Blogs Untitled (Blog) Exhibitions

“Sex and the Office”: The Many Interpretations of Office at Night

Within 10 years of finishing what is now one of his most recognizable and provocative paintings, Edward Hopper sold Office at Night (1940) to the Walker Art Center. It was one of ten works acquired after an exhibition of American painters titled New Paintings to Know and Buy, a 1948 “purchase exhibition” copresented at the Young-Quinlan department […]

Within 10 years of finishing what is now one of his most recognizable and provocative paintings, Edward Hopper sold Office at Night (1940) to the Walker Art Center. It was one of ten works acquired after an exhibition of American painters titled New Paintings to Know and Buy, a 1948 “purchase exhibition” copresented at the Young-Quinlan department store on Nicollet Avenue. Then-Visual Arts Curator Norman A. Geske, Walker Assistant Director William Friedman, and Walker Art School teacher Mac Le Sueur selected artworks to add to the collection, including Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Lay Figure and Gregory Prestopino’s Death of Snappy Collins. Initially, only two of the three voted to include Office at Night.

The painting’s situational ambiguity has led to a variety of interpretations over the years since then, the bulk of which suggest a sexual tension between the two figures — although Hopper never offered clear clues about the work’s narrative content.  “My aim was to try to give the sense of an isolated and lonely office interior rather high in the air with the office furniture which has a very definite meaning for me,” he wrote in a letter to the Walker. Then, after a brief discussion of lighting within the painting, he added: “Any more than this, the picture will have to tell, but I hope it will not tell any obvious anecdote, for none is intended.”

In planning for our showing of Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process, we considered ways we could tap into the painting’s openness to interpretation. In partnership with Coffee House Press, we decided to use Office at Night as the point of departure for a fully realized story. The resulting commission — to be released a chapter at a time each weekday between March 31 and May 2, 2014 — takes the scene out of Hopper’s grasp and places it in the hands of two dexterous writers, Kate Bernheimer and Laird Hunt.

But other interpretations can be gleaned from the numerous rights and reproductions requests we’ve received since 1948 from publishers, writers, and filmmakers seeking to use imagery of Hopper’s iconic work. Many of the inquiries have come from other museums looking to print it in Hopper exhibition materials such as postcards and brochures. In academic texts, it has been included in books on erotic art, American office design, Freud, and, possibly the most surprising, geology. Then there’s the relatively unglamorous mass production of recognizable art that is wall calendars, many of which have included this painting.

Here are some of the more intriguing places Edward Hopper’s Office at Night has turned up:

In no other reproduction of this painting is the erotic nature more implied than in this book cover. Published in 2012, author Julie Berebitsky says Sex and the Office “argues that from the first moment women entered the white-collar office Americans worried about sex.” A professor of history and director of the Women’s Studies Program at Sewanee: The University of the South, Berebitsky chose this painting for the cover because its ambiguous nature lends itself to her discussion:

Office at Night is wonderfully evocative: the cramped space and her voluptuous body—it’s hard not to at least consider the possibility that some erotic interaction has already or might happen. The question of who is in charge also seems unsettled. He is clearly the boss, but she conveys agency as much as submissiveness… The painting’s indeterminate narrative allows the viewer to think whatever he or she wants to think about what’s going on.”

In 1998 the image was requested by Valentino Films LTD to be used in the Keith Gordon film Waking the Dead, a film about an aspiring senator (Billy Crudup) and an activist (Jennifer Connelly) who is helping Chileans escape from the military dictatorship that began in 1973, although the painting doesn’t appear in the trailer (above).

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Minnesota poet John Engman’s second book of poetry, Temporary Help, was finished but not yet published when he died of a brain aneurysm at 47. Published shortly after in 1996, the book has been praised by authors like Mary Karr as an underappreciated gem.

Writing for Star Tribune, Wisconsin poet Thomas Smith had this to say about the Engman’s connection to the painting:

“Like the painter Edward Hopper, John Engman illuminates alienated urban office spaces and apartment buildings with piercing compassion and intelligence. Like James Wright and Alden Nowlan, he is one of those lonely poets we read in order to feel less alone.”

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In episode #5220 of Jeopardy — which aired Friday, April 27, 2007 — the painting was featured as the $800 clue under the category “The New York Times Arts.” The clue was:

“The Times noted that ‘Office at Night,’ seen here, was one of many works by this artist on display at the Whitney.”

I know you all would have gotten that one right.

Have you seen Office at Night in a book, movie, calendar, or somewhere else in the world? Let us know in the comments, tweet us, or post a photo on Facebook of where you’ve seen it!

The Road to Opening Day: Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take

When you walk into any gallery at the Walker, you’re instantly offered entry points into an artist’s work — a Nástio Mosquito video installation or Dan Madsen and Forrest Wozniak’s hand-painted map of Tangier. This immersive experience is essential, but what is frequently not considered is the road that led to it. The day before […]

Senior Registration Technician David Bartley preparing to install Jim Hodges' Changing Things, 1997

Senior Registration Technician David Bartley preparing to install Jim Hodges’ Changing Things, 1997. Photo: Gene Pittman

When you walk into any gallery at the Walker, you’re instantly offered entry points into an artist’s work — a Nástio Mosquito video installation or Dan Madsen and Forrest Wozniak’s hand-painted map of Tangier. This immersive experience is essential, but what is frequently not considered is the road that led to it. The day before the opening of Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take I spoke with one of the people who has spent the last four weeks installing everything from a 342-piece silk flower arrangement to a secondhand denim sky.

Senior Registration Technician David Bartley has been at the Walker installing every kind of art imaginable for the past 21 years. We walked around the galleries discussing how he assembled specific pieces in this exhibition and what it was like working with Hodges. Then he got back to the growing list of last-minute changes. Here, he recounts what it took to install some of the exhibition’s major works.

A Far Away Corner, 1997. Photo: Alex Lauer

A Far Away Corner, 1997. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

“First of all, we start by bringing the crates up and placing them in the galleries they’re going to be in. This particular gallery is very open as there are only these two works in here: A Far Away Corner and the massive denim Untitled (one day it all comes true). Untitled was the priority to hang on the wall so Jim could get an idea in terms of height and placement. At first it was hung too high so we had to lower it, which — as you can see — is quite a process.

“Dallas made a template of A Far Away Corner that fits on the wall. It took a long time to determine the height of it in relation to Untitled. Jim and Olga [Viso, exhibition co-curator and Walker director] were thinking of having it low, then thinking about having it really high, not too in the middle of the wall.

“Each web is pinned, each one is numbered, and each point where the web hits the wall is numbered — I had a set of elaborate instructions to read through. There are 13 webs that have to be hung in numerical order, but they don’t necessarily go from top to bottom because they overlap and intertwine.

“First I had to trim the pins down because they’re too long, and Jim likes them really, really tight to the wall so the webs don’t look like they’re hanging from pins. Then you, very gently with a fine hammer, hammer them to the wall. The webs are made of a really fine chain, like a necklace. They’re very fragile but surprisingly heavy. If you wore them like a necklace you would feel them. They have weight.”

Jim Hodges, Untitled (one day it all comes true), 2013. Photo courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

Jim Hodges, Untitled (one day it all comes true), 2013. Photo courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

“With the denim piece, there are 52 screws that hold it up. Since we had to lower it, and it took eight to ten people to move it, we now have to patch over the old holes before the show opens. It’s a long, involved process, whereas [A Far Away Corner] was just a one-person job, but it took me all day. Because of the nature of the artwork, if two people were working on it they would just get in each other’s way.”

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Jim Hodges, the dark gate, 2008. Photo: Alex Lauer

Jim’s work is interesting because it goes all the way from a very small piece that takes five minutes to install, if even, to something like the dark gate where the installation was part of the building’s architecture. When they were building and constructing walls for this exhibition, that’s when they were constructing the room it’s now in. The whole process of installing that artwork — tearing down old walls, building new walls, painting the insides and the ceiling black, putting in a black plastic floor, installing the art from three huge crates — took almost four weeks.

“For each show, generally, they’ll start with a teardown, because they already have the architecture predetermined for each show. If certain walls can remain they’ll keep them, but otherwise they completely get rid of the walls, open the gallery up, and then build all new walls.

