UPDATED: From the Less Misguided to the Totally Moronic
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,
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.OCCUPY MUSEUMS TODAY AT 3PM 60 WALL STREETThe 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.
A REBELLION AGAINST CORROSIVE SERVILITY:
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.http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2011/10/19/occupy-wall-street-movements-declares-war-on-nyc-museums-as-temples-of-cultural-elitism/
ABOUT NOAH FISCHER (ORGANIZER OF OCCUPY MUSEUMS):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.
FOR MORE ON FISCHER'S WORK SEE:
JOIN OCCUPY MUSEUMS!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in partaking in Museum Occupation and contact email@example.com if interested in teaching at the Occupy Museums Teach-in.STRANGE DREAM:
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
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:
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:
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.”
Yes, I recall George Washington's troops insisting on luxurious bathrooms and central heating before they signed up for Valley Forge.
“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…”
Even more discouraging about this stunt was this tid bit:
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.
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]
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.