Monday, October 24, 2011

UPDATED: From the Less Misguided to the Totally Moronic

CORRECTION: As noted in two comments by Noah Fischer (see comments), what I had been sent was not in fact an official press release authorized by Occupy the Museum, but instead an artist's unofficial press release about the ongoing protest. Apparently there is a process by which the arts group at OWS must review and consent to the texts sent out and that had not been done in this case.

While I am sincerely sorry my misunderstanding about that led to my comment about 1/3 of the press release being devoted to Noah's own artwork (he notes that he wouldn't approve of that), I will reiterate as I do below that it was the artist's unofficial efforts to explain Occupy the Museum to me over a series of emails that led me to soften my position. In other words, it was her efforts to be patient and inclusive that helped open my mind a bit.

Knowing now that she was unauthorized to do so leaves me in a rather uncomfortable position. Do I return to my original, less supportive stance (after all, my original concerns would seem to remain officially unaddressed)? Or do I cobble together my willingness to be more open-minded about it with the knowledge that Occupy the Museum's official text really does nothing to deserve that and come away still somewhat moderately skeptical?

Noah asks "Please do not let [the artist's unofficial press release] drive the conversation about the action called Occupy Museums on your blog." Fair enough. But that means that what continues to drive it remains the artinfo article cited in my original post suggesting it's misguided.


I've softened my position somewhat on the Occupy the Museum protest, mostly because of a level-headed and open-minded email I received from one of the participants. In it, the protester acknowledged the effort remains a work in progress, better articulated the goals of the protest, and better addressed the fact that institutional critique is not being hushed (just not changing things fast enough for some).

And so I'm even more willing to wait and see what changes it might bring about. I do have to say that the revised press release I was forwarded (below) nicely addresses some of my earlier objections, but the fact that nearly 1/3 of the press release promotes the OM lead organizer's own art struck me as a really, really bad choice.
The Failure of Institutional Critique

Institutional critique began in the 60’s as an assault on the taken-for-granted neutrality of the institutions that display art. Artists like Marcel Broodthaers, Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, and Michael Asher attempted to demystify the “naturalness” of assumptions about the purported aesthetic autonomy, neutrality, and universality of art, as well as the institutions which house them. It pulled art out of its rarefied vacuum, whereby art seemed to signify by itself akin to a transcendent religious experience, and instead re-situated the ideologies that frame the reception of art in a social and materialist context.

However, 40 years later it is clear that institutional critique has failed. William Powhida’s grotesque Racine-like caricatures did more to excoriatingly criticize institutions than 40 years of the Whitney ISP and all their Benjamin Buchloh-bots, dutifully spouting their lingo about the “spectacularization of art,” because Powhida did what performance art group Our Literal Speed has called doing things that are not appropriate in non-appropriate places.

Occupy Museums is an outgrowth of the Arts and Culture Committee of Occupy Wall Street. It is an attempt to PUT BODIES IN PLACES WHERE THEY ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE to begin to destabilize a power structure towards which we have otherwise been inculcated to exhibit a corrosive servility.* Occupy Museums is initiated by visual artist Noah Fischer AND IS HAPPENING TODAY, October 20. We are meeting at 3 at 60 Wall Street (Atrium), Occupy MOMA at 5, the Occupy Frick at 6, and Occupy New Museum at 7.

Part of the Occupy Museum Manifesto reads:
The public contract of museum institutions as commonwealth has been instrumentally corroded by a particularly ruthless bevy of globalist-minded neo-Robber Barons who have incrementally instituted certain policy and economic decisions over the course of the past 10 years. Museums in the early stages (LACMA, MoCA, MoMA) were pressured to commit to huge development deals that left them vulnerable to board takeovers by "rescuing" billionaires; some of whom, like Broad (name over info desk at MoMA lobby) helped cause the current depression. These megalomaniacs are using their blood money, laundered through massive donations to reshape our shared cultural heritage to conform to a very corp-"designed" type of echo chamber.

More Info:

Fischer received his BFA from RISD (‘99) and his MFA from Columbia (‘04), was an artist-in-residence at the Mac Dowell Colony, a two-time LMCC Swing Space grantee, a Fulbright Scholar Fellow (Netherlands) and a finalist for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. He is Professor of Sculpture at RISD and a Professor of Multimedia Installation at Pratt, and is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in Chelsea. He has exhibited/performed at Oliver Kamm (New York, Miami, Brussels), Claire Oliver, Steirischer Herbst (Austria), Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt) and Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels).

