The Showroom

Gregory Sholette: Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism

Symposium and conversation
Wednesday 27 September 2017
Tickets £3 book online here


To coincide with his new book Gregory Sholette will be in conversation with guest scholars and artists: Kim Charnley (video), Noor Afshan Mirza, Loraine Leeson and Noel Douglas.

Sholette’s examination of bare art departs from the same problematic as Osborne and Foster, but refuses the idea that problems manifested in the art world can be addressed from within art criticism, however thoroughly it may be reformed. Kim Charnley

In the aftermath of the 2016 US election, Brexit, and a global upsurge of nationalist populism, it is evident that the delirium and the crisis of neoliberal capitalism is now the delirium and crisis of liberal democracy and its culture. And though capitalist crisis does not begin within art, art can reflect and amplify its effects to positive and negative ends.

In this follow-up to his influential 2010 book, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, Sholette engages in critical dialogue with artists’ collectives, counter-institutions, and activist groups to offer an insightful firsthand account of the relationship between politics and art in neoliberal society. Sholette lays out clear examples of art’s deep involvement in capitalism: the dizzying prices achieved by artists who pander to the financial elite, the proliferation of museums that contribute to global competition between cities in order to attract capital, and the strange relationship between art and rampant gentrification that restructures the urban landscape.

With a preface by noted author Lucy R. Lippard and an introduction by theorist Kim Charnley, Delirium and Resistance draws on over thirty years of critical debates and practices both in and beyond the art world to historicize and advocate for the art activist tradition that radically—and, at times, deliriously—entangles the visual arts with political struggles.


Dr. Gregory Sholette has a wide-ranging art, activist, teaching and writing practice, through which he has developed a self-described “viable, democratic, counter-narrative that, bit-by-bit, gains descriptive power within the larger public discourse.” Sholette is a founding member of Political Art Documentation/Distribution, which issued publications on politically engaged art in the 1980s; of REPOhistory, which repossessed suppressed histories in New York in the 1990s; and more recently, of Gulf Labor, a group of artists advocating for migrant workers constructing museums in Abu Dhabi. In dozens of essays, four edited volumes, and his own books including Art as Social Action (with Chloë Bass, Skyhorse, May 2018), Delirium & Resistance: Art Activism & the Crisis of Capitalism (2017) and Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (2011, both Pluto Press), Sholette documents and reflects upon decades of activist art that, for its ephemerality, politics, and market resistance, might otherwise remain invisible. A co-director of Social Practice Queens at Queens College CUNY, he holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and is a graduate of The Cooper Union, UCSD, and The Whitney Program in Critical Theory.

Kim Charnley is an educator, theorist, art historian and programme leader of the Graduate School at Plymouth College of Art, UK. His work explores the intersecting histories of institutional critique and art activism, with a particular focus on artists’ interpretations of Marxism after conceptual art shifted the division of labour between artist and critic. He is writing a book about contemporary art and crisis theory, which maps the current vitality of politicised aesthetics against the gradual erosion of art by neoliberal social and economic ‘reform’. His writing has been published in Art and the Public Sphere, Historical Materialism and Art Journal.

Noel Douglas is an artist, designer and activist working within the global movements against Capitalism. Most recently he has been part of Brandalism's unauthorised takeover of 150 street ad spaces in Paris at the Cop 21 UN Climate Change Summit, featured in the Disobedient Objects show at the V&A Museum and was part of a group of activists who set up Occupy Design as part of the global wave of protest in 2011. He is currently Course Leader for BA Graphic Design at the University of Bedfordshire. Douglas designed the book It’s The Political Economy, Stupid co-edited by Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler for Pluto Press (2013), and the cover of Sholette’s previous book Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture(Pluto, 2010).

Noor Afshan Mirza’s collaborative practice with Brad Butler engages with contradictions of inequality, power, privilege and (non) participation and until recently took the form of a fictional institution: The Museum of Non-Participation (2008-2016). Differentiating between work made ‘in’ struggle and work made about struggle they take up an expanded notion of how to think politics with and through the body. Their collaboration spans moving image, installation, workshops, sound, text and performed actions.

Dr. Loraine Leeson is a visual artist known for her 1980’s cultural campaigning in support of the communities of London’s Docklands and her socially engaged work in East London. Recent focus has been on issues of renewable energy in the urban environment and the role that older people can play in the development of new technologies. Loraine is particularly known for her visual work in support of the campaigning communities of London's Docklands in the 1980's, and her later use of digital media and the Internet to explore collective creativity. A retrospective exhibition celebrating thirty years of her practice toured Berlin, London, Toronto and Dublin 2005-08, while The Catch public artwork involving three hundred local children was voted a London 2012 Landmark. She teaches undergraduate modules in Fine Art Social Practice with Alberto Duman and the MA in Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University, London.

Delirium and Resistance is published by Pluto Press, 2017