Ira Sheren

Ila Sheren

Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
research interests:
  • Contemporary Art
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1189
    • One Brookings Dr.
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Ila Sheren’s research focuses on questions of borders and decolonial theory, whether in the case of the U.S. frontera, environmental crisis in the Global South, or the performative nature of political protest. Prof. Sheren teaches courses in new media, activist art, and alternative art practices, as well as surveys of modern and contemporary art.



    Research in Progress

    Border Ecology: Art and Environmental Crisis at the Margins

    “Objects of Ridicule: The Embodied Identity Politics of the Yes Men”

    Selected Publications

    “Troubling the Waters of Neutrality: Eco-art as an Identity Proposition,” invited essay for the relaunch of Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism (June 2020)

    “Border Art” in the Blackwell Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art, Robin Greeley and Alejandro Anreus, eds. 385-397 (Wiley-Blackwell, March 2020)

    “Affective Landscapes/Empathic Objects: Digital Documentary and Non-human Ecologies” in Mutating Ecologies in Contemporary Art, Christian Alonso, ed. (Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 2019), 113-119

    Portable Borders: Performance Art and Politics on the U.S. Frontera since 1984 (August 2015, University of Texas Press).

    “Standardization, Censorship, Systems, Surveillance: Artist Perambulations through Google Earth” (GeoHumanities, May 2018).

    “The San Diego Chicano Movement and the Origins of Border Art” Journal of Borderlands Studies. September 2016.

    “Ashes to Ashes: Self-Immolation as Self-Sacrifice in Visual Culture” in Making Sacrifices: Visions of Sacrifice in Contemporary Culture (Forthcoming, 2015, New Academic Press, Vienna)

    “‘Unexpected’ Developments: Mirza and Butler’s Non-Participatory Interventions in Toronto.” The International Journal of Arts Theory and History. Forthcoming, Fall 2015)

    “Stealth Crossings: Performance Art and Games of Power on the Militarized Border” in U.S.-Mexico Border Spaces: Arts, Built Environments, and Landscapes, edited by Katherine G. Morrissey and John-Michael H. Warner (University of Arizona Press, 2018).

    Selected Talks

    “Human, Nonhuman, Both, or Neither? Bear 71 as Border Crosser” Border Control Symposium, University of Michigan New Media Caucus, September 2019 

    “Bordering on the Sacred: Visualizing the Paradox of Pollution,” Keynote address for the 35th Annual Boston University Graduate Student Symposium, March 2, 2019

    “Defining the Sacred and the Profane in Vibha Galhotra’s Manthan.” Association for Study of the Arts in the Present (ASAP) 10th Annual Conference. October 2018, New Orleans, LA.

    Watershed Moment: Border Thinking on the Mississippi” Keynote Address for the Art Graduate Student Organization’s 4th Annual Symposium, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (March 24, 2018).

    College Art Association Annual Conference, “Standardization, Censorship, Systems: Artists’ Peramublations through Google Earth” (February 2018). 

    Sal Castro Memorial Conference, University of California, Santa Barbara, “From Chicano Park to Asco: Reconsidering the Origins of Border Art” (February 2018).

    “States of Emergency, Sites of Exception.” Paper given for Cultural Production, State Violence, and Subjected Positions of Transgression” roundtable discussion as part of Northwestern University’s Colloquium for Ethnicity and Diaspora series (March 2016).

    College Art Association Annual Conference, “Photographing Slow Violence in the Global South” (February 2016)

    Balance/Unbalance Conference, Arizona State University. “Bears, Boundaries and Biodiversity: The Human and the Non-Human in Internet Art.” Phoenix, AZ, March 2015.

    “Site, Non-site, Re-site: Border Art and Boundaries since 1986.” Public lecture and evening Salon at the University of Arizona School of Art. (March 2015) (Youtube link:

    Universities Art Association of Canada Annual Conference. “Mapping the Virtual and the Material in Clement Valla’s Postcards from Google Earth.” Toronto, Canada (October 2014).

    International Conference on Street Art and Urban Creativity, “The Open Air Gallery: A Return to the Radical, or More of the Market?” July 2014, Lisbon, Portugal.

    College Art Association Annual Conference, “The BAW/TAF’s Maclovio Rojas Project: Intervention, Art, Other?” (February 2012)

    University of Arizona, Border Research Group Symposium, “Conceptualizing the Border: The BAW/TAF’s End of the Line”  (December 2011)

    Courses Taught 

    “Picturing the Anthropocene: Landscape, Land Art, and Eco Art," “Contemporary Art of the U.S.-Mexico Border and Beyond”“Art & Activism,” “What’s New? Contemporary Art in Saint Louis,” “Contemporary Art,” “Globalization and Contemporary Art," "Alterna-art,” “From the Death of the Author to the Birth of YouTube: Identity in Contemporary Art,” “New Media, New Technologies,” “1968 and its Legacy,” “Intro to Modern Art, Architecture and Design.”

    A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latina/o Art

    A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latina/o Art

    A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latinx Art consists of over 30 never-before-published essays on the crucial historical and theoretical issues that have framed our understanding of art in Latin America. This book has a uniquely inclusive focus that includes both Spanish-speaking Caribbean and contemporary Latinx art in the United States. Influential critics of the 20th century are also covered, with an emphasis on their effect on the development of artistic movements. Professor Ila Sheren contributed the essay "Border Art" to this volume. 

    By providing in-depth explorations of central artists and issues, alongside cross-references to illustrations in major textbooks, this volume provides an excellent complement to wider surveys of Latin American and Latinx art. Readers will engage with the latest scholarship on each of five distinct historical periods, plus broader theoretical and historical trends that continue to influence how we understand Latinx, Indigenous, and Latin American art today. 

    Border Spaces: Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Frontera

    Border Spaces: Visualizing the U.S.-Mexico Frontera

    The built environment along the U.S.-Mexico border has long been a hotbed of political and creative action. In this volume, the historically tense region and visually provocative margin—the southwestern United States and northern Mexico—take center stage. From the borderlands perspective, the symbolic importance and visual impact of border spaces resonate deeply.

    In Border Spaces, Katherine G. Morrissey, John-Michael H. Warner, and other essayists build on the insights of border dwellers, or fronterizos, and draw on two interrelated fields—border art history and border studies. The editors engage in a conversation on the physical landscape of the border and its representations through time, art, and architecture.

    The volume is divided into two linked sections—one on border histories of built environments and the second on border art histories. Each section begins with a “conversation” essay—co-authored by two leading interdisciplinary scholars in the relevant fields—that weaves together the book’s thematic questions with the ideas and essays to follow.

    Portable Borders

    Portable Borders

    In a first-of-its-kind exploration, Ila Sheren examines the contradictory effects of globalization on the U.S.-Mexico border, as witnessed and processed by contemporary artists.