January 21, 2015 - (EXTENDED) March 29, 2015

Collective Actions imagines and activates new forms of collectivity through arts and community action. It is a call to participate. It is a call to action.

This group show is a platform to bring together a range of creative interventions that, in various ways, ask: what does collectivity look like today? What are its limitations and possibilities? How can we further re-imagine and shape it to create systems of mutual support? Here, art informs questions of ecology and sustainability, work and play, accessibility and social action, public and private experience. 

The project is action-driven. You are invited to complete ACTIONS together with the artists, collectives, and other community partners who will be in residence in the gallery for periods of time throughout the course of the exhibition.

Exhibited artworks encompass sculpture, performance, design/architecture studio work, and socially engaged public interventions.

Community partners collaborating with artists: Arts for Life, Authoring Action, Beta Verde and Industries for the Blind.  Other partners for actions include, WFU and Elsewhere, the Greensboro Arts Organization.

Collectivity in Motion

Collective Actions is inaugurated by feminist artist Nicola L’s Blue Cape. In the performance at SECCA on December 16th, 2014 twelve women who are community leaders and volunteers inhabited this wearable performance object, a blue cape for twelve people. Similar cloth capes that join groups of people have been worn in parades and for art Happenings from the sixties and seventies. Nicola L’s earlier Red Coat for 11 people (1969) invited strangers in public spaces to inhabit the same fabric-form and walk together. Her Blue Cape continues to activate the idea of embodied group action. Since 2002, it has appeared in actions at the EU Parliament, Plaza Vieja in Havana Cuba, at the Saint Sulpice Cathedral in Paris, on the Great Wall of China and now at SECCA. Blue Cape is a poetic form that is both celebratory and politically useful, disarming and estranging the usual places of political process, partaking in processions with participants at international culturally significant sites. Call it an experiment, an exercise, or a poetic ruse.

You are invited to consider what constitutes action? What constitutes togetherness?

The actions of Collective Actions visualize how we form communities and networks. Artist Jody Servon’s Our Top 100 offers another way to represent social connectivity and the boundary between popular and private experience. You are invited to share a song and a memory that song calls up, and to share it with others. Together, we will make a community playlist.

Labor and Freedom from Work

In Collective Actions, we are asked to consider the quality of our work, by way of the artist’s relationship to physical objects of their making, whose value is less clearly determined. How does your work materialize? How much value does it hold for you?

Early factory labor environments inspire Martha Whittington’s workerist installation Deus Ex Machina. Her art objects evoke a time when the connection of the laborer to their work was invested and highly charged with craft and manual intelligence, in contrast to our own time, where work is made increasingly immaterial, virtual, and flexible. Whittington argues for the importance of the hand and making as a response to automation in contemporary culture, as do maker movements taking shape across the country.

As part of her installation, Whittington has made worker outfits and changing stations as well as a series of felt sculptures that resemble tools—squeegees, baskets and rakes—but are not. These specific forms are convincing decoys of functional objects, both skilled and deskilled, questioning utility and the values of non-utility. They impart the importance of touch and the hand of the maker. They allow for play and tactile experience. A workstation in the gallery invites you to stamp a metal disk with your number, a memento of the exhibition reminiscent of worker i.d. tags.

Join us for a tactile conversation where artist Martha Whittington will team up with visually impaired and non-sighted workers from Industries for the Blind,who depend on their sense of touch to complete their high-grade manufacturing work, to talk about the importance of the hand in their work. You are invited to touch and interact with objects.

In contrast to Whittington’s handmade objects and the questions of work and value they raise, artist Jody Servon’s project Dreams for Free emphasizes symbolic exchange as a means to capture and cultivate a space for personal dreams and wishes. Servon asks people that she meets in public spaces to share their dreams in exchange for lottery tickets. Collecting dreams in a token monetary exchange implicitly raises questions of value, debt, and quality of life—how personal dreams may or may not be bound up with money. This ongoing project reveals how personal aspirations are often anti-materialist or are representations of class and class-consciousness.