Fischer’s exhilaratingly whirring, buzzing, flickering kinetic sculptures reconfigure the semiotics of objecthood, juxtaposing the evanescent with the recalcitrantly machine-like, the obsolete with the atavistically futuristic, enveloping and recontextualizing that which we take for granted to be immaterial (information, pixels, the virtual world) and recoding it within the idiom of the material. Similar to Tristan Perich, his entrenchment with the technological is not derived from a technological fetishism, but something much more old-fashioned: the sublime. He slyly picks off objects that are icons of our modern virtual immaterial world: the TV monitor, the screen, the iphone, the laptop, and re-imbues their hollow immateriality with the embers of an incandescent physicality (lanterns, chairs, clocks), thereby making for hybrid Frankenstinian monster-objects that elicit a dance between the discourses of the material and the immaterial.

I know 16 Beaver is a stronghold of scholars on the AWC. WE NEED TEACHERS FOR OUR TEACH-IN. OCCUPY MUSEUMS WILL CONTINUE EVERY THURSDAY for the duration of Occupy Wall Street, holding teach-ins before the occupation at 60 Wall Street. We are looking for teachers on the following to provide historical context to artists protesting art institutions:
(AWC) Art Workers Coalition:
Mierle Ukeles Laderman:
Artists Against U.S. Intervention in Central America
And anything else that is any way relevant to an overarching institutional critique (financial or otherwise), embodied by Occupy Museums! Contact if interested in partaking in Museum Occupation and contact if interested in teaching at the Occupy Museums Teach-in.

I had a strange dream last night. A genie came out of a bottle to me and mysteriously whispered in my ear, "JOIN ANDREA! JOIN OCCUPY MUSEUMS! join before neoliberal spectacle-oriented charlatans like Creative Time co-opt Occupy Museum (as they are already trying to do)!” It was a very mysterious dream, and I still can’t figure out what it meant… if anybody can figure out what the genie could have meant by the phrase "neoliberal spectacle-oriented charlatans like Creative Time” (those words were too big for me to understand), LET ME KNOW...

*corrosive servility: Julian Assange's term
I still think that occupying the Frick to protest conditions for contemporary artists would be rejected as too-far-fetched a parody by the editors of The Onion, and the OM Manifesto still needs work, reading as it does like some conspiracy theorist's rejected script for a spy thriller (right before the FBI invade his home). But, again, I'm now more willing to watch with an open mind and see where it goes. And I'll thank two patient, sincere artists for bringing me to that point.

What I'm not even remotely willing to see happen again is the idiocy and reported theft that took place by the protesters who occupied Artists Space for over 24 hours before being asked to leave. Gallerist NY's Andrew Russeth reports:

Artists Space executive director and curator Stefan Kalmár, who was sitting at a desk in the space along with other staff members, told us that a group of about 10 people had begun distributing fliers during an event at the gallery yesterday afternoon. (The group has posted a video about the action on YouTube.) He showed us the flier. One half read, in tall letters: “TAKE ARTISTS SPACE.” Below it was written: “TAKE WHAT WHICH IS ALREADY YOURS.”

The text on the other half of the sheet reads: “NO MORE: AESTHETIC AUTHORITY / EXCLUSION DUE TO TASTE / NATIONALISM / XENOPHOBIA / HOMOPHOBIA…” and went on to list dozens of other terms like “BORING COCKTAIL PARTIES,” “TEXTE ZUR KUNTS [sic],” “KITTENS,” “SUSHI,” “SHY FEMALE ARTISTS.”

Mr. Kalmár said that he and other Artists Space employees have worked to secure the space since the occupation began. “We have to ensure the safety of our staff and them,” he said, motioning over to the occupiers, “and safeguard our property and the building.”

For now, Mr. Kalmár has not made any effort to remove the occupiers. “I don’t mind the gesture, but I’m surprised by the naiveté,” he said, noting his organization’s history of commitment to political art and art by under-recognized artists. “I feel like our work is far more progressive than what I have heard here.”

