The design of a vehicle is one of many critically needed responses to the veterans' emerging social, psychological and political needs. It responds to the veterans' need to communicate and reach the larger public, beyond the group of fellow veterans, and openly share in the public space their overwhelming war and after-war war experiences, especially these that are by themselves yet unacknowledged and not understood by the society at large.
In the winter of 2008, two artists, whose identities must remain concealed due to investigation (their identities are known to C_M_L), postered the city of Tallinn, Estonia, with flyers reading, VABADUS (freedom, in English), with a subtitle announcing, “a contest to find the best solution.” These posters invited residents to fill in their opinions on a controversy over the proposed “War of Independence Victory Monument” in the remaining blank space. Local residents took this opportunity, opening a space for the public critique of the decision by a few politicians to build the new Victory Monument. VADABUS shows how power circumvents and marginalizes collective processes, while proclaiming "Freedom" in the name of the many (Something not unknown to the New Yorkers who experienced, and are still experiencing, urban “reconstruction” after 9/11). It also opened a temporary space in which a public could witness itself in formation, realizing, in place of a monument, a more open aesthetic form.
Presented here are a collection of materials from the design and community organizing collective, My Piece of Chennai. MyPoC is a volunteer-run initiative led by designer and researcher Meena Natarajan. The project brings together a diverse range of expertise both locally and remotely to include writers, interactive designers, artists, programmers, local volunteers, and an insect biologist. Team members are located both in Chennai, India, and as far away as Boston, Massachusetts (US). Of particular interest to C_M_L is the way in which interdisciplinary teams of individuals form and interact with and for a community to develop material demands, and to make invisible constituencies seen and heard.
Lucy Raven's and Ryan Harden Brown's Incident No. 21: MS Found in a Bottle installation at Incident Report in Hudson, New York took place from May 27–June 24, 2009, and is reprised here in a collection of responses to the project solicited by the Raven and Brown. This MS continues an ongoing process of revision and exegesis on the sometimes infra-thin partition separating private space and the commons. With contributions from Incident Report, Lucas Knipscher, Clifford Borress, and Robert Fitterman.
It all started on Saturday 31st of May 2008, when more than eight hundred people walked from the inner city of Copenhagen to Christianshavn, under the parole: “THEY TEAR DOWN, WE BUILD UP!”
Artist and educator Arzu Ozkal presents Persistent Iteration, a two-channel video work in which Ozkal returned to her primary school in Ankara, Turkey, to record the process of class-room interpellation. Persistent Iteration marks Ozkal's own formation in the ritual repetition of speech and writing by creating a parallel between Turkey’s identity as a modern secular nation-state and the disciplining of childrens’ identities.
"We are part of Tijuana’s cultural community and we are opposed to the appointment of Virgilio Muñoz as the new director of CECUT (Cultural Center of Tijuana). We are opposed to his appointment because he doesn’t meet the requirements needed to lead CECUT today. As it has happened with many other institutions, his appointment is contaminated by political favors and isn’t based on the desire to choose a professional who is dedicated to culture and art.
"Molecular Urbanism projects [of which One Degree Celsius is one] are diagnostic and strategic systems of ‘interventions’ in human bodies on both biological and molecular levels and subsequently their environments. For example, let us say you’re either getting thinner or fatter, or perhaps growing or losing hair; these are individually specific phenomena that begin on a molecular-biological level in your body and at first are not visible to the eye.
Four Iraqi men discuss their flight from Iraq following the United States invasion in 2003. Between them – an interpreter for the US Military, a computer technician for a military contractor, a professor of English, and an oil ministry employee – a dialogue emerges about their lives as refugees in Sweden. They discuss their divergent approaches to coping with trauma and self-representation. To them, Iraq as a nation exists only in the past-tense.
Michael Ashkin’s video Centralia (2009) takes its name from a mining town in central Pennsylvania, where coal deposits beneath the town caught fire in 1962 and have been burning since. Rather than document the now nearly abandoned mining town, Ashkin locates his camera on a hilltop at Odd Fellows Cemetery—one of the remaining traces of evidence of what was once a working-class immigrant community—directing its lens towards an ongoing mining operation nearby.
Conventional galleries invite artists to create works inside the context of a physical space with a particular programmatic focus. In 2008, g727 decided to initiate a different approach, inviting its constituents and audience to participate in an open-ended project to collaboratively design and program an entire project space located in a loft within the gallery.
"The last possible deed is that which defines perception itself, an invisible golden cord that connects us: illegal dancing in the courthouse corridors. If I were to kiss you here they'd call it an act of terrorism--so let's take our pistols to bed & wake up the city at midnight like drunken bandits celebrating with a fusillade, the message of the taste of chaos."
