The Southland Institute (for critical, durational, and typographic post-studio practices) is dedicated to exploring, identifying, and implementing meaningful, affordable, sustainable alternatives in postsecondary design and art education in the United States. Through interconnected programming that includes graduate-level typography workshops, in-depth discussion and critique of participant work and external exhibitions, partnering with local arts organizations, and a supplementary curriculum gleaned from public events and resources at area institutions and online, the Southland Institute offers a rigorous, accessible alternative to graduate education, with an emphasis on identifying exemplary public and online events, courses, screenings, lectures, trips, discussions, and readings involving image, typography, (infra)structure, sound, time, space, pedagogy, archives, and language, while proposing and implementing supplements where necessary.
Exploring the potentials of unaccredited, non-terminal higher and graduate education, the Southland Institute is focused on examining the gaps, grey areas, interrelationships, and common boundaries between these concerns, as well as their connection and relation to broader questions and circumstances. Built around a central curricular helix consisting of the tools, processes, histories, and discourses of graphic design and critical art-making, the Southland Institute is also a forum for inquiry into the processes, possibilities, and complications of higher education and its attendant structures and systems.
These fundamental strands are augmented by an evolving sequence of courses and workshops, including but not limited to: typography, moving image, economics, education, curation, landscape studies, writing, architecture, and sound. Connections are explored via work, writing, conversation, typographic studies, critique, and documentation. The program is intended to provide space and time in which participants can expand the spectrum and depth of their practices, develop the critical tools necessary to navigate and articulate the paradoxes and contradictions around them, and find the formal tools and contextual situations to convey these explorations.
Central to the Southland Institute's approach to higher education:
These will be accompanied by additional core seminars in close reading, curation, archival and adjacent studies.
The program can be engaged in multiple ways. Most workshops and seminars are open and can be taken as single, self-contained offerings. However, they are also considered to complement and enlarge each other, such that when taken together they constitute a robust curriculum that loosely tracks to a traditional academic year, with complementary groupings of offerings in both Spring and Fall. Admissions are voluntary, on a rolling basis, and participants may enter and exit the program at any time.
Those looking for structure may opt to treat the Southland Institute as something resembling a medium residency, unaccredited graduate program, enrolling on a yearly basis in all courses and seminars, and meeting independently with faculty and guests.
For those opting to fully enroll, during each year of residence, in addition to coursework, each participant will be expected to organize one exhibition, and to organize and facilitate one public workshop on a topic of their choosing.
Offering an approach to thinking through and making work rooted in historical and contemporary practices and theories of both graphic design and contemporary art, the Southland Institute is a space for self-directed research, critique, conversation, cross-pollination, and expansion along and between continua of critical, durational, and typographic post-studio practices. We are seeking participants with integrative and transdisciplinary approaches and backgrounds who are interested in interweaving discourses of 20th and 21st century art, media, graphic design, literature, and critical theory.
The aim of the institute is to expand and deepen participant practices and provide an experience and education analogous to graduate-level study, while removing it from the private investment and speculation of the student loan industry.
The program functions on its own as a practice-based, research-driven, postgraduate educational environment, or as a supplement to other institutions or engagements with which participants may be currently or previously involved. Participants work primarily on self-directed projects under consultation with resident faculty and in conversation and collaboration with one another.
Committed to activating and exploring the points of contact between disciplines and media, and creating a space for extended development, exposure, and conversation, without the heavy debt burden that often accompanies such study, the institute exists in response to several gaps that we perceive in the current landscape of higher education:
In addition to the exhibitions and workshops organized by participants, the Southland Institute offers a range of programming that is free and open to the public, including a lecture series, screenings, and public discussions.
The institute operates with little in the way of property or equipment. This enables an efficiency and a focus on education itself, at a cost that is many degrees of magnitude lower than traditional, accredited programs. Los Angeles is a city of numerous research institutions, libraries, and other accessible resources, of which we encourage people to actively avail themselves.
The Southland Institute is not accredited by any accrediting body, and does not officially grant degrees.
The twin financial aims of the institute are affordability for students and fair compensation for instructors. The Southland Institute believes in compensating instructors for their contributions, and hopes to model an alternative to the ubiquitous undervaluing of educators.
The Southland Institute runs on funds from tuition, donations, and grants. In 2022/2023 we will be running a combination of free public workshops and talks that are open to anyone, the application-based 1:1 program, and a sliding scale multi-week seminar in the Spring.
For expanded descriptions of past programs, please visit the open curriculum and events page
Spring of 2022 included the workshop, "Unlimited Edition" with Ramon Tejada and James Goggin, and the Southland Institute's first elsewhere seminar, "Fixtures of Another Kind: penny universities and leaflets of the White Rose", partnering with the Luminary, Know/How Books + Print, and Black Coffee. in St. Louis, MO. This term also brought an expanded interest in our newly launched 1:1 program, whose first year participants included John Wu, Carolina Festa, Quentin Gaudry, and Maya Cunat.
