Socialized Contemporary Artists Bureau (S.C.A.B.)

by Michael Corris January 20, 2013
Installation shot from "Applefaces" exhibition at Studio DFTU. Photo credit: Bronwen Roberts

Installation shot from Applefaces exhibition at Studio DFTU. Photo: Bronwen Roberts

The Socialized Contemporary Artists Bureau (S.C.A.B.) sounds a bit bureaucratic, but this is part of the ironic mirror play and table turning that undergirds this group of artists. By 2012, all roads led to Dallas, with detours through Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Prague.

S.C.A.B. is an umbrella that shelters impishly named platforms for art and entertainment such as Homeland Security, the Irving Domestic Museum of Contemporary Art (IDMOCA) and Studio Don’t Fuck This Up (DTFU). These spaces just keep popping up, these exhibitions just keep coming, as one might expect of a budding asexual protozoan in the land of Serendip.

Still from "Beef" video by Frank Robertson

Still from Beef video by Frank Robertson

Sharing: A Manifesto, An Exhibition, Two Footnotes and An Amusement

  1. S.C.A.B. stands for Socialized Contemporary Artists Bureau.
  2. Bless S.C.A.B., whose current participants are Lucy Kirkman, Eli Walker, Kelly Kroener, Alexander DiJulio, Josh Von Ammon, Samantha McCurdy, Justin Hunter Allen and Michael Morris.
  3. Bless S.C.A.B. for conceiving of the cooperative as a life-world; they collaborate on the making of an independent world.[i]
  4. Blast those for whom “collaboration” is a fashion trend; they know nothing of history and even less about contemporary art.
  5. Bless the youthful freshness of S.C.A.B.! Their taut bodies and lithe minds fill us with envy and joy!
  6. Blast the idea of emerging artists, of youth culture and all such terminology that is ageist and insulting. At what point in one’s trajectory as an artist does one “emerge?” Do all artists emerge at the same time in their careers? What does emergence mean? Who profits from the exploitation of emerging artists?
  7. Bless the community of artists who share ideas and methods and are not afraid to incorporate them into their work. These artists are the destroyers of Darwinian competition and the harbingers of a new sociality and a new aesthetic chimera.
  8. Blast the institutional gatekeepers that screen artists and establish a baseline below which they believe no artistic practice will thrive. They will find themselves the masters of an arid wasteland!
  9. Bless S.C.A.B., who test the veracity, vitality and truth of the existing institutions of art in Dallas. Any artists in any mid-sized city in the U.S. can learn from their example.[ii]
Still from "Beef" video by Frank Robertson.

Still from Beef video by Frank Robertson

An Exhibition Considered; For Example, Beef.

This is a time of gatekeepers, according to the late, mercurial gallerist Colin DeLand.

In a time of gatekeepers, the artists of S.C.A.B. earnestly wish to live outside the gates of the city. This is apparent in the texture of their social matrix. But what of the artworks that issue from this sociality? Do these works also live outside the gates of the city? Do these works look like they are opting out of the system? (What “system?”) The same system, by the way, that cloaks itself in an elaborate and selective network of social, economic and aesthetic relations? Is this the same system that some regret exists in Dallas only in an immature and provincial form?


And here’s why: Beef takes a fluid sociality and materializes it. It makes exhibitions that are tending toward the inconvenient. It is an illusion that every one in S.C.A.B. is simply busy in their own corner thrashing out their own private Idahos. That’s an old school interpretation; an example of groupthink mapped onto the group show. There is the group exhibition, there is the familiar informality, satire, brutishness and callowness, but there is also the flickering self-reflexive video of the planning and installation of the group exhibition. These two components are mutually generative and mutually destabilizing. In this way, S.C.A.B. opens up the frontier of the white wide space so that it can become a civilized ecosystem of art and conversation.

Still from "Beef" video by Frank Robertson.

Still from Beef video by Frank Robertson

Ah, the restorative emptiness of the prairie! The celebrated limitless sky and plain that divides life to announce the possibility of anything by anyone or the impossibility of everything by all. This great gash of existence called Dallas is prodded, poked, mashed and revised. It shifts, just enough, to permit art and laughter and life to flow.


[i] Consider the relation between S.C.A.B.’s sociality and the work being done by its participants. Now that we find ourselves slouching towards the celebration of alternatives, the question of commonality is more compelling than ever.

[ii] Key words: disruption, opportunity, fissure, independence and social network.


Finally, An Amusement:

Given: Eight artists (say, Lucy Kirkman, Eli Walker, Kelly Kroener, Alexander DiJulio, Josh Von Ammon, Samantha McCurdy, Justin Hunter Allen and Michael Morris).

Find: How many two-person exhibitions are possible in a group of eight members? Ordered pairing in this instance is not relevant (that is, an exhibition of Lucy Kirkman and Michael Morris is the same as an exhibition of Michael Morris and Lucy Kirkman).


  1. Where ordered pairing is irrelevant, there are n!/(n-r)!/2 possible pairings in any set of n where each subset has two members.
  2. For n = 8 and r = 2, there are 56/2 = 28 possible pairings:
  3. Schematically:

1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/7, 1/8

2/3, 2/4, 2/5, 2/6, 2/7, 2/8

3/4, 3/5, 3/6, 3/7, 3/8

4/5, 4/6, 4/7, 4/8

5/6, 5/7, 5/8

6/7, 6/8


4.  The future is brightly crowded!

Installation detail from Controlled Substances at Angstrom Gallery. Video by Micheal Morris, felt floor sculpture by Kelly Kroener, prints made in collaboration with Alex DiJulio.

Installation detail from Controlled Substances at Angstrom Gallery. Video by Michael Morris, felt floor sculpture by Kelly Kroener, photographs are a collaboration between Alex Larsen and Alexander DiJulio.


Michael Corris—an artist and writer on art—is professor and chair of the Division of Art, Meadows School of the Arts, SMU, Dallas. He is the editor of a new series on art since 1980 for Reaktion Books, London and has been commissioned to develop a new work for the 2013 Texas Biennial. 

1 comment

You may also like

1 comment

Studio DTFU January 24, 2013 - 12:20

Many thanks to Michael & Glasstire!
The photo of Applefaces shows a sign installation by Devin Kenny, drawing by Joshua von Ammon, and sculpture by Alexander DiJulio.


Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: