Digging in the World

11.2 / In/With/For the Public

Digging in the World

By Susanne Cockrell January 15, 2020

In/With/For the Public is supported by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, a private family foundation dedicated to enhancing quality of life by championing and sustaining the arts, promoting early childhood literacy, and supporting research to cure chronic disease.


My artwork is most often about place, land, and people. fieldfaring projects (2003-2017), in collaboration with Ted Purves, asked questions about systems of critical exchange, food, and farming in the urban landscape—explorations of informal social economies and rural aesthetics. Our thinking about publics and participation in this body of work over fifteen years was directed toward ways that people come together in public contexts. We used social forms such as a shop, a barn-raising, a contest, or a tour to engage and meet people, and local communities. 

I have learned what public space is by using it: the street, a storefront, a park, or a plaza. I think we reimagine what public life can be when we expand our understanding of public to include ancestors, ecological systems, and the forces that are shaping global transitions. In these times of ecological crises and deep social and political fracture, generative resistance and collective actions by artists and many others offer different stories that nourish hope and resilience, and the healing of the social body. Working with and for the public is a way to build new languages and ways of being with and for each other.

My drawing is an inquiry, a system, and a map for working in public contexts. It is also an ethos for keeping me in the flow of asking questions, listening, and digging deeper. 

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