Monica Sheets creates platforms for communication as a means of civic engagement for herself and other participants. She was born in Toledo, Ohio and studied Photography at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Her experiences growing up in the Rust Belt (the former industrial heart of the US) were pivotal to her decision to work directly with participants, coming from a desire to reach audiences who might not normally visit galleries and museums. She received an MFA in Public Art and New Artistic Strategies from the Bauhaus-University Weimar in 2009. Her work has been recognized by the MCAD/Jerome Fellowship for Emerging Artists, the Minnesota State Arts Board, FORECAST Public Artworks and the Santo Foundation. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the EMDASH Award at the Frieze Art Fair. She lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
My work focuses on the principles of free speech promoted by liberal democratic society and how we choose to interpret them: who is allowed to speak, and what are they allowed to say?
I see my artwork as a form of civic engagement for myself and others, part of the continuing development of my identity as a citizen, or someone engaged in the politics of social relations. I am interested in bringing to light the perspectives and narratives that upset and question our worldviews, including my own. To do this, I work with a combination of material objects and immaterial, interactive processes, balancing the interaction of these to create platforms for communication, whether that might be a website, a soapbox on the street or a storefront meeting space.
The participation of other people has become a critical part of my working process. This interaction can be behind the scenes during a research process of interviews and surveys that is later given artistic form (Stimmen der Ruhmeshalle, Das Fundbuero: Lost and Found Flyers), or it can be present in the public process of the work, where the input and engagement of participants build on a framework I have created (Das Fundbuero: The Leipziger Zentrale).
I am interested in how the work and its processes can create new social structures that enable greater communication, expression and room for action. I often play the role of an ombudsman or facilitator between individuals and power structures large and small. My goal is not solving problems, but rather making them visible and inquiring into their causes. I am seeking to create a space in which we can sit confidently with questions rather than chase desperately after answers.