2021 began with Printed Matter's Virtual Art Book Fair, which included a virtual booth, a conversation with Collective Question: "Subject to Change: Syllabus as Publication", and a convening of the Southland Institute's monthly public discussion group a stone's throw: "Fair's fair : Documents of Agreement (From the Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale to collective bargaining in the industries of art and academia).
2020 began with a public workshop in revival type design by Jaimey Shapey. In Spring/Summer 2020, Carmen Amengual led a seminar called Text / Space in the dynamics between text and spatiality. Joe Potts led the beginnings of a workshop tailored towards self-directed publication projects, intended to be interwoven with Text / Space, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. Additionally, a new public discussion forum, a stone's throw, was launched in response to the developing state of culture(s) during a time of shelter-in-place.
In Spring 2020, the Southland Institute received an invitation from curator Aurora Tang to contribute to a forthcoming exhibition Recent Pasts, set to take place at ArtCenter DTLA, by way of complementary programming to the on-site show. Constituents of the Southland Institute began developing a response through posing the question, "what is programming?" which became the title of an ad-hoc course
The discussions over subsequent months navigated questions of exhibition access and the constantly moving target of when public hours would be reinstated following mandated state and city-wide closures due to Covid-19. Anticipating the prolonged closure of the space turned programmatic attention toward an inquiry of what programming could be and mean through approaches to observing distance, which is today as much a spatial consideration as this exhibition's premise advances a temporal one.
This responsive programming, consisting of five free public workshops, now constitutes the first half of the Recent Pasts exhibition. Each occasion offered a jumping off point for exploring ways of increasing access to exhibitions and engaging often unbeknownst, adjacent entries during a time when forced closure grants a reflexive period to collectively question the limits and limitations of the finite, physical exhibition comparative to its prolonged access through corollary materials, marginalia, and alternative points of entrance. In the absence of a concrete catalog, the implementation of an online "flat file" was proposed by the Southland Institute as a motif to the exhibition which serves as a liminal binding between preliminary notes and eventual archives.
Workshops included: Alt-text as Poetry with Shannon Finnegan, a deeper exploration of alt-text as a mode of documentation, communication and sharing; A Book is a Flat File is a Butterfly with Chang Yuchen, examining the heavy and light aspects that accompany bookmaking and book-keeping; Collage Thinking / Collage Doing with Maternal Fantasies, looking at ways collage can be performed collectively; Faded but not Forgotten with Hagar Cygler, exploring the tactile assembly of publications as life practice; and Distributed Web of Care with Taeyoon Choi, a demonstration and discussion of alternate modes of (digital) distribution and sharing. Inviting the public to actively participate in these explorations, Tomorrow's Archives looks backwards, forwards, and into the present at ways of engaging the unbound(ed) exhibition, building opportunities for proximity during a time of obligatory distance.
All workshops were closed captioned with CART captioning, with lightly edited caption copy transcripts subsequently available in a digital "flat file."
Fall 2020 also included a series of four independent sliding-scale workshops under the banner of "Intersecting Architectures" intended to function as standalone educational offerings, and also to complement one another, creating in aggregate a collection of short-workshops that could build communities both virtual and real, and prompt independent inquiries in architectural model building (Surroundings to Scale with Maria Lisogorskaya from Assemble), montage (Cobbles with Adam Feldemth), generative web structures using content management systems (Website as Community Garden with Neil Doshi and Joe Potts), and annotation (more* with Laura Coombs and Mindy Seu).
The Fall 2019 Southland Institute public events series features lectures by Laura Coombs, Lauren Williams, Abigail Raphael Collins, and Thick Press (Julie Cho and Erin Segal), and public typography workshops by Masato Nakada and Nicole Killian. Adam Feldmeth led an 11-week course in comparative inquiry.
From June 2018 to June 2019 the Southland Institute public lecture series presenters were Silas Munro, Janna Ireland, David Weldzius, Dina Abdulkarim, Niloufar Emamifar, and Aurora Tang. All were invited to contribute selections to this reading list, which are noted in the list with their initials following the titles they suggested. * denotes a publication containing a Southland Institute related text.
The modular bench / display / bookshelf unit depicted on the prospectus was designed and fabricated by Ignacio Perez Meruane in collaboration with the Southland Institute, in realization of a proposal for booth K03 at Printed Matter's 2019 Los Angeles Art Book Fair, where several of these shelving / seating modules took the place of a standard outward-facing table with chairs, to provide an open public seating and reading area in lieu of a site dedicated to commerce.
Co-directors: Adam Feldmeth, Joe Potts
Southland Institute has been featured on the Walker Art Center's The Gradient, AIGA's Eye on Design blog, CalArts' inform.design blog, and mentioned in an article in Temporary Art Review on the Alternative Art School Fair in Red Hook, NY, November 19-20, 2016.
The Southland Institute is a project of Fulcrum Arts' EMERGE Program
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