Martha Rosler: Housing Is a Human Right

Martha Rosler, The New Foundation Seattle’s inaugural 100K Prize recipient, has been working closely with the Foundation to develop a yearlong series of exhibitions, screenings, workshops, and community discussions dealing with issues related to housing.

The project Housing Is a Human Right takes its title from an animation Martha Rosler created in 1989, at the invitation of the Public Art Fund, for the Spectacolor board in New York City’s Times Square as a comment on the steep rise of homelessness in the United States.

As Rosler has noted, this program is presented at a time when Seattle is making national headlines for strong employment growth but also for a homelessness crisis that was recently declared a “civil emergency” by the city’s mayor and the county executive. The tech sector’s hiring booms have brought explosive population increases. Efforts on the part of Seattle City Council to raise the minimum wage seem to be forever outpaced by the surging cost of living here. The city is booming with no bust in sight, but industries rise and fall, and the future is not predictable. 

With Housing Is a Human Right the artist is asking the citizens of Seattle if it’s possible to commit to a more equitable and inclusive expansion. She is also questioning whether advocacy and radical proposals and visions can become the city’s beacons toward that end.

As the lead organizer of Housing Is a Human Right, The New Foundation Seattle is bringing together Seattle-based institutions, agencies, and organizations to present Rosler’s work in depth.


If You Lived Here Still
Opening: January 28, 6-8:30 p.m.
Exhibition Dates: January 28 – May 14, 2016

If You Lived Here Still is a multi-faceted exhibition that includes the lasting record of Rosler’s groundbreaking 1989 exhibition If You Lived Here… alongside materials the artist has collected during re-presentations of the project since 2006.

The archive includes photographs, videos, documents, and slideshows drawn from the 1989 presentation at the Dia Art Foundation in New York City. Three exhibitions comprised If You Lived Here… Home Front focused on tenant struggles and gentrification; Homeless: The Street and Other Venues dealt with homelessness, both visible and hidden; and City: Visions and Revisions, took up urban planning and development, with real and fanciful solutions. These exhibitions included work by artists, film- and videomakers, homeless people, activists, architects, squatters, poets, writers, community groups, schoolchildren, and others. Four public forums featured the participation of artists, activists, advocates, elected representatives, academics, journalists, and community members. This historical material will be shown at the Foundation with material integrated into the exhibition since 2006 from New York City; Rennes, France; Liverpool, England; Utrecht, Netherlands; Barcelona, Spain; and U.S. locations including Seattle.

If You Lived Here Still will be shown in a series of three exhibitions echoing the original 1989 presentation of If You Lived Here…:
-Home Front on view January 28 – March 26, 2016
Homeless: The Street and Other Venues on view March 31 – May 14, 2016

Screening Event

Working in partnership with Waterfront Seattle—a project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with new public spaces—artists, scholars, and historians investigate the conditions, ecology, history, and tribal presence on the Seattle waterfront. As part of this effort, the city will present Martha Rosler’s Seattle: Hidden Histories (1991), a set of one-minute TV public service announcements made in collaboration with local indigenous residents, including historians, linguists, and leaders. 

The screening will happen on Thursday, May 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Waterfront Space, 1400 Western Avenue. Reserve tickets here.

Youth Engagement 

Creative Justice is an arts-based alternative to incarceration for youth of King County, Washington. The program fosters the creativity of some of Seattle’s most marginalized youth and asks them to direct their artistic efforts toward, the root causes of incarceration, including racism and systematic oppression. Creative Justice will engage young people with the work of Martha Rosler, increasing their understanding of the possibilities of socially engaged art with justice and equity at its center.

Public Discussions

The Henry Art Gallery presents a series of public programs that examine urban infrastructure and human capital. The Henry will host conversations that make visible the exchanges of power that shape contemporary environments, as part of Keller Easterling’s project Gift City. The expanded conversation will continue in the fall with a focus on the human processes that are part of these shifts in infrastructure and urban landscape. Dates and locations to be announced; for more information visit

Student Exhibition

Path with Art is an arts and social justice non-profit that provides access to the arts for adults in recovery from homelessness, addiction, and trauma. Path with Art will welcome Martha Rosler as a guest teaching artist in their spring 2016 term. 

Community Outreach

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is an independent group dedicated to safety, survival, housing, and justice for people who are homeless. Together with more than sixty member organizations, the Coalition speaks up for robust public and private investments, and smart, reality-based public policies. In addition to organizing the annual One Night Count of people who are homeless outside, their year-round work includes advancing voting rights for adults and educational rights for children and youth who are homeless, and efforts to help people who are homeless have a say in laws, budgets, and policies that affect their lives. The Coalition will work with Martha Rosler and The New Foundation Seattle to engage people who are homeless and those who work in this sector in a range of artistic explorations. Together, the organizations will ask questions about the politics, history, and future of public space, homelessness, and affordable housing.


Martha Rosler: Below the Surface
Dec 19, 2015 – July 4, 2016
Seattle Art Museum
Third Floor Galleries

The Seattle Art Museum presents Martha Rosler: Below the Surface, an exhibition featuring several videos and two photomontage series, House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home and House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series.

In the first series, House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967-72), Rosler reveals the disconnect between the televised carnage of the Vietnam War and the prosperity dreams of an upwardly mobile, predominantly white middle class. Rosler circulated the photomontages as flyers on antiwar marches and in coffeehouses and in alternative press publications—several examples of which will also be on view—a context that speaks to the artist’s aims and the urgency of the issues at stake.

Decades later, the American invasion of Iraq prompted a new body of work, House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series (2004-08), which takes into account a changed technological and media landscape—the 24-hour news cycle facilitated by the rise of the internet and social media. The new series’ increased scale reflects the ever-greater gap between a hedonistic culture of consumption and spectacularized images of war in high definition.

Rosler will give an artist lecture at SAM on Wednesday, May 11, at 7 p.m. Tickets available here

Community Talks

The Seattle Public Library has long-standing investments in serving people who experience homelessness and supporting equity. Throughout the run of If You Lived Here Still, the Library will convene public talks with their broader communities on the role that arts and culture can play in urban planning and social justice.

Talk #1
January 30, 7-9 p.m.
Seattle Public Library Central Branch
Martha Rosler will introduce her work and exhibition If You Lived Here Still which opens January 28 at The New Foundation Seattle. Following Rosler, Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, will present data from the 2016 One Night Count. They will be joined by community organizer Mary Flowers for a community talk examining housing as a human right. Q&A to follow. 

Talk #2
May 18, 7-9 p.m.
Seattle Public Library Central Library
Individuals who have been affected by Seattle’s housing crisis will tell their stories.