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museum_activism

Museum Activism

Art Worker's Coalition: Statement of Demands

WITH REGARDS TO ART MUSEUMS IN GENERAL THE ART WORKERS’ COALITION MAKES THE FOLLOWING DEMANDS:

  1. The Board of Trustees of all museums should be made up of one-third museum staff, one-third patrons, and one-third artists, if it is to continue to act as the policy-making body of the museum. All means should be explored in the interest of a more open-minded and democratic museum. Art works are a cultural heritage that belongs to the people. No minority has the right to control them; therefore, a board of trustees chosen on a financial basis must be eliminated.
  2. Admission to all museums should be free at all times, and they should be open evenings to accommodate working people.
  3. All museums should decentralize to the extent that their activities and services enter Black, Puerto Rican, and all other communities. They should support events with which these communities can identify and control. They should convert existing structures all over the city into relatively cheap, flexible branch-museums or cultural centres that could not carry the stigma of catering only to the wealthier sections of society.
  4. A section of all museums under the direction of Black and Puerto Rican artists should be devoted to showing the accomplishments of Black and Puerto Rican artists, particularly in those cities where these (or other) minorities are well represented.
  5. Museums should encourage female artists to overcome centuries of damage done to the image of the female as an artist by establishing equal representation of the sexes in exhibitions, museum purchases, and on selection committees.
  6. At least one museum in each city should maintain an up-to-date registry of all artists in their area, that is available to the public.
  7. Museum staffs should take positions publicly and use their political influence in matters concerning the welfare of artists, such as rent control for artists’ housing, legislation for artists’ rights, and whatever else may apply specifically to artists in their area. In particular, museums, as central institutions, should be aroused by the crisis threatening man’s survival and should make their own demands to the government that ecological problems be put on par with war and space efforts.
  8. Exhibition programs should give special attention to works by artists not represented by a commercial gallery. Museums should also sponsor the production and exhibition of such works outside their own premises.
  9. Artists should retain a disposition over the destiny of their work, whether or not it is owned by them, to ensure that it cannot be altered, destroyed, or exhibited without their consent.

excerpted from: Art Workers' Coalition, NY, Statement of Demands (1969)

Source: Lucy Lippard, Get the Message, 1984, p. 12


Andrea Fraser: An Artist's Statement

“This is how I would like to understand artistic practice, that is, as a form of counterpractice within the field of cultural production.

The relations I might want to transform may be relations in which I feel myself to be dominated, or they may be relations in which I feel dominant. The ethical dimension of the imperative of site specificity, however, pertains entirely to my status as dominant: that is, to the agency and authority accorded to me as a producer and as the subject of discourse by the institutions in which I function and of whose authority I become the representative… The position that I occupy in the execution of the functions of my profession is that of a producer, an author, an agent. And this position is one of privilege. I am the institution's representative and the agent of its reproduction.

So when it comes to institutional critique, I am the institution. And I cannot be slain in absentia, in effigy.

I am an artist. As an artist I have the double role of engaging in the specialized production of bourgeois domestic culture on one hand and on the other, the relatively autonomous reproduction of my own professional subculture.

… The primary operation of art museums is the turning of bourgeois domestic culture into public culture. The induction of those not already disposed to this culture into the habits and manners of its appropriation is what constitutes the public education that defines museums at least in the United States as educational institutions.

… Some museums privilege the mode of appropriation defined by economic class, the domestic learning systematized as connoisseurship, offering up for emulation a manner of being in relation to art objects: how and how long one looks, the accents in which one pronounces the names of artists and works, posture and expression. Some museums privilege the scholastic learning defined by educational capital: ways of knowing about art objects which may change according to developments in contemporary art and art history as well as other academic disciplines. The relationship between these two modes of appropriation is always antagonistic.”

excerpted from: An Artist's Statement (1992)


Occupy Museums! Speaking out in front of the Cannons

The game is up: we see through the pyramid schemes of the temples of cultural elitism controlled by the 1%. No longer will we, the artists of the 99%, allow ourselves to be tricked into accepting a corrupt hierarchical system based on false scarcity and propaganda concerning absurd elevation of one individual genius over another human being for the monetary gain of the elitest of elite. For the past decade and more, artists and art lovers have been the victims of the intense commercialization and co-optation or art. We recognize that art is for everyone, across all classes and cultures and communities. We believe that the Occupy Wall Street Movement will awaken a consciousness that art can bring people together rather than divide them apart as the art world does in our current time…

Let’s be clear. Recently, we have witnessed the absolute equation of art with capital. The members of museum boards mount shows by living or dead artists whom they collect like bundles of packaged debt. Shows mounted by museums are meant to inflate these markets. They are playing with the fire of the art historical cannon while seeing only dancing dollar signs. The wide acceptance of cultural authority of leading museums have made these beloved institutions into corrupt ratings agencies or investment banking houses- stamping their authority and approval on flimsy corporate art and fraudulent deals.

For the last few decades, voices of dissent have been silenced by a fearful survivalist atmosphere and the hush hush of BIG money. To really critique institutions, to raise one’s voice about the disgusting excessive parties and spectacularly out of touch auctions of the art world while the rest of the country suffers and tightens its belt was widely considered to be bitter, angry, uncool. Such a critic was a sore loser. It is time to end that silence not in bitterness, but in strength and love! Because the occupation has already begun and the creativity and power of the people has awoken! The Occupywallstreet Movement will bring forth an era of new art, true experimentation outside the narrow parameters set by the market. Museums, open your mind and your heart! Art is for everyone! The people are at your door!

Manifesto for Occupy Museums by Noah Fischer, Occupy Museums organizer (October 9, 2011).http://tumblr.artfcity.com/post/11652516894/occupy-museums-speaking-out-in-front-of-the http://occupymuseums.org/