Through Whittington and Servon’s immaterial and material interactions, we can consider the shifting relationship between tangible and intangible work experience, towards a more collectively fulfilling space of shared interests and desires.

Designing Collectivity

The creative work that happens in a design studio can be a great representation of how thought is generated laterally and collaboratively. Collective Actions presents inter-generational examples of collective thinking towards the creation of new systems and forms that are more egalitarian, evenly distributed, and forward-looking.

Archival images of visionary architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller and his architecture class at Black Mountain College in 1949 give insight into a durable and generative episode of group problem solving. In the images presented in Collective Actions, we see his students together building a prototype of the geodesic dome, a pioneering structure at once modular and round (think Epcot Center). The form of the geodesic dome embodies the spirit of collectivity, of even distribution, which we can see in the image of the students hanging from the dome’s crosspieces like monkey bars. This form would continues to be built because of its structural and design properties, and it can even be seen in the work of artist Mary Mattingly in her Floating World project.

The spirit of collaboration and systems thinking continues with the Collective ODemand, a collective of students from NC State College of Design, in the Advanced Graphic Design Studio course led by Denise Gonzalez Crisp. Members of the collective are Megan Crabtree, Madison Dixon, Kali Hudson, Yairon Martinez, and Kim Pham. The group was invited to offer proposals for a more interactive, creative, and user-centric museum experience. Their projects, presented as storyboards, look innovatively at materials, the use of ipads and other digital interfaces, and the way that bodies interact and move through SECCA’s gallery space. They allow us to see the studio thinking of the classroom or the design workplace as a creative expression and engine of collectivity that we can all learn from.


With artists and community organizations working collaboratively, we create a space for responsive and future-forward action. We build things that support our communities, nourish life, and question what kinds of futures we want to inhabit.

Adelita Husni-Bey joins Authoring Action, a youth arts organization devoted to building youth as authors and advocates for social change, redefining learning through the arts, and supporting stronger communities. Through a three-week residency and workshop entitled Stargazing, they went stargazing at the Guilford Tech Observatory. They then use social science fiction as a means to question the privatization of space and imagine possible futures. As a culmination of their collaboration, Authoring Action creates and performs spoken-word poetry at the opening of Collective Actions, on January 21, 2015.

The intergenerational spirit of Collective Actions, the arts mentorship and collaboration can also be a means for healing. Mary Mattingly joins with Arts for Life to create healing bundles with children suffering from disease and debility. In the action Sacred Objects, you are also invited to contribute to a large bundle made of personal objects and to contribute stories of why they matter to you. The bundles of the Arts for Life kids will join the larger community bundle being made in the gallery.

Through all of these projects, cultivating and co-creating sustainable systems for living is the overarching spirit and aim of Collective Actions. Mary Mattingly will once again help us realize this, by inviting us to make a living island, in her project Floating World. First, we will build a geodesic dome, which will become the armature for a green house. Joining Beta Verde as our community partner, you are invited to bring a plant and nurse it at SECCA. Once hung on the dome, we will propel the biosphere onto SECCA’s lake where it will stay for several months to become a self-regulating living system. We will hold a launch party for Floating World, as we push the raft and biosphere onto the water.

The call: bring yourself to these actions to bring these actions to life.

ARTISTS: Adelita Husni-Bey, Nicola L, Mary Mattingly, Jody Servon, Martha Whittington


Authoring Action +Adelita Husni-Bey
Arts for Life + Mary Mattingly
Beta Verde
Buckminster Fuller Architecture Class at Black Mountain College

The Collective On Demand: Megan Crabtree, Madison Dixon, Kali Hudson, Yairon Martinez, Kim Pham, with Denise Gonzales Crisp (NC State College of Design)

Industries for the Blind + Martha Whittington


WFU, Department of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Collective Actions is curated by Cora Fisher, Curator of Contemporary Art and Deborah Randolph, Curator of Education.

SECCA is an affiliate of the North Carolina Museum of Art, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. SECCA is also a funded partner of The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.