Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Eric Garberson

Second Advisor

Hope Ginsburg

Third Advisor

Emma Mahony

Fourth Advisor

Jenny Rhee

Fifth Advisor

Stephanie Smith


This research examines storefront project spaces in the early 2000s that offered alternative approaches to the programming, organizing, and archiving found in conventional museums. I propose that such sites impacted participatory visual culture by offering a reformulatory role for arts’ practices, one that organized itself across disciplinary boundaries, chose a collaborative rather than competitive approach, and processed the ideological implications of their group work. Focused on three specific sites—Machine Project in Los Angeles, Elsewhere in Greensboro, and Mess Hall in Chicago—this study details the museological, pedagogical, and archival challenges of these artist-convened organizations. My interdisciplinary investigation offers a reference point for museums and those seeking to work within them, as a way of rethinking organizational systems and their inherent structural exclusions in empathetically human and rigorously messy ways.

Detailing nine principles of practice, I trace the shared beginnings of these social sites in 2003, their shifting organizational forms across decade-long tenures, and their amassed archival remains. What Machine Project, Elsewhere, and Mess Hall realized as arts organizations, or as artist organizers resistant to dominant cultural narratives, added necessary amendments, additions, and accruals within participatory visual culture in the United States. In their producing of new organizational forms through their structural affordances, behavioral capacities, and participatory expansions, each revealed what may yet be lost when we translate artist and activist processes, non-dominant subjectivities, and neighborhood connections into more conventional display practices. In this way, the three sites moved beyond the social towards structural change, providing not a map, but a generative archival source.


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