Discover

Arts & Labor #OWS End the Whitney Biennial 2014

Dear Whitney Museum of American Art,

We are Arts & Labor, a working group founded in conjunction with the New York General Assembly for #occupywallstreet. We are artists and interns, writers and educators, art handlers and designers, administrators, curators, assistants, and students dedicated to exposing and rectifying economic inequalities and exploitative working conditions in our fields through direct action and educational initiatives. We are writing to call for an end to the Whitney Biennial in 2014.

Biennials were born in the nineteenth century, in an era when many nations were young and wished to showcase their greatest cultural products and achievements. The Whitney annuals grew out of this, championed by the patron and sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in a period when American art had little critical or financial support.

Much has changed since the founding of the Whitney Studio in 1914 and the advent of the current biennial format in 1973. The absorption of contemporary art into museums, the rise of a speculative art market, and the need for artists to obtain advanced degrees to participate in the current system have changed how art is produced and exhibited.

We object to the biennial in its current form because it upholds a system that benefits collectors, trustees, and corporations at the expense of art workers. The biennial perpetuates the myth that art functions like other professional careers and that selection and participation in the exhibition, for which artists themselves are not compensated, will secure a sustainable vocation. This fallacy encourages many young artists to incur debt from which they will never be free and supports a culture industry and financial and cultural institutions that profit from their labors and financial servitude.

The Whitney Museum, with its system of wealthy trustees and ties to the real estate industry perpetuates a model in which culture enhances the city and benefits the 1% of our society while driving others into financial distress. This is embodied both in the biennial’s sponsorship – represented most egregiously in its sponsorship by Sotheby’s, which has locked out its unionized art handlers – and the museum’s imminent move to the Meat Packing District, a neighborhood where artists once lived and worked which is now a gentrified tourist destination that serves the interests of the real estate industry.

We therefore call upon the Whitney in its centennial year to end the biennial and to support the interests of art workers over the capital interests of its trustees and corporate sponsors. As the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City states, “We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.” Art institutions have come to mirror that ethos. We therefore call upon the Whitney to terminate its collusion with this system of injustice and use its resources to imagine sustainable models of creativity and culture that are accessible not just to Americans but to people around the globe.

Sincerely,
Arts & Labor

Recent Posts

Nina Cristante | 63rd-77th steps

Nina Cristante is an artist, autodidactic nutritionist, Aquarius and my best friend. Had it not been for a mutual friend linking us during her temporary stay in NYC seven months back, I may’ve never been introduced to the full spectrum of her work. Just a subtle trail of digital breadcrumbs. Slow-mo-promo. A whisper, a wink, a bikini body meme. A deliberately ambiguous website hosting austere at-home workout videos and fragments of clients’ food diaries.

G.U.Y. (Remix) – Larry B

LARRY B remixes Gaga’s iconic and unforgettable G.U.Y. Paired down yet rich, Larry B’s remix will push you to seriously reconsider this hit from Spring 2014. Giving Gaga’s vocal track a slower, darker, more physical instrumental track feels right. The pitched down vocal accentuates and furthers the slippage between sexual power dynamics. I’ll lay down face up this time, under you like a G.U.Y. I wanna be that Girl Under You, GUY Familiar vocals echo… [read more »]

Saved to your collection: navigating SoundCloud’s subculture

Navigating the social music platform SoundCloud, scores of electronic music producers define their subjectivities with the self-referential motifs of emergent subcultures. In the late 1970s, French economist and writer Jacques Attali critiqued what he saw as the oppressive nature of the mass-produced record industry, claiming that consumers were driven to stockpile more records than they had the time to listen to. His 1977 book Noise: The Political Economy of Music argued that the music industry… [read more »]

Ready4Hillary Goes Ready2Wear

Recently, DIS Magazine has explored the ethics of the environmental crisis with the DISaster issue, and addressed urgent questions related to big data with the Too Big To Scale issue. By launching the DISawareness collection, we wanted to incorporate these discussions and ideas into DISown.  We approached an array of artists to design T-shirts that engaged critical issues that shake the political moment.  Now that Hillary Clinton’s fashion-forward swag is #trending, it seems as though the T-shirt is gaining political… [read more »]

Film Fun: Us and the box office

A long time ago, in a suburb far, far away, I was a closeted teen, reading the copy of Entertainment Weekly my dad brought home from the office, assessing the box office performance of 8 Mile and quietly predicting to myself what percentage it would drop in its second weekend. As it turns out, I wasn’t alone. For that little cinefag inside us all, Film Fun is a place where it can run free. The… [read more »]

Absolute Bearing | LD50

This Spring, LD50 gallery opened in London’s Dalston area with its first show, entitled Absolute Bearing. It features the work of British sculptor/writer Jesse Darling and artist-duo Brace Brace (consisting of Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Annika Kuhlmann). ‘Bearing’ carries a multiplicity of meanings and association, all loosely indicative of direction and movement, relative to a fixed point.. The show explores themes of extinction and loss through the prism of naval navigation, as indicated by the… [read more »]

HYPERSTITION: Truth is Science is Fiction

A film on time and narrative by Christopher Roth with Armen Avanessian Hyperstitional thinking hijacks the present-forming daring interventions into conditions of cybernetic governance that foreclose contingency. Hyperstitions are not imaginary, they are virtual fictions situated in the chaotic unfolding of the Real. Philosophical hyperstitions bring about their own reality. They hold us captive, abducting our thought into alien territories. Techno-heretical action requires an intensification of futurity as the present races speedily toward uncertainty. Hyperstition… [read more »]

NA NGUZU Remixes Michael

Feeling tired? Need to #exceed? This Michael Remix by NA NGUZU occupies the liminal space between excess and scarcity, deploying minimalist textures with a maximalist execution. The record’s out today from Escape From Nature. Artwork by Jessica Tsai

Pindul’s Rewards | Carlos Reyes and Alessandro Bava

Let’s, for a moment, argue that art and politics (as we currently practise their convergent theories, and – with a secondary disclaimer – specifically in western visual art terminologies) has its roots in Italy. We’ll point out how the artists’ manifesto was the first real example of the merging of art and politics in the form of the art object, and that it was The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism (published in Bologna in 1909)… [read more »]

It’s time…for Art Basel 2015

Our selection of #ArtBasel events not to miss! What: Performances at 186f Kepler ft. Juliana Huxtable, Marie Karlberg, Anina Troesch, Mai-Thu Perret, Emily Sundblad, John Armleder, Lhaga Koondhor Where: Müllheimerstrasse 46 4057 Basel When: Every day after 8pm What: PRICE live Where: Schwarzwaldallee project space in Basel, within the SAMPLE When: June 16, 17, 18 7pm What: Inauguration of new exhibition space Der TANK ft. an introduction by Chus Martinez Where: Campus of the Arts… [read more »]