The Democratic Praxis of Art in Odd Places

Art in Odd Places (AiOP) in an annual visual and performance arts festival taking place along the length and depth of 14th street in Manhattan, New York City. Its mission is to reclaim and reinvigorate public space as a site of creative civic engagement, playful and transgressive expression, and provocative open dialogue on issues of the common good. Operating without official status, sponsorship, or permits, AiOP lives and acts out the true meaning of the American creed of democracy as the insurgent organizing principle of society, often throwing into ironic, critical relief the ways in which this founding principle has been degraded by political, corporate, technocratic, and ideological developments in the twenty-first century. Artistic director Ed Woodham conceived AiOP as a response to the securitization of public space, the creeping diminishment of the practice and expression of civil liberties, and the intolerant shift in tone in public discourse in the aftermath of 9/11. In 2012, AiOP represented the United States at the Venice Architecture Biennale under the category: “Spontaneous interventions: Design actions for the common good.” Since then, Woodham has engineered AiOP festivals, residencies, and workshops in a variety of urban contexts across the US and around the world. This paper examines the historical and theoretical roots of Art in Odd Places – from Dada and Situationism to the anarchist theory of John Cage to the populist urbanism of Jane Jacobs – in order to ground and outline its potential as a democratic social and artistic practice.

Art in Odd Places, Situationism, Democracy, Civil liberties, Urbanism

2020 Special Focus - Against the Grain: Arts and the Crisis of Democracy

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Michael Kilburn
    • Professor, Politics and International Studies, Endicott College, United States MA, United States