You would have to have never visited Artists Space to think it represented "NATIONALISM / XENOPHOBIA / HOMOPHOBIA…" or any of the other moronic accusations in that text. Indeed, the outright opportunism of this effort (as the nights in New York are getting chillier, mind you), was all but admitted on the Take Artists Space tumblr:

“The newly acquired occupied space in Lower Manhattan, which, unlike Zuccotti Park, provides luxurious bathroom and central heating, has just conducted its first official general assembly…”

Yes, I recall George Washington's troops insisting on luxurious bathrooms and central heating before they signed up for Valley Forge.

Even more discouraging about this stunt was this tid bit:

During the night, Mr. Kalmár said, about 60 people had participated in a group meeting, or “general assembly,” to use the term of the occupiers. “There were a lot of smart people here saying great things, but they were shouted down.” He has participated in some of the discussions. [emphasis mine]

Shouting down other people may be required in urgent situations, sure, but when you're camping out with luxurious bathrooms and central heating and even the man with the keys to the place you're occupying has joined in the discussion, it's a grotesque abuse of others' freedom of speech and reveals a lack of sincerity about open dialog.

The reported theft seems to be still a bit fuzzy ("Mr. Kalmár ... had also learned that occupiers had broken into a storage space and removed a laptop computer."), so I'm willing to hold off on slamming the protest's organizers for that until more is known. I will note that, imo, it does indeed reflect on the organizers if participants break the law in a context they've created. Don't unleash a beast if you're not prepared to accept responsibility for the damage it does.

But the notion expressed by the occupiers that nearly makes my head explode (it's so freaking idiotic) is their slogan "Take that which is already yours."

Say we take that slogan at face value (and if we don't then it's dismissable as mere propaganda or simply absurd).

I can grasp the concept that a non-profit designed to promote new artists and new ideas (and that receives public funding) does indeed belong to the people. And that in one sense it mostly belongs to artists who are working to have their visions seen. But, even if we leave out the non-artist people (the viewers) that it also belongs to, just the number of artists who would be very happy to have a show at Artists Space one day would not all fit in the space at one time (and how much fun would it have been had everyone been forced to stand all night and were constantly being elbowed by increasing grumpy fellow protesters fighting to get in the bathroom?), and since not all of them can "take that which is already theirs" the true essence of the rallying cry, if it makes any sense at all, becomes one of exclusivity: take it if you can get here before all the others do and hope not too many people show up.

Pulling that apart reveals the true irony at work here: to take what you can before all the others do is PRECISELY what Occupy Wall Street is protesting AGAINST. "Take that which is already yours" is precisely what drives the extreme right-wing of this country to fight to disband unions and cut teachers' pay and bankrupt the government with an eye on "taking back America." They see it as THEIR country, and they don't want to share it.

Sharing Artists Space is more in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street than "taking" it. And in order to share it, artists need to wait their turn for their visions to be exhibited there properly. Otherwise, like the discourse was, their visions will simply be shouted down.

Take Artists Space is probably not the stupidest off-shoot of OWS we're likely to see, but it has to rank up there.

Labels: ows, politics


Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

"just the number of artists who would be very happy to have a show at Artists Space one day would not all fit in the space at one time"
Therein lies the problem. Too many artists too few opportunities.

10/24/2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

No, therein lies the opportunity!

Artists have founded spaces throughout New York's history (commercial and non-profit) and the only one to blame if there are not enough spaces is yourself. Do what others before you have selflessly done: go start one!

10/24/2011 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe they can hold the public hostage in order to view their art once the space is taken over. Sounds pretty surreal. Artists have never had more opportunity to showcase their degree of talent now that we've had the worldwide web for over 15 years.

I'm a huge fan of OWS but this offshoot will not help the main group at all. The powerful are looking for any reason to discredit and shut OWS down and this will only hurt the Zucotti Park crowd and their fellow protesters in other cities.

10/24/2011 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Maybe they can hold the public hostage in order to view their art



10/24/2011 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward is right create your own GIG. Artist unuite, Think as a struggling Rock n Roll Band play anywhere anytime self promote what ever it takes. If your good, it will eventually sell. Think of the great bands that didnt get airplay and sellout arenas and sell millions of records.

10/24/2011 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, these inbread self-serving+self-congratulatory arts institutions need a good shake-up. If I would get into the Greater NY show and then maybe get included in some museum group shows and a nice gallery, I'm sure that I would still maintain my resolve. At least, I would still say hello to my former buddies, left behind.

