Suzanne Lacy:
The Medium is Not the Only Message

This thematic survey is a major presentation of the work of pioneering public performance and social practice artist, Suzanne Lacy. With works touching on issues such as violence against women, racism, labor rights, poverty, and aging, the exhibition spans four decades, from Lacy’s earliest solo performances to more recent large-scale community-based works that bring together diverse participants to share their stories.

The Medium is Not the Only Message takes a critical look at two fundamentals of Lacy’s practice: personal narrative and conversation. Throughout her career, Lacy has explored individual agency and the production of selfhood in relation to collective networks as an approach to subverting oppressive cultural narratives and their attendant conditions. The resulting body of work, rooted in intersectional feminism, reveals a careful innovation of relationality and shared awareness. While constituted by these “soft technologies,” the works also intervene in the “high-tech” systems that amplify cultural norms, such as broadcast television. The exhibition’s title references media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s idea, “The Medium is the Message” and reflects Lacy’s contrasting belief that ideas take hold over time through layered mechanisms, and that these tools remain secondary to their content, and the dynamic human experience of receiving it.  In her characteristic approach, discursive forms are facilitated by common platforms in order to expand the sense of self into the social realm, through processes of co-creation and mutual learning. 

Works have been selected for their resonance to the local context of Queens, and QM’s current commitments and relationships to community organizations, artists, advocates, and other hyperlocal stakeholders. Projects are presented as artworks in the galleries, and also serve as a departure point for community-engaged and education programming that will enrich and extend QM’s initiatives with Year of Uncertainty Community Partners, the inaugural year of the Young Leaders Art & Social Justice Institute, and other long-standing community-based work, such as the New New Yorkers program. Modeled not only after the themes of these works, but also after their strategic frameworks and collaborative organizational models, these activations begin with a period of planning, co-education, and conversation with culminating public presentations concurrent with the exhibition in Spring/Summer 2022.

The Medium is Not the Only Message is organized by Sophia Marisa Lucas, Adjunct Curator. Programs and public activations are organized together with Kimaada Le Gendre, Director of Education, Adrianne Koteen, Curator of Public Programs, and Gianina Enriquez, Community Organizer.


Suzanne Lacy (b. 1945, Wasco, CA ) is a pioneer in public performance and socially engaged  art. She began as a performance and conceptual artist but her practice evolved to projects that intersect private, public, and political themes. In the 1970s she was one of the first artists to bring rape, and the media’s treatment of sexual violence, into mainstream art. Lacy’s large-scale projects span the globe, including England, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Ireland and the U.S. In 2019 her career retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Art Center is documented in an extensive catalogue. Her most recent work is exhibited at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester and in an upcoming installation at the V-A-C Foundation’s GES-2 in Moscow.  Her work has been reviewed in major periodicals, books and catalogues. Also known for her writing, Lacy edited Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art and authored  Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics, 1974-2007. She is a professor at the Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California and is a recent Legacy Artist awardee by the California Arts Council. 

The Medium is Not the Only Message is made possible in part by lead support from the National Endowment for the Arts and Metabolic Studio. Major support is provided by Shelley Frost Rubin, the Stardust Fund, and Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia.

Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, the Booth Ferris Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the TD Charitable Foundation. 

Image: Performance view, Suzanne Lacy and Julia London with Jan Chattler, Joya Cory, Natalia Rivas, Ngoh Spencer, and Carol Szego, Freeze Frame: Room for Living Room (1982), Roche Bobois furniture showroom, San Francisco. part of the International Theater Festival conference and the International Sculpture Conference. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy Studio, image credit: f-stop Fitzgerald.

 

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