Scott William Raby


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My research is focused on examining the structural relationships, complexities, and power dynamics between art and law by researching the radical history, current location, and speculative possibilities of how the contract, more specifically the artist-authored contract, is used in art. This research is situated in understanding the contract in art primarily under the current socio-economic and geopolitical conditions of neoliberalism, which also include deregulation, universal alienation, and increasing precarization. In relation to these grim realities, law and legal apparatuses have often been mobilized in service of further perpetuating politically problematic conditions, and the art world is no exception. However, the artist-authored contract has historically attempted to appropriate legalese vis a vis a strategy of reversing the direction of the law through contract usage in an attempt to ameliorate artistic production against these, and other, dire conditions. In many instances, these attempts were done via fruitfully experimental methodologies, though innovatively critical gestures, which produced a number of generatively social, and aesthetic, outcomes.

Furthermore, my research is also experimenting with the contract as a site of production within and for artistic practice on multiple levels. Contracts have been used in art in a variety of ways: as documents, as sites of negotiation, as choreographic tools legislating a series of performative gestures, as subject matter, or even as a political project (as Alexander Alberro described Seth Seigelaub’s contract). My ambition is to synthesize aspects of these gestures to work on the contract in relation to the infrastructure of art as artistic practice. Stated differently, the aim of my research is to further elucidate relationships and possibilities between art and law via the artist’s contract and argue for the reconsideration of the artist’s contract as a generative site of production, a multifaceted strategy, and a potentially emancipatory tool within and for artistic practice.



Edgar Schmitz
Susan Kelly