“From my understanding, there are a lot of differences [between the layout here and the one in Dallas]. The room for the dark gate in Dallas was much smaller. Here it will be a totally different experience.”

Changing Things, 1997. Photo: Alex Lauer

Jim Hodges, Changing Things, 1997. Photo: Alex Lauer

“For this piece, I did the whole thing by myself. There are 342 individual flowers. As you can see, some are bigger than others, some are tiny little things. Jim outlined the flowers on the template, which helped identify the exact position for each, but it still took me half a day to place. This was one of the first works he wanted up in this gallery because it was going to determine a lot of the other works in the space — what’s in and what’s not.”

The wall sculpture Changing Things arrives in a box with each silk element pinned and labeled. Photo: Gene Pittman

The wall sculpture Changing Things arrives in a box with each silk element pinned and labeled. Photo: Gene Pittman

“Jim tends to not like things on-center, as you can see in the galleries. With this one being off-center, Jim and Olga would sit on the steps a lot and say, ‘Move it over. Move it here. Move it there.’ Once it was up it was similar to the spiderweb piece: you go through with a tack and put in all of the holes, but because the physical template is up against the wall you can’t put the flowers on. In Dallas they came up with this weird system of being underneath the template and someone handing you the flowers — it didn’t make much sense to me. So I put the template [on a wall to the side] and did it myself. Each flower or petal is numbered in the box with a pin so it makes it easy to look at the #1 hole and match it with the #1 flower. With a very fine pair of pliers you take each of the 342 pieces out of the box one-by-one and force them into the holes. At that point, Jim would just come by and joke with me.”

Jim Hodges, He and I (detail), 1998

Jim Hodges, He and I (detail), 1998. Photo: Paul Schmelzer

“Jim is a multitasker. For the wall drawing in the next gallery, he taught John Vogt how to do it and let him at it. But one morning Jim came in and felt like drawing, so he just took over immediately and started drawing on the wall. When he was done with that, John got back on and kept drawing again. That one piece took over a week to do, believe it or not.”

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Latin Rose, 1989. Photo: Alex Lauer

“For this in here, we worked closely together because this is very particular for Jim. We had to build an entirely new structure so we could adjust it—it was on tripods with wheels so we could move it in and out of the space and turn it until he decided where he wanted it. There are certain points where it hangs from and it is literally hanging from tape. The whole thing is made of tape. I’ve never hung an artwork from tape before, but it is Jim’s system, it’s how he’s done it, so we figured it out.

“It took us half a day, for sure, to get this hung up and in exactly the right place. So Jim focused on this, and once this was done, boom, off he went to do something else.”

Hodges discussing his work with members of the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC). Photo: Gene Pittman

Hodges discussing his work with members of the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC). Photo: Gene Pittman

“In my experience working at the Walker, it’s always much different when you have the artist here for a full two weeks [before the exhibition opens]. You begin to develop a sense of not only who they are but where the artwork is coming from. You get a better understanding of their language. This is opposed to an artist who is no longer living or who just shows up for the opening and makes changes the day before the opening. [Laughs]

“A lot of the time I’m not really that familiar with the body of work of some of these artists, so when they’re here you get a much better understanding. The same could be said working with Thomas Hirschhorn. You understand why he is using tape. He’s got all this energy — he shows up, wraps his tape around himself to keep his pants up, then just dives into the work and starts ripping tape, which is why his work has that haphazard look. But you’d never know that about his process from simply looking. You get that extra little understanding by watching artists handle their work.”

Rosy Keyser: Medusa Backstory

In Studio Sessions, our ongoing web series, the 15 artists in the Walker-organized exhibition Painter Painter respond to an open-ended query about their practices. Here artist Rosy Keyser presents a new video documenting her life and work in Medusa, New York. Rosy Keyser was born 1974 in Baltimore, Maryland, and lives and works in Brooklyn […]


va_2012_painterpainter_bug_alphaIn Studio Sessions, our ongoing web series, the 15 artists in the Walker-organized exhibition Painter Painter respond to an open-ended query about their practices. Here artist Rosy Keyser presents a new video documenting her life and work in Medusa, New York.

