Selections from the Social Practice Archive, 2011–2014

October 12–November 9, 2019
Saturdays, 12–4pm

Opening Reception
Saturday, October 12, 1pm

Related Events
Most Saturdays at 1pm (see below for details)

Reading Ours presents Landfill: Selections from the Social Practice Archive 2011–2014, organized by Elyse Mallouk, an exhibition of items remaining from ephemeral social practice art projects.

Landfill’s collection was initiated by Mallouk, and Ted Purves, for the purpose of arts research. These items were redistributed through their publication Landfill Quarterly. Reading Ours will exhibit items produced by artists Fallen Fruit, Ghana Think Tank, The Llano Del Rio Collective, Los Angeles Urban Rangers, Michael Parker and Alyse Emdur with Audrea Rena Jones and Gregory Gibson, San Francisco Bureau of Urban Secrets, Santiago Sierra, Allison Smith with Southern Exposure, and Brindalyn Webster Chen. The selection of objects includes announcements, offset and xeroxed posters, maps, t-shirts, patches, letters, performance documentation, and booklets. 

Leftover objects do not explain themselves. Unlike other forms of documentation, the power of ephemera lies in their unabashed inability to depict past events. It’s this failure that enables things originally intended to serve a distinct purpose to retain an unruly sort of narrative potential, a kind of flexible agency that otherwise erodes in direct proportion to a document’s illustrative success. Even the most commonplace things, from park benches to paint on pavement, help to define a set of potential exchanges that can occur in their orbit.
    — Elyse Mallouk, What We Want Is Free (2nd edition), Suny Press, 2015

Between 2011 and 2014 Landfill collected things made in relation to socially engaged artworks, and developed a network to recirculate these objects as a kind of mail art. Five issues of the Landfill Quarterly were produced during the project’s four years of existence. Issues of the journal were mailed to subscribers with a selection of objects. These objects were discussed in the publication, along with writings considering the nature of the archive and related topics. Landfill created a secondary area of resonance for artworks that were largely between people, relational, fleeting, experienced as live activities.

Along with a variety of social, political, and economic forces, the histories contained in the objects of the Landfill archive are a product of an era of social practice art partly influenced by Ted Purves, the founder of California College of the Arts Social Practice Art Program, and collaborator Mallouk. The items in the archive reflect on art practices that sought to intervene in cities through poetic and meaningful actions.

This exhibition Landfill: Selections from the Social Practice Archive, 2011–2014  provides us the opportunity to reconsider the artworks in the exhibition, and the distinct history of social practice art reflected in the archive itself.


Saturdays, 1pm

Los Angeles-based artists, organizers, and thinkers, some represented in the exhibition, have been invited to spend a half-hour at Reading Ours to discuss Landfill and reflect on the artwork, and histories of Social Practice Art.

October 12: Michael Parker on his contribution
October 19: Matias Viegner will chat about waste
October 26: Therese Kelley of the Los Angeles Urban Rangers
November 9: Courtney Fink on Cries of San Francisco and Bay Area Social Practice

Image caption: Landfill Quarterly, issues 3 (2011) and 4 (2014)