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SEA Defined

By definition, SEA involves ‘others’ besides the instigator of the art (Helguera, 2011, p. 3). To better understand SEA, two different definitions are presented: One by Helguera (2011) and the other by Sachs Olsen (2019).

Social interaction occupies a central and inextricable part of any socially engaged artwork. SEA is a hybrid, multidisciplinary activity that exists somewhere between art and non-art, and its state may be permanently unresolved. SEA depends on actual – not imagined or hypothetical – social action (Helguera, 2011, p. 8).

SEA is ‘valued as a crucial creative means to a form of collaborative participatory art practice in which the artwork is a project that is co-produced between artists and participants … the aim is to generate change by intervening in social relations’, and ‘is thus often firmly embedded in the place in which it is sited, grappling with its social conditions, political contexts, and unique histories’ (Sachs Olsen, 2019, p. 4).

Activity 1 

Reflect on the following questions, and take notes of your findings:

  1. How would you define SEA?
  2. Do you prefer one definition to the other?
  3. What are the similarities between these two definitions?
  4. Are there differences in the ways the authors view these definitions?
  5. Write down a few key thoughts to which you can refer in the next activity in Unit 1.3.

Helguera, P. (2011). Socially Engaged Art. Jorge Pinto Books.

Sachs Olsen, C. (2019). Socially engaged art and the neoliberal city. Routledge.