Pelin Tan Named 2019–20 Keith Haring Fellow in Art and Activism at Bard College

Pelin Tan. Photo by Tobias Schiller.

Turkish sociologist, activist, and architectural theorist Pelin Tan, a 2011 ACT Fellow, has been selected as the sixth recipient of the Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism at the Center at Bard College. As part of her Fellowship, Tan will be teaching two seminars at Bard in Spring 2020: Geontologies and Rights in the Post-Anthropocene for the Human Rights Department, and Alternative Alliances: Pedagogies of Decolonization for the Curatorial Department.

Full press release below:

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, October 2019 – The Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS Bard) and the Human Rights Project announced today that Turkish sociologist, activist, and architectural theorist Pelin Tan has been selected as the sixth recipient of the Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism. Her appointment coincides with the generous renewal by the Keith Haring Foundation of the five year-grant supporting the Fellowship, an annual award for a scholar, activist, or artist to teach and conduct research at CCS Bard and the Human Rights Project at Bard College. Tan’s appointment marks the beginning of the Fellowship’s second phase, and reaffirms the shared commitment of the College and the Foundation both to exploring the interaction between political engagement and artistic practices and to bringing leading practitioners from around the world into Bard’s classrooms.

“The Keith Haring Fellowship brings some of today’s most incisive and engaged voices to Bard.  This innovative, cross-disciplinary, fellowship provides for research, teaching and production of new ideas among the undergraduate and graduate programs,” said Tom Eccles, Executive Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.

Pelin Tan’s current research concerns political movements that focus on climate justice, landscape, agriculture, and indigeneity, and particularly activist projects that put interactions with the non-human world at the forefront of their practice. She asks about how our concepts of justice and rights can be extended to landscape and territory, and about the role that critical artistic and architectural interventions can play in making these claims. She also continues to explore, and experiment with, alternative modes of pedagogy, new modes of teaching that work from the bottom up to challenge and transform the institutions of art and design education.

Her practice combines scholarship, curating, and artistic and architectural creation. She was Associate Professor and Vice-Dean of the Architecture Faculty at Mardin Artuklu University in Turkey from 2013-2017, and has held visiting fellowship and research positions around the  world, from Hong Kong to Cyprus. Most recently she curated the Gardentopia: Cosmos of Ecologies project, in Matera, Italy, a program of European Cultural Capital 2019.

“Throughout her career, the work that Pelin Tan calls ‘action research’ has demonstrated that the borders between scholarship, activism, and creation can and must be transgressed if we want to pursue justice in this world. In this way, Pelin is an artist very much in the spirit of Keith Haring,” said Thomas Keenan, director of Bard’s Human Rights Project.

Tan will take up her one-year appointment in September 2019, and spend the spring semester of 2020 teaching at the College. She succeeds the artist and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden, curator Galit Eilat, architects Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal, the artist and curator Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and the first recipient, artist Jeanne van Heeswijk.

About the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College and the Human Rights Project at Bard College 

Bard College seeks to realize the best features of American liberal arts education, enabling individuals to think critically and act creatively based on a knowledge and understanding of human history, society, and the arts. Two pioneering programs developed under this mission are the Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS Bard) and the Human Rights Project.

CCS Bard was founded in 1990 as an exhibition and research center for the study of late twentieth-century and contemporary art and culture and to explore experimental approaches to the presentation of these topics and their impact on our world. Since 1994, the Center for Curatorial Studies and its graduate program have provided one of the world’s most forward thinking teaching and learning environments for the research and practice of contemporary art and curatorship. Broadly interdisciplinary, CCS Bard encourages students, faculty, and researchers to question the critical and political dimension of art, its mediation, and its social significance.

The Human Rights Project, founded at Bard in 1999, developed the first interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in Human Rights in the United States. The Project maintains a special interest in freedom of expression and the public sphere, and through teaching, research, and public programs is committed to exploring the too-often neglected cultural, aesthetic, and representational dimensions of human rights discourse.

Since 2009, CCS Bard and the Human Rights Project have collaborated on a series of seminars, workshops, research projects, and symposia aimed at exploring the intersections between human rights and the arts, and doing so in a manner that takes neither term for granted but in fact uses their conjunction to raise critical, foundational questions about each. While academic in nature, this research and teaching nevertheless draws heavily on the realm of practice, involving human rights advocates, artists, and curators.

About the Keith Haring Foundation 

Keith Haring (1958-1990) generously contributed his talents and resources to numerous causes. He conducted art workshops with children, created logos and posters for public service agencies, and produced murals, sculptures, and paintings to benefit health centers and disadvantaged communities. In 1989, Haring established a foundation to ensure that his philanthropic legacy would continue indefinitely.

The Keith Haring Foundation makes grants to not-for-profit entities that engage in charitable and educational activities. In accordance with Keith’s wishes, the Foundation concentrates its giving in two areas: The support of organizations which enrich the lives of young people and the support of organizations which engage in education, prevention and care with respect to AIDS and HIV infection.

Keith Haring additionally charged the Foundation with maintaining and protecting his artistic legacy after his death. The Foundation maintains a collection of art along with archives that facilitate historical research about the artist and the times and places in which he lived and worked. The Foundation supports arts and educational institutions by funding exhibitions, programming, and publications that serve to contextualize and illuminate the artist’s work and philosophy.


professor in architecture, Pelin Tan is a sociologist and art historian from Turkey. She was a post-doc fellow at ACT program of MIT (2011).  She was an associate professor in architecture and design faculties at Mardin Artuklu University (2013-2018), Hong Kong Polytechnic (2016), Univ. of Cyprus, Nicosia (2018). Currently, Tan is a research fellow of Center for Arts, Design and Social Research (Boston, 2019-2020). Tan was a research fellow of Hong Kong Design Trust (2016-2017), The Japan Foundation (2012). Co-directed three episodes of films, titled 2084, about the future of art and society with Anton Vidokle. Curator of Gardentopia project and co-curator with Liam Gillick I-DEA archival projects of Matera ECC 2019, Italy.

Curatorial board member of IBA Stuttgart 2027.

Selected Publications:
She is a lead author of ‘Towards an Urban Society,’ the International Panel on Social Progress 
(Edt. Sasskia Sassen & Edgar Pietersen, Cambridge Publ. 2018).

Contributed as author:
Urgencies in Architectural Theory (Columbia Univ. Press, 2016),

Climates: Architecture and The Planetary Imaginary (Columbia Univ.Press, 2017),

Autonomous Archiving (as Artikisler Collective,Istanbul, 2017),

Positions on Emancipation—Architecture between Aesthetics and Politics (2017, Lars Müller publ.),

The Silent University: Toward-Transversal Pedagogy (Sternberg Press, 2016),

Swamp and Other Imaginaries (MIT Press&Sternberg Press, 2019).