10/24/2011 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yup, these inbread self-serving+self-congratulatory arts institutions need a good shake-up.

And you, anonymous, are going to do the hard work to create opportunities for those artist...correct?

10/24/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Can I occupy the impenetrable language in Fischer's artist statement?
"reconfigure the semiotics of objecthood, juxtaposing the evanescent with the recalcitrantly machine-like, the obsolete with the atavistically futuristic, enveloping and recontextualizing that which we take for granted to be immaterial"

Wha' ?...

Tacking this theory-speak self-promotional CV on to the call-for-action is grandstanding and severely weakens the credibility of the protest.

10/24/2011 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Julie Takacs said...

Lately I am thinking of these OWS protests and their offshoot protests in terms of their position on a family tree. In this case, The Take Artist Space protest must be a bastard child. It's inspiration for my new project. (at least there is some purpose!)

10/24/2011 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

If they occupy MoMA, will I still be able to see the DeKooning show?

10/24/2011 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I agree if you are going to occupy an art institution it would help to have an understanding of their program before you criticize it, and I think these idiots really blew a great opportunity, they had the interest of the "authority figure" who it seems was willing to listen and I get a sense that would have even been willing to allow a longer use of the space if they hadn't acted like a mob (or the audience at a republican presidential debate) if they conducted themselves in an orderly manner they could of elevated themselves from protesters to artists, from a protest, to a politically charged performance piece, it wouldn't be the first time artists occupied an art space, though it could have been the most interactive.

10/24/2011 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Noah Fischer said...

Dear Edward,

Its time to set the record straight on this matter of the “press release” which you
Have printed on your blog.

This is not a “press release” from me, or from Occupy Wall Street or from Occupy Museums. It was written and sent out by someone named “Andrea Liu.” The arts group at OWS never gave consent (this is how everything works there- you get consent when representing the group). I never even heard about it till it was sent out! And when I did, I was totally offended because it is clear at OWS that we do not highlight individuals in this way but stay on message for the movement.
But now that you have printed it on the internet, I have to say, I am somewhat beyond annoyed and therefore compelled to respond as an individual.

I would never consider highlighting myself in this way, or at all in this OWS action!
The process of your blog layering misinformation and commentary on top of misinformation is not fair once you know the story. I will forward you the email chain to check if you like. Please do not let it drive the conversation about the action called Occupy Museums on your blog.

This is basically the dictionary definition of gossip and misinformation.

This was an autonomous email sent out by an eager person who attended an OWS meeting. Ego-tripping is not a central tenet of the Occupy Wall Street culture & movement, and I have not highlighted myself in the written action. I did not include my name on the manifesto. I put it up on my FB wall, where it went viral. Also put up a FB page for the action (Occupy Museums) where my name does not appear. The press spoke with mostly me at the action because they saw me as the author. This letter is something completely different, and not reasonable to my mind.

Let’s take this conversation back to more interesting territories- like can we do about massive economic injustice in the country and in the art world. The next action will not have an author because it’s appropriate to move to consensus writing, etc at OWS.


10/24/2011 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Noah Fischer said...

PS-still setting the record straight,
just found an email from Andrea Liu in my inbox. I will print it below. Please Note that I did not respond to this email below, but heard about it after the "blurb" was sent out.


Andrea Liu to me
show details Oct 20 (5 days ago)
i am about to send U the blurb i am putting out to the 16 Beaver mini-group. i know it's probably not how you would word things, and i know you don't want this to be about your (art) work. i know i just have to talk a certain way to make certain people (academics and intellectuals) take something seriously, and this is how i think is the best way to talk to them. this is sort of my constituency, so i hope you can grant me some leeway in how i frame this--i know it may not be how U would want to frame it. i hope you won't have alot of objections to it--if so, next time i send something out, i will run it by you first,


10/24/2011 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Naxal Belt said...

I want to sincerely apologize to both Ed Winkleman and Noah Fischer for my gross irresponsibility and the misunderstandings I have created about the origins of the Occupy Museum text quoted above. This text was a rogue action by the Naxal Belt (project space in Bushwick started by Andrea Liu), AS AN OUTSIDE OBSERVER to Occupy Museums. It was IN NO WAY WRITTEN BY OR ENDORSED BY OCCUPY MUSEUMS, OCCUPY WALL STREET ARTS AND CULTURE, OR NOAH FISCHER. To have qualified as an Occupied Museums text, it would have had to been brought up at a meeting, discussed, reached consensus and voted upon. NONE OF WHICH IT DID.

