Centre for the Arts of Doing Something about It

Exhibition

Margaux Portron, Research and Communications Associate, Artraker.

On Saturday I visited the most excellent Take this hammer (Art + Media Activism from the Bay Area)at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Take this hammer is about everything you want an exhibition to be. YBCA is in the City Centre, but us Europeans need to remember that American cities centres are not privileged areas, and San Francisco’s is definitely not. It is an area filled with misery, homelessness and addictions. It is important to point out as showing Take this hammer is a Westminster-like area would be, at the very least, cynical.

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The  exhibition starts with a funny take on the ever growing tech-industry, in the form of a catchy video/song called Google Apps Apps, by PERSIA featuring Daddie$ Pla$tik. It sets the tone of the exhibition as a show where the most serious matters are presented, if not with humour, at least with a form of playfulness. It is also a tribute to the LGBT and Drag culture of San Francisco. Nonetheless, I’m unsure whether a still from the video is the best way to advertise the exhibition. As much as it is a good start for the whole narrative, it is not the most powerful piece and by being so representative of the image of San Francisco which is exported, it is perhaps the least iconoclast, or radical.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show as a whole resides in its use of technology. The tech industry in the Valley is sucking life out of the city, not only by creating gentrification and in doing so provoking evictions, as the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project shows, but also by avoiding taxes.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project http://www.antievictionmap.com/

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project http://www.antievictionmap.com/

 

Heart of the City Collective Gmuni Free Luxury Free Market Free for All http://www.lesliedreyer.com/performanceinterventions.html

Heart of the City Collective Gmuni Free Luxury Free Market Free for All http://www.lesliedreyer.com/performanceinterventions.html

Heart of the City Collective Gmuni Free Luxury Free Market Free for All http://www.lesliedreyer.com/performanceinterventions.html

Heart of the City Collective Gmuni Free Luxury Free Market Free for All http://www.lesliedreyer.com/performanceinterventions.html

Heart of the City Collective Gmuni Free Luxury Free Market Free for All http://www.lesliedreyer.com/performanceinterventions.html

Heart of the City Collective Gmuni Free Luxury Free Market Free for All http://www.lesliedreyer.com/performanceinterventions.html

 

Events which are not necessarily visible unless made public by newspapers are here the object of performances, installations and interactive experiences. Technology is used to highlight the effects of gentrification and violence. The website Out of Sight, Out of Mind, by Pitch Interactive, is turned into an installation. It shows the secret strikes carried out by the US in Pakistan – those two countries are not even officially at war. The show goes seamlessly from domestic to foreign dehumanising policies. In fact, the Anti-eviction Mapping Project, where you can navigate the computer to read the stories of the evicted individuals, is not too far from the Out of Sight, Out of Mind process of showing the stories of the victims of drones.

However, one the most striking pieces of the exhibition was for me, by far, the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History. It creates doubt – “I thought Guantanamo was still open?!” – anger – why is this place taking so long to shut down? – hope.

The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, http://www.guantanamobaymuseum.org/?url=welcome

The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, http://www.guantanamobaymuseum.org/?url=welcome

The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, http://www.guantanamobaymuseum.org/?url=welcome

The Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, http://www.guantanamobaymuseum.org/?url=welcome

The whole internet is moved – and rightly so – by the profound, systematic and bureaucratic injustice of an affair like the one depicted in Making a Murderer yet Guantanamo prison has been carrying illegal detention for 15years. If you want to be cynical, at least, Steven Avery got a trial. Guantanamo prison is dehumanising, illegal, illegitimate, it’s a disgrace.

If I describe these conditions without permitting my indignation to interfere, I have lifted this particular phenomenon out of its context in human society and have thereby robbed it of part of its nature, deprived it of one of its important inherent qualities.

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Picturing it as “passed future” is highly radical because it does not simply criticise the project, it also questions the responsibility of the public in bringing an end to it. And this is why this show, even in the imperative form of its title, “Take this hammer” is so powerful: it does not only points out what’s wrong or shows what activists are doing. In another post I will talk about strategies and tactics in art, activism and public art. By making struggles visible these artworks engage with the public: you can take a poster of one of the victims of police violence and colour it, rehumanise it, because #Blacklivesmatter.

You can take a postcard of an imprisoned woman with her portrait at the front and her story at the back. You can take the message home, and it is made possible mainly by technology. All the projects have a website where you can contribute one way or another – I will post each website in the coming week, so keep posted. It doesn’t stay in the white cube.

 

 

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Art of Peace exhibition and events – paid commission for an actor/performer/dancer

Short read

Margaux Portron, Research and Communications Associate, Artraker.

We are looking for a UK-based actor/performer/dancer for a paid commission as part of the most exciting project you’ll hear about this year!

Artraker is organising a series of events as part of the next Art of Peace exhibition, which will showcase the winners of Artraker 2016 Award in January 2017 in Central London.

We are looking for artists to perform and interpret political speeches related to war. Speeches have been chosen but the performance could take any form!

You will be paid and get a contract, as well as access to the Artraker network, a vibrant community of artists and policymakers.

Mohammed Kabir, 105 and some soldiers tend to the garden created by Kabir for their benefit. 'I'm a poor man but can live without food as long as I am surrounded by greenery and flowers,' he says. He attributes his youthful looks to working with nature. ‘Green is happiness, green is peace. Who doesn’t like that?' the soldiers say. Once considered to be a ‘City of Gardens’ nestled in the breadbasket of Central Asia, Kabul is struggling to define itself as a developing modern city in a maelstrom of pollution, traffic, road construction and security checkpoints not to mention the occasional insurgent attack and ongoing instability. But behind the razor wire and ten foot high walls of private residences are verdant serenities, a world a way from the bedlam outside as Afghans continue to keep the garden tradition alive.

Lalage Snow, “Paradise Lost”, photographs, 2010. Mohammed Kabir, 105 and some soldiers tend to the garden created by Kabir for their benefit.
‘I’m a poor man but can live without food as long as I am surrounded by greenery and flowers,’ he says. He attributes his youthful looks to working with nature.
‘Green is happiness, green is peace. Who doesn’t like that?’ the soldiers say.
Once considered to be a ‘City of Gardens’ nestled in the breadbasket of Central Asia, Kabul is struggling to define itself as a developing modern city in a maelstrom of pollution, traffic, road construction and security checkpoints not to mention the occasional insurgent attack and ongoing instability. But behind the razor wire and ten foot high walls of private residences are verdant serenities, a world a way from the bedlam outside as Afghans continue to keep the garden tradition alive.

Please send us an email at margaux(at)artraker.org, we look forward to hearing from you.