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Who We Are

TUG is an interdisciplinary arts collective that creates contact zones where people can generate insights about, and produce actions around, contemporary social issues.

Slipping into the cracks, and driven by process, TUG has worked as a sound incubator in Windsor, Canada, mitigating sound pollution coming from North America’s busiest border crossing for trade, embarked on a two-month expedition over the National Historic Lewis and Clark Trail, serving over 900 tacos and inviting innovative forms of engagement around issues of cultural citizenship, and co-curated a six-hour transcultural gathering of people interested in evaluating and addressing issues of access and connectivity while riding the 24th Street route of the Omaha Metro Transit. 

Recent projects include: Borders, Corridors, and Lines of Desire, an installation of seven works that exposes the seams of some of the most poetic visions that US-Americans have of themselves as a country founded on the ideals of freedom, democracy, and inclusion; Who Will Care for the Dead?, an extended field of poetic thought, image, movement, and sound that traces a relationship of kinship between the unraveling body and the cycle of bereavement, isolation, and regeneration; and sea/sky, blood, earth, you, a multi-faceted project and eponymous art exhibition in support of Freedom & Captivity, a humanities initiative for an abolitionist future, that brought together prison-reform advocates and Returning Citizens in Maine to gather some finer meaning about fragility, resilience, and the performance of care.

TUG’s work has been presented in such creative spaces as the Luminary Center for the Arts, Charlotte Street Foundation, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Holter Museum of Art, SoCA Armouries Gallery, Lawrence Arts Center, Guapamacátaro Center for Art and Ecology, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, the London International Screen Dance Festival, and the Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence. The collective’s participatory, problem-based interventions related to borders, borderlands, and other fuzzy frontiers are featured in Lee Rodney's Looking Beyond Borderlines: North America’s Frontier Imagination (Routledge). 


TUG is on faculty in the MFA Art Practice program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Our Approach

TUG Collective was formed out of the impulse to transgress the archive (that which is anchored in paradigm, such as texts, notation, documents, letters, photos) by registering and radiating ways of knowing that are part of the repertoire (that which is embodied, improvised, co-experienced). The point was, and still is, not to elevate the repertoire at the expense of the archive, but to vividly braid them together by triangulating creativity, critique, and citizenship.


Our creativity neither originates from, nor terminates with, material, but rather emerges out of our foundational gesture of calling upon the methodology of improvisation in our work. We believe that there is a great deal of value inherent in the way that improvisation presents itself as a non-hierarchical (ideally), process-oriented practice, that claims no victories and is rooted in a ‘listening’ self.’ Wood, sound, paint, image, and the like might work their way in, but their purpose is to orbit around one another as a continuum of tissues that connect the embodied, improvised, and co-experienced with the tactility of cultural meaning that they engender. 


Critique suggests an all-seeing power that purports to know the world just by looking down at it. Our reading, however, oscillates between the urgent call for tapping into the re/search imagination and for tethering it together with what is actually going on in various contact zones. By exploring how a spot, a stain, or a smudge matters for people living among it, within it, and against it, we catalyze our attention to other lines of desire, and shift out of the paradigm in which difference has no power and into one where difference fosters a kind of critical plurality.


Plurality is at the heart of our work. So, too, is concerned citizenship. We approach disparate moments and geographic locations as sites of contestation, collaboration and transformation. We look for cracks in the pavement, open up gaps in the order of things, and provide a platform through which individuals can appear to one another, in joint action, thereby moving and illuminating their own agency.


The projects that we do as TUG Collective rely upon a confederacy of components and tactics that are neither linear, nor two-dimensional, nor spelled-out, but are rather entangled in an open-score that is tactile, performative, and empathic. Where ideas and relationships come into being by virtue of all of us doing what we are doing together. Where elements are stacked—happening simultaneously—or unfolding over the course of a few hours, days, weeks, or months. Where uncertainty is a necessary component of exploration.

Bells - TUG
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