The Political Sphere in Art Practices

An interview web project by Martin Krenn


The website project ”The Political Sphere in Art Practices” is offering key findings, which were gained from interviews that artist Martin Krenn conducted with experts of the field of social practice art. The interviewees are Grant Kester, Margit Czenki, Christoph Schäfer, Roger Behrens, Neala Schleuning, Mary Jane Jacob, Gregory Sholette and Nora Sternfeld.
The project provides an interactive dialogical platform constructed as a modular system of questions, answers and categories. It serves as an artistic research tool for artists, critics, academics and other people interested in the subject. Krenn offers a meditative and contemplative way of discussing art theory and art practice.


The original transcripts of the interviews were transformed by the artist into a new format – a kind of  “virtual dialogue” consisting of short video clips made of quotes from the transcribed interviews, still images of the interview site as well as other visual material related to the content of the statements. Users can access the clips and comment on them through a user interface that is conceived like a storyboard. This unique web interface was programmed by the web artist Roland Rust exclusively for this project: Every question and answer is related to a specific image. A short text, that is worded either as a question or an answer as well, serves as a headline outlining the content of the respective interview quote. This allows to, storyboard alike, preview the dialogues around the topics Avant-garde, Culture Industry, Political art, Social practice and Neoliberalism. By clicking on an image of the “storyboard” it becomes visible in color, and a video clip displaying the whole statement is accessed, spoken by voice artists Naoimh Tuohy or David Dempsey. Some of the statements relate to more than one topic. In that case, one may skip between different dialogues.


With one exception – Grant Kester, with whom Krenn talked via Skype — Krenn visited all the interview partners in person. The meeting place, which is regarded by Krenn as important as it subtly influences every form of communication, was suggested by the interviewees. After the meeting, Krenn took photographs of the respective site of the location. These images form the integral visual part of the video pieces of the website.
The whole project was developed over the period of three years and became a web of complex theoretical thoughts. In light of the calm voice of the speakers Naoimh Tuohy and David Dempsey combined with concrete visual material the project invites the recipient to spend some time with it and to gain a unique aesthetical as well as intellectual experience.



Grant Kester 2013 (Eng)

Gregory Sholette 2014 (Eng)

Mary Jane Jacob 2014 (Eng)

Neala Schleuning 2014 (Eng)

Nora Sternfeld 2014 (Ger)

Roger Behrens 2013 (Ger)

Margit Czenki & Christoph Schäfer 2013 (Ger)


Web programmer

Roland Rust


Paul Bowman

Speaker (Interviewer)

David Dempsey

Speaker (Interviewees)

Naoimh Tuohy


Martin Krenn

Martin Krenn graduated in Electronic Music at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, in 1996 and holds a M.A. from the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, since 1997. In 2011, Krenn received the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship at the University of Ulster in Belfast (UK). Since then, he has been a PhD researcher at the university’s Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment. He was awarded a PhD by Ulster University in 2016.

From 2006 to 2009 he served as chairperson of the Austrian Artists Association (IG Bildende Kunst). His work is represented by Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz.
Since 1995, he has been realising art projects at the interface between art and activism. In his writings, as well as in his art works, he seeks answers to the question: “What makes art social and political?“
He teaches Interventionist Art at the University of Applied Arts Vienna (AT) under the Dept. of Art and Communication Practices – KKP.



Roger Behrens

Roger Behrens is a theorist and an author. His research covers the critical theory of society, critique of mass- and pop-culture, as well as the philosophy and aesthetics from modernity to postmodernity and beyond. He is co-editor of the book magazine “Testcard. Beiträge zur Popgeschichte” (Ventil Verlag: Mainz) and member of the editorial board of “Zeitschrift für kritische Theorie” (eds. Sven Kramer and Gerhard Schweppenhäuser); he is an active volunteer of Freies Sender Kombinat (FSK Hamburg) and runs there two monthly radioshows.


Margit Czenki

Margit Czenki is a Filmmaker and artist, based in Hamburg. In her work she is interested in the “living-against” (Gegenleben), the resistent potentials, that flash through the everyday life as the unexpected political, as possibility, as promise. Always searching for the different point of view, the unseen perspective, she works in diverse fields. Her first fiction film “Accomplices” / “Komplizinnen” (1987) was shown worldwide. With Park Fiction she participated in Documenta11, 2002. Lectures, talks, visiting faculty at Universities and Art Academies in USA, Canada, Mexico, Denmark, Italy, Austria, Germany.


Grant Kester

Grant Kester is professor of art history in the Visual Arts department at the University of California, San Diego and the founding editor of FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism. His publications include Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage (Duke University Press, 1998), Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (University of California Press, 2004, second edition in 2013) and The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Duke University Press, 2011). He has recently completed work on Collective Situations: Dialogues in Contemporary Latin American Art 1995-2010, an anthology of writings by art collectives working in Latin America produced in collaboration with Bill Kelley Jr. which is under contract with Duke University Press.