Brief History is composed of two thorough historical timelines: a brief history of U.S. interventions in Latin America since 1946 and a brief history of leftist guerrillas in Latin America. These works cover the years of the Cold War (1940s-1990s) and expose on the extreme ideological differences that defined that time. On the one hand, the emphatic rejection communism by the U.S. and the actions that were carried through to prevent its spread, and on the other hand the formation of several dozens of leftists groups that attempted to overthrow the government and to replace it with a Marxist state.
Last year, I was invited to curate a show as part of the series “Curators from Central and Eastern Europe” in Berlin. (http://www.artlaboratory-berlin.org) The organizers, aware of recent developments in critical art and very much in touch with the art coming out of the different countries of Central and Eastern Europe, did not insist on a traditional approach, such as to invite artists from the European “East,” to discuss updates in the “post-communist condition,” the so-called transition, or EU accession. Nor did they wish to organize the exhibition around an “Eastern” theme. I was given absolute carte blanche. However, I was still asking myself what exactly “curator from EE” could mean today. Could I simply say “nothing in particular” and do a curatorial project unrelated to any kind of “East,” ironically implying that my Russian origin guarantees “Eastern-ness” in whatever I do? Since the 1990s, the East/West problematic in the European art discourses has passed several stages, from mutual “discovery” through “general presentations” of the East to the West, to the method of regarding some “western” issues through an “eastern” lens, none of which makes sense today.
With this heritage in mind, a thematic approach can be very misleading. I decided to come up with a knot of notions, in my mind interesting for their own sake, but still charged with a specific, local, historical context. For example: event-as-rupture versus ritual, or ritual as a socially magnetic event reinforcing a sense of collectivity versus stereotyped formality. Without heavily theorizing the artworks selected, I simply described them from a specific angle, highlighting those elements that create a number of cross-references so that the viewer familiar with East/West discussions could easily decipher those links. As such, nothing is assigned as having the “Eastern touch,” instead, the works twist in thematic threads, each dealing with and acknowledging multiple historical lenses.
In everyday language, an event is a notion that embraces two different meanings—a happening that violates limits or, conversely, invigorates them. One is destructive, the other restrictive; one is closer to the chaos of a revolution, the other to a meticulously performed ceremony with a set of rules. These works I chose deal explicitly with the second meaning: they comment on contemporary rituals with pronounced interests in social codes that often re-emerge in times of crisis and insecurity. Some of the works gathered here reflect on today’s ritualistic behavior when so-called “flexible personalities” engage in a performance of specific and mainly self-imposed rules. (On the notion of flexible personality see http://www.geocities.com/CognitiveCapitalism/holmes1.html)
Since it is forbidden to film in airports, they had to hide the camera and the takes capture not only the quotidian airport ritual of body search, but also reveal the condition of making this particular film. The camera targets the desirable shot, but can't hold it long and needs to turn away, because someone might have looked at the artists at that moment.
The emancipatory potential proclaimed by alternative media seems to have lost its potential. Though in the personal tactics of producing 'Tv narratives' discrete tactics of resistance on various levels are established by the participants in 'Ceci n'est pas une interview' - some tactics as well turned against the Tv media itself.
"Thanksgiving Dinner in 5 Seconds" is a proposal for a meal cooked using a single bolt of lightning. Evading an exact allegorical interpretation, one can describe the project as “slightly off the mark” in several ways. For instance, to harness a force of nature as a means of expediting a culturally important meal is to overlook the importance of Thanksgiving's ritualistic aspect.
Through examples of recent documentary oriented projects and based on a short artist text from 2004, “What Shall I Do? A Guide to Ethics for Artists in Twelve Simple Rules”, Kristina Leko reformulates an old question: How and when is it possible to recognize public interest in art activity? Written in Croatian and translated into English and German.
The idea was to "translate" all the debate, reports, expert panels and media coverage about injection rooms from the last 6 years into a physical presence. From the written and spoken language into a visual and physical one. To have an actual functioning injection room was another way of facilitating the debate.
"Como un Cerillo" is a mural and audio installation that juxtaposes a text written by Alfonso Hernández (1) with four songs (2) that refer to the life of Tepito (3). Pille, El Despreciado, a professional MC/DJ from the 1960s, who started his career playing in this neighborhood, narrates the text over over each song’s instrumentation and lyrics. The audio synthesizes a history of this contested Mexican neighborhood as seen through Alfonso’s perspective.(4)
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.