The Southland Institute
(for critical, durational, and
typographic post-studio practices)

open electives:

A variety of concurrent pedagogical platforms, some of which have operated independently for nearly a decade, presently function as thresholds between the Southland Institute's outward-facing public events and its internal post-graduate core curriculum. Free and open to anyone interested, these rolling electives intend to provide opportunities for committed, focused investment, in a format comparable to an intensive, non-hierarchical course of study for engaged individuals.


Discussions in Exhibitions

Discussions in Exhibitions has been invested since 2010 in considering ticketless exhibitions, and their limits, through publicly initiated discussions occurring from within. As a series of unsanctioned gatherings, the aim continues to be providing opportunities for situational dialogue on the choices which compose shows and characterize the work inside them, stimulated by the diverse perspectives of all in attendance. By extension an inquiry into, and representation of, what is public in these spaces becomes tangible in the process. Discussion is open to all. To be added to mailing list email with "Discussions Mailing List" in the subject.

Discussions since November, 2018:


a stone's throw

A stone's throw is an online forum for inquiry-motivated, discursive engagement among individuals involved in the production of visual culture as a social act. Initiated in the Spring of 2020 in observation that the absence of a publicly-contingent, shared space for collaborative thought need not delimit the potential of shared time, gatherings are open to anyone anywhere able to attend. Each meeting is substantiated through an initial prompt submitted for collective consideration. Subject matter may include text, film, image, intermedia, thought experiments, observations, and questions, which are collated as a living document in lead up to each meeting. Submissions / proposals for future discussions welcome.

The content introduced need not be self-authored nor refined towards a prepared defense. Rather than a presentation predicated on drawing conclusions or a cohort offering feedback to a singular presenter, conversations are compelled by an attentive investment in engaging the social elasticity drawn by a premise between all involved. Any and all material will be approached as a contingent example of culture for the purposes of mutual consideration. To date, proceedings have attended to various means of approaching the critical implications of uncertainty today amidst augmentations underway to the socio-cultural contract. One presentation per discussion. For the purpose of encouraging discourse in the present tense, no video/audio record of the proceedings is produced; any direct examples introduced during discussion are archived and shared for future referral. Considering the discursive labor of each other is an integral motive for initial investment as well as continued participation.

Discussions to date have included:

Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc, initiated in 2017 by Carmen Amengual with Adam Feldmeth, and having entered into partnership with the Southland Institute in 2019, is an intimate forum in which a book can be read carefully, cover to cover, at a speed which complements its analysis. Each book read has carried some progressive momentum from title to title, author to author, which, to date, have organized under a general heading of processing the ramifications of paradigm shifts in western, socio-political culture, from the Enlightenment to post-Holocaust. Past authors have included: Hannah Arendt, Max Horkheimer + Theodor Adorno, GFW Hegel, and Susan Buck-Morss. Individuals willing to thoroughly engage in the subject matter with an ability to commit to reading the book in its entirety over the course of consecutive meetings/weeks with an investment in actively discussing its content are welcome. Meetings will be bi-weekly. AdHoc serves as an open elective to participants currently enrolled in the Southland Institute core program. For public interest, please note that space is limited. Those with serious interest in attending should contact the facilitators with an introduction, and will be contacted and considered to join as space permits.

Readings engagements to date have included:

  • Conjuring History:
    The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
    January-July, 2017
  • Vita Humana:
    The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt
    June-August, 2018
  • Clearing in Question:
    Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno
    December 2018-April, 2019
  • Hegel and the Hegelian...Haiti:
    "Self-Consciousness", Phenomenology of Spirit, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    "Hegel and Haiti", Susan Buck Morss,
    May-June, 2019
  • Dialectic Passages:
    The Dialectics of Seeing, Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, Susan Buck Morss
    "The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism", Craig Owens
    "On the New", Boris Groys
    September 2019-January, 2020 (projected)

stone soup

Stone soup is a context for inquiry-motivated, discursive engagement among individuals involved in the production of visual culture in Los Angeles. Discussions will be prompted by work as process, a current or upcoming exhibition, a text, a film, a thought experiment, an observation, a question. The content presented need not be art nor of your authorship, although will be approached as a contingent example of culture. One presentation per discussion. Each presenter will be responsible for determining the location of discussion. Considering the discursive labor of each other is an integral motive for initial investment as well as continued participation.

Influenced by the folktale from which it takes its name, stone soup started in 2013 when Adam Feldmeth observed a despondency forming among peers with hopes of greater public recognition in their artistic endeavors. With no guarantees of work reaching a larger audience, the logistical delays inherent to the system of published mediation, and the occasional public, critical reception often narrowly framed by another's individual authorship, it seemed practical to constitute a supplemental option for a more plural discourse to form between multiple individuals. While the call and response of two individuals -- artist and critic -- working respectively in private allows for the beneficial gathering of observations, it also keeps matters in a format that invokes distance.

Concurrently, numerous comprehensive and robust projects, research-rich pursuits, piercing inquiries, and notable artistic efforts by peers in various post-graduate states were going unrecognized. This was in some cases due to the landscape of available platforms in greater Los Angeles, and in others related to the internal parameters of these platforms or the projects themselves. Whatever the reasons, substantial cases of cultural contribution were often being passed over and/or incapable of finding a needed support structure to then perhaps be the material of substantive conversation.

A social continuum of all this work could remain ultimately private. It is too often the case that a dependency on exhibition venues and mannered formats hinder what is publicly presentable. What commentary might then add to a public discourse is customarily filtered through generic and/or fleeting praise and clarification, if at all. Questions of whether art is confirmed through its use as example in the conversations it contributes to, rather than in the autonomous achievements of individual authorship, thus became the architectural grounds for pursuing a common discussion that would utilize the spaces we already rent, visit, display within and inhabit, advancing the context of each discussion by extension.

Creative expression and criticism thereof are often contingent to institutionalized learning structures, as they are to culture formation, and yet are regularly distanced by the very industry standards, both academic and economic, that regularly mediate their confluence. How often do we talk about this or that artwork, exhibition, screening, or text (or their authors) without then finding the time to carefully consider these matters together? With far-reaching inquiries today into the limitations of Critique founded in Enlightenment ideals as a matter of humanistic debate, what does a reexamination of a public sphere entail? Where is the process of critical engagement located when detached from long formalized codes of object-based, product adjacent reception? In contrast to group critique in which the individual presenting is either the only person held accountable and/or the only person receiving commentary in the form of feedback, stone soup situates itself around examples as catalysts for the mutually engaged discussions that follow, in order to question the limits of our discursive investment stimulated by the plurality of conversation itself as culture formation. Rather than being in service to assessing what these cultural modifiers -- and by extension their authors -- are about for singular use moving forward, how are we variably approaching our active discussion motivated by these introductory degrees of focus?

Beginning in Fall, 2018, The Southland Institute has partnered with stone soup. Over the last half-decade, stone soup has provided a discursive platform and resource in Los Angeles for individuals who are not presently affiliated as a student with an institution of higher education. Moving forward, stone soup with The Southland Institute intend to function as pedagogical supplement to, and continuation of, practices formed by and informed through educational experience. Discussions remain free and open to those who wish to participate. Regular attendance is encouraged.

If you have interest or inquiry, please email stonesoup [at] southlandinstitute [dot] org. Subsequent information will be sent on logistics, calendar sign-up and proceedings.