Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Big Political Show

It’s over now, the Creative Time “Summit” last weekend – a great hit, with many folks in town chatting up the work so far – that is, political art in its new formations. The Yesmen took the “prize,” since, indeed there was one. An award ceremony I missed, since the show at New York Public Library was sold out. I came later Saturday (pretending to be on my way to do research very overdue in that library), and managed to sneak into the shindig, thanks to a friend from Baltimore Development Cooperative.
The procession of artists with great schemes was consistent throughout the day. Then the presenters went upstairs to a conversation room for closer discussions. I heard of the terrible cost young people have paid for taking part in “pirate radio” projects in Mexico, pursued by corporatist death squads, and learned more of the harrowing conditions of prisoners forgotten in the U.S. in SuperMax prisons (TAMs movement). At the same conference, a rich artist spoke of his work portraying some of the poorest of the poor in Rio, then leveraging the money raised from the artworks to help create a cooperative enterprise that employed tens of thousands. It was an incredible story Vik Muniz told, and I’d really like to know more details about how it was managed. Mel Chin, another famous artist there, spoke of his project with schoolchildren to produce handmade hundred dollar bills – “fundreds” – in the amount needed to clean up the lead pollution in New Orleans’ soil ($300 million). Of course the famous were not the big story of this event. (But hey, it’s New York, so of course it will be.) Creative Time is very good about making their proceedings public, so I look forward to the DVD or whatever they choose to release about this stimulating convention.
In a party afterwards Jos of Bikvanderpol tipped me to the existence of two major catalogues of exhibitions which surveyed the Dutch squatter movement of the 1970s. I look forward to learning more. The question of how artists represent their squatting experience is at the heart of this project. I wrote of this in a text about Andrew Castrucci’s Bullet Space squatted art gallery project for which he is preparing a 25-year show. (It is posted at post.thing.net; URL below.)
The first Public School lecture class on the social centers movement went well. (It was a lecture only because time was short; another meeting is scheduled for November 22 at the Van Allen Institute.) The very day of the class, Miguel Martinez sent me the manifesto of a group of scholars studying social centers. They ask a host of good questions. Their third meeting is scheduled for June, 2010 in London.
While I confess I was making fun of these guys earlier, the Berlin-based An Architektur group is swinging into action here with a conference, “Ten Days for Oppositional Architecture: Towards Post-Capitalist Spaces” in Brooklyn, November 12-21. They have lined up a good bunch of speakers, including Neil Smith and David Harvey from NYC, Teddy Cruz from San Diego, Brett Bloom from Urbana, Max Rameau from Miami, and Peter Linebaugh from Toledo, Ohio. Many other great people are involved, and although I will miss this conference, I am hoping to locate the “House Magic” library of social center books and films in their “reading corner.”

Creative Time “Revolutions in Public Practice”
my text, “Bullet Soaked in Piss” – about the Bullet Space gallery in NYC
“Ten Days for Oppositional Architecture”

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