Social Practice Lab renewed for three more years

Monday, August 26, 2019
Social Practice Lab

The Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University is pleased to announce the renewal of the Social Practice Lab, as well as the lab’s upcoming three-day event Open Engagement: Emergent Futures (September 13-15, 2019).

Founded in the fall of 2016, the Social Practice Lab focuses on the rising prominence of social art practice and socially engaged humanities as new areas of research and intellectual production. The term social practice describes public interventions and other interactive or participatory projects that aim to produce experiential knowledge and social change. Under the direction of socially engaged artist and AAHVS research professor Pedro Lasch, the SPL has focused on three main areas during its first three years: the production of multi-year signature collaborations with varying internal and external partners per project, providing funding and academic support for student-led projects, and, finally, campus-based curricular offerings and public programming.

Unlike other humanities labs at the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Social Practice Lab does not have a physical location or dedicated shared space: it is mobile, and works across multiple locations, inside and outside of the university. Within the university, the lab balances research and pedagogy, advancing collaborations across the arts, humanities, and sciences, linking units, and bringing together a broad range of age groups. Of its 156 past collaborators, 82 have been faculty and academic staff, and 74 have been students. The student participants represent a wide range of areas, ages, and disciplines, with 46 undergraduates across all four years, 6 MA students, 13 MFA|EDA students, and 9 PhD students, working across 12 units, departments or majors.

SPL projects have also extended far beyond the university, including: social media projects, three massive open online courses (MOOCs) with over 31,000 enrolled participants in 134 countries, and live events such as musical performances, experimental theater works, museum displays, and choreographic productions. The format of these interventions has ranged from the traditional to the highly experimental. They include: a three-year collaboration with 1,500 children ages 4-18 at Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts in New York, a public procession through the City of Bologna created with the Academy of Global Humanities & Critical Theory, a memorial to the life of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville that included fire performances on an ice rink, and a lecture delivered by Jen Delos Reyes as she also played a full drum set with accompanying rock band.

A woman juggling burning torches standing on an ice rink
Erin Riley performing at Charlottesville Main Street Arena for SPL’s FIRE & ICE (In Memory of Heather Heyer) on April 1, 2018.

The Social Practice Lab’s next collaboration is with Open Engagement -- “an artist-led initiative committed to expanding the dialogue around and serving as a site of care for the field of socially engaged art.” In partnership with UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Chapel Hill, and other local organizations, the SPL will host Open Engagement: Emergent Futures, a three-day exchange at locations across the NC Triangle and NC Triad: Chapel Hill (September 13), Durham (September 14), and Greensboro (September 15). The full schedule is available at the Open Engagement link above.

The Social Practice Lab is also currently organizing a new speaker series in collaboration with the FHI’s World Arts series, increasing funding for student projects, and continuing its signature collaborations.

In its first and second phases, the SPL has received crucial support from the Office of the Provost, the Vice Provost for the Arts, the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, Global Affairs, the Dean of Arts & Sciences, the Dean of the Humanities, the Dean of Academic Affairs and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Director of Undergraduate Research Support, and the Franklin Humanities Institute, as well as the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies.