Shannon Jackson challenges higher education to consider--The Way We Perform Now

Authored on:

Mar 19, 2015
Shannon Jackson

At the 2014 Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, Shannon Jackson, Goldman Chair in the Arts and Humanities at the University of California-Berkeley, stole a very impressive show as she previewed the book she is writing with a Guggenheim fellowship—The Way We Perform Now. We are delighted that Jackson is coming to the UI for a public talk on Wednesday, March 24 from 3:30-5:00 at the Iowa City Public Library.

Animating Community Conversations

A professor of Rhetoric and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and Director of the Arts Research Center, Jackson is a national leader in advocating for the performative power of cross-disciplinary experiments that connect visual, dance, music, and theatre artists; designers; and humanities scholars. She has transformed museums into stages and city governments into collaborators. Her widely acclaimed book, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (2011), is a richly theorized study of the institutions, economies, collectivities, and contingencies that challenge artists and humanists devoted to publicly engaged practice. Never one to shy from controversy, Jackson insistently asks how the arts and the “performative humanities” can animate community conversations about tough issues from white privilege to environmental destruction.

Global Examples

At the CHCI conference, Jackson surveyed a host of global examples such as Wu Tsang’s "Green Room" at the 2012 Whitney Biennial 2012 to illustrate the unique challenges and potential of public performance. Tsang’s piece was choreographed in an art gallery; the staging required water and quiet spaces. Tsang and the museum created a space that served aesthetic, collaborative, and social needs by incorporating legal advice, internet access, and health services—through performance.

Documenting the Impact of Public Arts

Jackson’s own career suggests why her perspective is so unique. She has collaborated with the Tate Modern, San Francisco Museum of Art, the LA Museum of Contemporary Art, and more; planned groundbreaking symposia, including the recent “Valuing Labor in the Arts”—with artists, scholars, and economists; organized “civic retreats” for civic leaders, non-profits, and arts organizations in San Francisco; and led workshops on urban places and art-making. As director of the UC Arts Research Center, she supports public arts and seeks ways to document the impact of the arts on the well-being of communities. Under her leadership the ARC has doubled the UC programming budget, hosted charrettes and salons, created new community impact assessment tools, and raised $1.2 to outfit the UC theatre with cutting edge technology. The ARC has also created a toolkit for emerging arts professionals, “ARC’s Best Practices."

Jackson has received numerous fellowships and awards including the ATHE Notable Book Award, the Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Performance Studies (NCA), the ATHE Best Book Award, the Kahan Scholar’s Prize in Theatre History (ASTR), and the Arts and Humanities Outstanding Service Award. You can view her conversation about “Visual Activism” with Tina Takemoto on the SFMoma website.

We are grateful to our co-sponsors for helping us to bring Professor Jackson to campus: the Division of Performing Arts, the School of Art and Art History, the School of Music, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development