As an art critic, I supported Noah's art work and this was the prism through which I saw Occupy Museums (perhaps wrongfully so). This was the reason for his CV and the description of his work, NONE OF WHICH WERE WRITTEN BY OR SEEN BY NOAH. I was taken aback at how this movement was pilloried in the press as being comprised of artists who had "sour grapes". To be pilloried in the national press as an artist whose work could never get into a museum I felt was unfair to an artist of his caliber. As a defensive measure, this is why I put in Noah's CV (AGAINST AND WITHOUT HIS PERMISSION). Unfortunately, doing so compromised some basic principles of the Occupy Museum leaderless movement, and is evidence of my gross naievete and my gross lack of professionalism. As such I find myself in a truly embarrassing position. It's a misnomer to say putting in his CV was a gross mistake of the Occupy Museum Movement, because that choice WAS NOT ACTUALLY MADE BY OCCUPY MUSEUMS BUT BY ME.

If you need fodder to pillory, please pillory this:

because the above is the author of that text, NOT NOAH FISCHER, OCCUPY MUSEUMS, or OCCUPY WALL STREET ARTS AND CULTURE.

Happy Pillorying Y'All,
Andrea Liu

p.s. i hear the best days for press pillory are Monday Wed and Thursday between 6 and 9. ha ha just kidding...

10/25/2011 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Naxal Belt said...

Dear Sean,
I am very sorry you found the artist description I wrote about Noah’s work (which he did not see and did not author) to be impenetrable. This is especially disheartening as I spent about 8 hours going through his website and writings on his work to chisel that paragraph on 3 hours of sleep. It’s sobering to know after all that work, actually nobody even understands what you are saying.

So let me attempt to say what I was trying to say in that blurb in plainer language. What I was trying to say was that there is a very strong element of technology (machines, gadgets) in Fischer’s work, but also there is an element of the poetic and the sublime. Usually you would see these 2 traits as opposites (machine [invulnerable] vs. poetic [vulnerable or fleeting]). What I think was interesting about his work is that the machine-like aspects WERE IN THE SERVICE of creating a feeling or an affect of the poetic and the sublime. Have you seen his piece, “The Electrical Forest”?

It is best to just start watching at the two minute mark, that is when you see the installation. I already liked this piece a lot, but then when it got to the 3 minute and 40 seconds mark and the moon comes out and you hear the sound of the owl, and then the chimes, THEN IT WAS OVER. THIS PIECE SLAYED ME. I don’t even know how someone on this planet could make something so amazing. It's like this pre-lapsarian Utopian forest--but not in some cliche Walt Disney way. The work IS SO SMART ON SO MANY LEVELS. I feel like I wouldn’t really mind if the rest of my life just ended and from now on I could just LIVE IN THIS INSTALLATION. This could get into a museum TOMORROW.

I think Fischer's work is really smart. I think he is exceptionally gifted. If it wasn’t for his work (as a visual artist), I probably would not trust him (or his vision for Occupy Museums. If it wasn’t for his work, it’s conceivable I may have never attended an Occupy Museum meeting. If a smart, exceptionally talented gifted person is making a criticism of the system of access in the artworld, I will listen to it much more than a non-smart person. I wanted the world to know how smart and talented he was, and that is why my rogue version of the announcement had his CV. It pained me to see people try to make an artist of this caliber into a sort of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Occupy Museums was called “nutjob” “childish”,
"idiotic" and “pathetic sour grapes.” That’s why out of anxiety and against all his wishes and without any consent from Occupy Museums, I sent out the announcement—out of a panic that some quasi-witch hunt was gonna coalesce around him. I apologize for the confusion this unauthorized action caused.


10/25/2011 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Back to the Artist Space thing for a moment here, and maybe Noah Fischer or another Museum Occupier could chime in.
Was Occupy ArtistSpace part of the Occupy Movement? Was it a roque offshoot, or a planned set up to bring attention to the recent and topical shows happening at ArtistSpace?

NYTimes Article

10/25/2011 10:45:00 PM  

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