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The Ruby is a catalyst for creativity and a new home for making art at Duke University.

Social Practice Lab

The Franklin Humanities Institute's Social Practice Lab is supporting Create, Innovate, Act!, a Spring 2018 course taught in the Ruby by Pedro Lasch.

Project Date: January 10 to April 25, 2018

In the last two decades, socially engaged art has entered the life of museums, universities, corporations, and even governments. Described as participatory art, relational aesthetics, and social practice, to name a few, the variety of terms and definitions for the phenomenon is as rich as its prolific and at times contradictory manifestations.

These practices have been embraced by mainstream art institutions, but that embrace is rarely accompanied by a deeper understanding of their history, or an appreciation for the complexity of their methods. Universities are best equipped to provide a remedy by strengthening the impact and scope of social art with the rigorous structures so characteristic of the sciences and humanities at research institutions. In return, socially engaged art may provide the academic mainstream with fresh and unexpected approaches to interdisciplinary work and collaboration, a higher degree of public engagement, and deeper student involvement.

The Social Practice Lab (SPL)—part of the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke—brings together scholars, artists, and activists through regional and international projects, public interventions, advanced research, and other exchanges. It is a space for integrated collaboration between ‘professors’ and ‘the professions’—the kind of vehicle universities need if they genuinely seek to embrace artists, makers, and other so-called ‘practitioners’ as legitimate researchers and peers.

The SPL is supporting a Spring 2018 course, taught in the Ruby by Pedro Lasch, called Create, Innovate, Act! It is an introductory course for undergraduates across the university featuring interdisciplinary work bridging sciences, arts, and humanities. The focus is on gaining experiential knowledge through project creation and engagement with everyday contexts. Students’ project work in the course will benefit from a group environment where peers are producing, sharing, and discussing their own inventions, speculative research, artworks, sound compositions, performances, media productions, or activist interventions.

Local and international guest speakers include artists, activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, curators, and scholars.


  • Talk or Panel
    Embodied Practice: Choreography, Dance, and Social Justice in the Non-Profit Sector
    Thursday, March 1 at 1:30 pm2:30 pm
    Join the FHI Social Practice Lab for a presentation by choreographer and curator Rashida Bumbray.
  • Talk or Panel
    Saskia Cornes–Duke Campus Farm
    Thursday, March 22 at 1:30 pm4:00 pm
    Join the FHI Social Practice Lab for a visit to Duke’s Campus Farm and get your hands dirty with the farm’s director, Saskia Cornes.
  • Talk or Panel
    Global Launch for the New ART of MOOC: Experiments with Sound
    Thursday, April 5 at 1:30 pm2:30 pm
    Jace Clayton, aka DJ Rupture, joins FHI Social Practice Lab director Pedro Lasch to discuss their new massive open online course (MOOC), which allows students to learn about diverse musical traditions, sonic experimentation, and acoustic phenomena in everyday life while also creating sonic art of their own.
TheoJansen, Strandbeest.

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