Tate Modern Talk

Global communities and critical citizenship: Citizenship and artists’ practice

This panel looks at artists’ practice that presents a framework for thinking through what a more critical form of citizenship might look like, and how we might take steps towards more active forms of participation. Join us to hear an international line up of artists, curators and cultural practitioners discuss the potentials and pitfalls of working within communities. Some of the questions that we will discuss are:

  • How have artists dealt with questions of citizenship and political representation through their practice?
  • Can artists instigate a new form of community, simultaneously highlighting while pushing against the boundaries of exclusion?
  • Can artists’ practice politicise communities and instigate long-term changes within these?
  • How has the role of the artist in recent years come to be more readily accepted by communities unattached to the sphere of art production and consumption?
  • What are the problems and opportunities raised by artists working in these ways?

This panel looks at artists’ practice that seeks to challenge our conceptions of being together, of community, of society and of citizenship, complicating our understanding of the role and potential of the artist in society. These artists work in complex spaces of activism, social justice and art, pushing the boundaries of collective and individual agency.

These are simultaneously comfortable and contested spaces always negotiated with great care.

The panel will explore practices from a diverse international context, including Cambodia, Brazil, the Netherlands and the UK. The panel will also seek to complicate our understanding of the role and potential of the artist in society, and to push the boundaries of individual and collective agency.

This event will be of interest to artists, researchers and students from theatre, dance, visual arts backgrounds and all those interested in interdisciplinary arts practices and social change.

Speakers include

Artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, curator Lydia Parusol, artist Elisa Bracher and chaired by Sally Tallant.

Elisa Bracher

Elisa Bracher was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1965, where she studied arts at Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums since 1988. In 2001 she moved from her former studio to a workspace shared with children in the neighborhood where the Acaia Institute, which she now directs, was later to be established.


Beginning with addressing the practices and methods developed in Ateliê Acaia to reduce the social gaps created from the imbalance between the families' places of origin and the condition they aim to conquer in the big city, I will explore the methodology we developed which is divided into four stages: Reception, Autonomy, Specialization and Practical Techniques.

Reflecting upon my work as an artist, I will discuss one of my exhibitions, realized at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, from the initial development in the studio until the final installation.

Sally Tallant

Sally Tallant is Director of Liverpool Biennial – The UK Biennial of International Contemporary Art.  

From 2001–11 she was Head of Programmes at the Serpentine Gallery, London where she was responsible for the development and delivery of an integrated programme of exhibitions, architecture, education and public programmes.

Jeanne van Heeswijk

Jeanne Van Heeswijk is an artist based in the Netherlands, whose work has been featured in numerous books and publications worldwide, as well as internationally renowned biennials such as Liverpool, Busan, Taipei, Shanghai and Venice. She has received a host of accolades and recognitions for her work, including most recently the 2012 Curry Stone Prize for Social Design Pioneers and the 2011 Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change.


How can an artist be an instrument for the collective reimagining of daily environments, given the complexity of our societies? This is the question that artist Jeanne Van Heeswijk considers when deciding how to employ her work to improve communities. Van Heeswijk believes communities need to co-produce their own futures. That is why she embeds herself, for years at a time, in communities from Rotterdam to Liverpool, working with them to improve their neighbourhoods and empowering them to design their own futures - not wait for local authorities to foist upon them urban planning schemes which rarely take embedded culture into account. Her work often attempts to unravel invisible legislation, governmental codes, and social institutions, gradually preparing areas for their predictive futures. She calls it 'radicalising the local' by empowering communities to become their own antidote.

Lydia Parusol

Lydia Parusol is a German curator and researcher who is working in Cambodia since 2004. She critically investigates new forms of presentation of art practices through the direct artist’ engagement and agency. Lydia is currently pursuing a MPhil/PhD at Royal College of Art London.


  • Pushing against exclusion
  • Communities recognising and in some ways accepting artists
  • Challenging concept of individual and collective agency

Pushing against exclusion and boundaries is a constant topic within Cambodia’s contemporary art scene. Those exclusions and boundaries are not only coming through society but also through the international art scene and market. 

How are Cambodian contemporary artists facing those challenges of ignorance and self-censorship? How do Cambodian artists balance the fine line between individual and collective identity? What do we need to understand in order to collaborate, and what method do we need to use for the inclusion of others?

Cambodian women artists will show their responses to those questions through a video compilation of their work with others, which are mostly sceptical of contemporary art. Working with a political agenda has a longer history in Cambodia. Art activism is structured by different understandings and aims. One needs to distinguish between a governmental commissioned activism and an individualistic engagement. 

In the process of art making and collaborations we are responsible for understanding the different contexts of people outside our own structures. Sometimes communities are seen as ignorant towards art making or their processes but as one Cambodian artist said, 'the ignorance in oneself needs to be tackled in order to limit ignorance in communities. This can be overcome through learning starting – with ourselves.' 

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit

Date & Time

22 March 2014 at 14.00–16.00