As of Fall 2010 the c_m_l project is no longer active. The website remains up as an archive, but is no longer updated. Please feel free to browse the archives and visit Camel Collective at http://camelcollective.org.
How will a proud, threatened nation internalize defeat? How will it absorb its weary troops as it begins to bring them home? How does a nation’s consciousness change as it is forced to concede mistakes made on such an overwhelming scale? War Sequence is my attempt to describe an American male consciousness forced to confront our tragic blunder and loss in Iraq.
Menezes/Text literally and openly interpellates the viewer through a series of questions superimposed on a collage of statements collected from newspaper articles regarding Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian killed by London police on July 22nd 2005. In the work we attempt to open questions regarding the way in which the media colludes with authority in producing and spreading suspicion among the general public.
With the "Luxury" banner placed on a Regent Park building, it is an tiny attempt to cut through the smoke screen of culture and identity policies that prevents us from seeing the government's increasing detachment from our collective body, and the spatial frontiers where housing, for the most of us, is never going to be luxury.
What follows are excerpts of an exchange between the editors of C_M_L and Gregory Sholette, one of the founders of Political Art Documentations/Distribution (PAD/D), a collective whose activities included the creation of an archive of politically agitational and socially progressive art centered in New York City. The archive was initiated in 1979 by critic and curator Lucy R. Lippard as an open call. Other members of PAD/D included Barbara Moore, and Mimi Smith, Jerry Kearns, Vanalyne Greene, Mickie McGee, Janet Koenig, Herb Perr, Keith Christensen, Jerri Allyn, Beverly Naidus, Irving Wexler, Ed Eisenberg, Jody Wright, and Charles Frederick. The matter collected by PAD/D has been housed in the archives of the Museum of Modern Art since 1989.
In Lucy R. Lippard's text, Archival Activism, she writes that PAD/D strove for a "theory developed out of real experience instead of out of academically idealized notions." Was there a sense of political detachment felt among artists and performers? Do you think PAD/D succeeded to an extent in changing this attitude?
When I arrived in New York City in 1977 to attend The Cooper Union the very idea of explicitly mixing art and politics was considered retrograde. My mentor at school, Hans Haacke, was typically described as a conceptual, not a political artist. The co-founder of Group Material, Tim Rollins perhaps put it best when he quipped that “political art” conjured-up “charcoal sketches of Lenin and clenched fists.” Although I must admit developing an appreciation for amateur charcoal drawings since then, it is correct to say that compared not just to the 1920s and 1930s, but even to the 1960s and early 1970s, the critical discourse surrounding art in the late 1970s and early 1980s was a very hermetic and formalist one in the United States. The importance of feminism and performance art was not felt in art schools at the time because second-generation abstract expressionists still dominated these institutions for the most part. Meanwhile, archconservative Hilton Kramer at the New York Times policed the art world for any signs of radical dissent. At one point Kramer even called for a boycott of Artforum by commercial art galleries when the magazine’s editors, Max Kozloff and John Coplans, dared to publish essays suggesting that art actually had a relationship to society! So yes, I think by agitating from the margins PAD/D contributed to the change of discourse about art and politics especially in New York City, however, I think even more directly effective at the time was Lucy Lippard’s regular art review column in the Village Voice. Lippard was fearless when it came to writing what was on her mind, and as a key member of PAD/D that often reflected the political activism of the group at any particular moment. But in addition, we should bear in mind the widespread rejection of Greenbergian formalism and the rise of Hip Hop culture from street to mainstream during the 1980s, as well as of course the East Village art scene with its recognition of graffiti, handcrafts, outsider painting and sculpture as “serious” (collectible) artworks. But like many self-institutionalized groups formed by artists then or since, PAD/D could not sustain the multiple levels of activity it had imposed on itself. Neither was it prepared for the increasingly conservative political environment of the decade or the diminution of the organized Left.