Christoph Schäfer

Christoph Schäfer is an artist who focuses on urban life and the production of public spaces
Urban development is not always “top down”—it can also be generated by the grassroots. This section features alternative forms of economy and social action that come out of local planning and movements. With Park Fiction she participated in Documenta11, 2002. Christoph Schäfer works in Hamburg, Germany.


Neala Schleuning

Neala Schleuning is a writer and educator. She received her PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota in 1978 with an emphasis in political philosophy and intellectual history.  Fulbright Scholar to the Russian Federation, she is the author of many articles, higher education policy papers, films and radio productions, and several books, including America: Song We Sang Without Knowing (1983); Idle Hands and Empty Hearts: Work and Freedom in the United States(1990); Women, Community, and the Hormel Strike of 1985-86 (1994); To Have and to Hold: the Meaning of Ownership in the United States (1997) and Artpolitik: Social Anarchist Aesthetics in an Age of Fragmentation (Minor Compositions) (2013).


Gregory Sholette

Gregory Sholette is an artist and writer whose publications include It’s The Political Economy, Stupid co-edited with Oliver Ressler, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture, both Pluto Press UK, as well as Collectivism After Modernism with Blake Stimson University of Minnesota Press, and The Interventionists with Nato Thompson distributed by MIT. His recent art projects include Collectibles, Action Figures and Objects, at Station Independent Gallery, Imaginary Archive: Graz, Rotor Art Center, Graz, Austria; NY; Exposed Pipe at the American University Beirut art gallery; Torrent for Printed Matter Books in Chelsea; iDrone for; and Fifteen Islands for Robert Moses at the Queens Museum. Sholette is an Associate of the Art, Design and the Public Domain program at the Graduate School of Design Harvard University, a member of the Curriculum Committee of Home WorkSpace Beirut, and a faculty member of the Queens College Art Department, City University of New York where he helped establish the new MFA Concentration SPQ (Social Practice Queens):


Nora Sternfeld

Nora Sternfeld is an educator and curator. She is professor for curating and mediating art, director of the curatorial program CuMMA at the Aalto University in Helsinki ( and co-director of /ecm — educating/curating/managing — Master Program in exhibition theory and practice at the University of Applied Arts Vienna ( She is co-founder and part of trafo. K, Office for Art Education and Critical Knowledge Production based in Vienna (w/Ines Garnitschnig, Renate Höllwart and Elke Smodics) (www. Moreover she is part of Freethought, a platform for research, education, and production based in London (w/Irit Rogoff, Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Mao Mollona and Louis Moreno). In this context she is one of the curators of the Bergen Assembly 2016.
 She publishes on contemporary art, exhibition theory, education, politics of history and anti-racism. She is author of “Das pädagogische Unverhältnis”, Vienna 2009 and “Kontaktzonen der Geschichtsvermittlung”, Wien 2013 and co-edited several books, for example: “It’s all Mediating: Outlining and Incorporating the Roles of Curating and Education in the Exhibition Context”, Cambridge Scholar Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne 2013 (with The Finnish Association for Museum Education Pedaali, Kaija Kaitavuori, and Laura Kokkonen) and “educational turn. Handlungsräume der Kunst- und Kulturvermittlung”, Series: ausstellungstheorie & praxis, vol. 5, Turia und Kant, Vienna 2012 (with schnittpunkt, Beatrice Jaschke).


Mary Jane Jacob

Mary Jane Jacob is an American curator, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois. She is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the Executive Director of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies. She has held posts as Chief Curator at theMuseum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Since 1990 Jacob has been a pioneer in the areas of public, site-specific, and socially engaged art. Jacob is the author and editor of many key texts including Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art (1996) and Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago (1993). Jacob has mounted exhibitions, and created public art opportunities that have featured the work of some of the most influential artists in contemporary art including Mark Dion,Suzanne Lacy, Ernesto Pujol, J. Morgan Puett, Pablo Helguera, Marina Abramovic, Rick Lowe, and Alfredo Jaar. The Women’s Caucus for Art honored Jacob as a 2010 recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.[1]

Jacob received her M.A. in the History of Art and Museum Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.



The Political Sphere in Art Practices is a non-commercial art project for research purpose. The images used are public domain, licensed by creative commons or found footage. Please contact me for incomplete copyright information.

Contact: Martin Krenn []



This web project is part of my PhD project “The Political Space In Social Art Practices” at the Faculty of Art, Design and Built Environment, Ulster University, Belfast Campus.

I would like to exceptionally thank my PhD supervisor Dr. Aisling O’Beirn and Prof. Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes for her critical feedback and invaluable advice regarding this web project.
Thanks must also go to my PhD supervisors Dr. Cherie driver and my advisor Emeritus Prof. Liam Kelly for their support.

Supported by

Bundesministeriums für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur Österreich; Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien MA 7; Faculty of Art, Design and Built Environment, Ulster University, Belfast Campus