The New Social Environment#99

The History of the Rail


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

The conversation with Joan Jonas and Rail guest critic, Daisy Desrosiers has been postponed. Please join us for a conversation presented by publisher, Phong Bui with curatorial assistant, Nick Bennett to discuss the history and curatorial projects of the Brooklyn Rail as we approach our 20th year anniversary. We’ll conclude with a poetry reading from Stacy Szymaszek.

In this talk

Phong H. Bui

Photo of Phong Bui taken by Nicola Delorme
Photo by Nicola Delorme

Phong H. Bui is an artist, writer, independent curator, and former Curatorial Advisor at MoMA PS1 (2007-2010). He is the Co-Founder, Publisher, and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail, the River Rail, the publishing press Rail Editions, Rail Curatorial Projects, and the Host/Producer of “Off the Rail” on Art International Radio.

Since 2000, he has curated nearly 60 one-person and group exhibits. In 2013 he founded Rail Curatorial Projects, which aims to curate group exhibits that respond specifically to location, cultural moment, and economic conditions. Mostly recently presented is Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, an ongoing curatorial project that was exhibited in 2019 as an official Collateral Event of the Venice Biennale and at Colby Museum in Waterville, Maine, and which originated in 2017 at Mana Contemporary as an invocation of urgent social and political issues such as human rights and equality, immigration, foreign relations, the environment, and climate change.

Other Rail Curatorial Projects include Hallway Hijack at 66 Rockwell Place (2016), Intimacy in Discourse: Reasonable and Unreasonable Sized Paintings at Mana Contemporary and the School of Visual Arts, Chelsea Gallery (2015), Bloodflames Revisited at Paul Kasmin Gallery (2014), Spaced Out: Migration to the Interior at Red Bull Studios (2014), and Come Together: Surviving Sandy at Industry City (2013). Forthcoming projects include the Detroit Rail, the L.A. Rail, the first U.S. retrospective of Jonas Mekas, Occupy Industry City: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 3, among others.

All aspects of his activities, from publishing, writing, editing, curating, to art practice, including executing large-scale installation, making portraits of featured interviewees in the Rail and other forms of social activism are integral parts of his “social environment,” a consequential step following Joseph Beuys’s social sculpture and Nicholas Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics.

He is a trustee of Studio in a School, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Anthology Film Archives, the Third Rail, the Miami Rail, Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, Second Shift Studio Space of Saint Paul, International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA 2007-2020), among others. He is also a member of the Art Advisory Council of Fountain House Gallery, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of The Monira Foundation, a non-profit which aims to curate ongoing exhibitions and public programming at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City and beyond. He was a Senior Critic at Yale MFA, Columbia University MFA, and University of Pennsylvania MFA from 2012 to 2015. He has taught graduate seminars in MFA Writing and Criticism and MFA Photography, Video, and Related Media at the School of Visual Arts from 2012 to 2016. He has received numerous awards, including an Honorary Doctorate of University of the Arts (2020), the Jetté Award for Leadership in the Arts, Colby College Museum of Art (2019), The Lunder Fellowship, The Lunder Institute for American Art (2019), The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation Prize in Fine Art Journalism (2017), The Esther Montanez Leadership Award, Fountain House (2016), Award in Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters (2003), and The Eric Isenburger Annual Prize for Installation, National Academy Museum (2003), among others.

Nick Bennett

A Photo of Nick Bennett
Nick Bennett is the Curatorial Assistant and Publisher’s Assistant at the Brooklyn Rail.

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have Stacy Szymaszek reading.

Stacy Szymaszek

Stacy Szymaszek
Courtesy Stacy Szymaszek
Stacy Szymaszek is the author of 6 books, including Famous Hermits, forthcoming in 2021. She directed The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s from 2007-2018 and most recently, was the recipient of a 2019 FCA grant in poetry and Visiting Hugo Writer at the University of Montana 2018-19.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.