlet, poster, and image remains a pale shadow of the original action. Nonetheless, we use the sheer scale, geographic range, and interdisciplinary nature of the work to illustrate that the skill sets of art are now among a series of complex social organizational methods meant to transform our world. We hope that by exacerbating the tensions that exist among the myriad forms, this archive will inspire further inquiry, and ultimately, new approaches to social practice. To that end, we have commissioned several living projects in order to encourage participation, and to provide a glimpse of the energy that surrounds this work. For the artists, activists, and engaged citizens in Living as Form, it is that energy, not the notion of art, which propels them toward the elusive goal of social justice.

Nato Thompson
Chief Curator, Creative Time


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60-min Cinema: People’s Park


Guest curated by Beijing curator Dong Bingfeng, 60-min Cinema: People’s Park opened at TheCube Project Space on April 27 and runs through June 16. The exhibition presents four videos by artists Yang Fudong, Cao Fei, Yang Jun and Zhao Liang under the theme of dislocation in Chinese public life.

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Re-envisioning Society


Series of exhibitions, Re-envisioning Society Curated by Amy Cheng, are held from Dec, 2011 to Mar, 2013. The exhibition project  is funded by the 2010 Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts of the National Culture and Arts Foundation. The thematic exhibition during one year and two months  includes 10 groups of artists from local and international.

01#1 REM Sleep
Artist | Jao Chia-En
Published | December, 2011
Language | Chinese




02#2 Escape from North Korea
Artist | Chang Chien-Chi
Published | February, 2012
Language | Chinese




#3 Venezuela From Below
Artist | Oliver Reseller+Dario Azzellini
Published | March, 2012
Language | Chinese, English




04#4 Flooded McDonald’s
Published | May, 2012
Language | Chinese, English




05#5 …and Europe will be stunned
Artist | Yael Bartana
Published | June, 2012
Language | Chinese




06#6 Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project
Artists | Yannick Dauby+Yen-Ting Hsu+Wan-Shuen Tsai
Published | August, 2012
Language | Chinese, English




07#7 The composer composes the future so that the composition leaves the traces of the future which the future won’t leave
Artist | Wang Hong-Kai
Published | October, 2012
Language | Chinese, English




08#8 Performance
Curated by Wang Mo-lin+ Yao Lee-chun
Published | November, 2012
Language | Chinese




09#9 Brooklyn Bridge
Artists | Gulnara Kasmalieva+Muratbek Djumaliev
Published | January, 2013
Language | Chinese, English




10#10 Demolition Eve
Curated by Chen Chieh-jen
Published | February, 2013
Language | Chinese

TheCube Journal


TheCube Journal is included the exhibition information and interview “CubeTalk”.

thecubejournal1TheCube Journal #1
Published | August, 2010
CubeTalk | Superflex
Language | Chinese




thecubejournal2TheCube Journal #2
Published | November, 2011
CubeTalk | Lin Chung
Language | Chinese




thecubejournal3TheCube Journal #3
Published | April, 2011
CubeTalk | Wu Mu-Ching
Language | Chinese