Rosy Keyser was born 1974 in Baltimore, Maryland, and lives and works in Brooklyn and Medusa, New York. She received her BFA from Cornell University and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent exhibitions include Medusa Pie Country, Peter Blum Gallery, NY (2013); Pink Caviar, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2012); Science on the back end, curated by Matthew Day Jackson, Hauser and Wirth, NY (2012); Immaterial, Ballroom Marfa, TX (2011); and Promethean Dub, Peter Blum Gallery, NY (2011).

Bring Your Smartphone: Natascha Sadr Haghighian’s performance/audience/file

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself” is the definition that the Oxford Online Dictionary recently bestowed upon the ubiquitous selfie. Simple enough. But perhaps a bit too simple. On October 26, as part of the Walker’s 9 Artists exhibition, Natascha Sadr Haghighian will go beyond the surface reading of the prolific selfie during […]

Natascha Sadr Haghighian de paso 2011 sound installation, carry-­‐on suitcase, plastic bottle, paper, straw, photograph, text dimensions variable Photo courtesy the artist; Johann König Gallery, Berlin; and Carroll/Fletcher

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, de paso, 2011

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself” is the definition that the Oxford Online Dictionary recently bestowed upon the ubiquitous selfie. Simple enough. But perhaps a bit too simple. On October 26, as part of the Walker’s 9 Artists exhibition, Natascha Sadr Haghighian will go beyond the surface reading of the prolific selfie during her performance performance/audience/file. Diving into the growing reality of the image as a purely digital file and the subsequent dissolution of the object, Haghighian asks, who or what has agency in the cloud?

Haghighian has long been concerned with both self-representation and the agency of the object. She has deliberately suppressed and thwarted readings of her own identity as the center of her work favoring instead the stories of the objects she uses in her installations. In de paso, Haghighian begins with a rolling suitcase and a water bottle, and through these two seemingly banal objects she goes on to convey urbanization and the “growing pains” of progressive modernization. Having traveled internationally, de paso comes to the Walker with an accumulation of regional contexts. Installed in 9 Artists, the work’s newest additions — images of the industrialization of St. Anthony Falls — will appear alongside images of Barcelona, Norway, and England, demonstrating a continuity that is at once overwhelming and aesthetically cohesive. Stemming from these two objects and the places they inhabit, Haghighian follows a story illustrated by “footnotes” found in local archives.

However, performance/audience/file derives from Haghighian’s growing disquiet with agency in the digital universe. It was no longer satisfactory to follow the story and representation of objects; she had to confront the way in which the selfie convolutes the subject/object relationship while also reckoning with the fact that taking a picture with a smartphone has become a serious ritual act in this new age. Capturing a picture at an event has become the motivation for taking part in the event itself.

Haghighian’s performance/audience/file references Dan Graham’s Performer/Audience/Mirror (1975). Graham’s audience sat facing a wall-sized mirror while the artist stood in front of them and delivered an impromptu commentary on his real-time observations, prompting both literal and figurative reflection on the relationship between audience and performer as well as subject and object. Haghighian will explore these issues of sharing and materiality through a multi-step performance involving audience participation, live drawing, and a Cyclone Hoover, which will act as the bridge both from technologies past to present and from artist to audience. Expect to learn something about centrifugal technology, a leftover of the methodology of modernity according to Haghighian.

As an artist who has consciously tried to subvert representations of herself by creating alternative biographies, Haghighian is evidently reticent to participate the normalization of the selfie, but as she said she “can’t run away from this reality.” So, as might be expected, Haghighian encourages audience members to bring their own phones for a selfie with the artist after the performance.

Joseph Montgomery: Modeling Abstraction in 3D

In Studio Sessions, our ongoing web series, the 15 artists in the Walker-organized exhibition Painter Painter respond to an open-ended query about their practices. Here New York–based artist Joseph Montgomery discusses how 3D modeling — both actual and virtual — influences his thinking on exhibition making. My day jobs during and after graduate school were always […]

Joseph Montgomery's work as installed in Painter Painter

Joseph Montgomery’s work installed in Painter Painter

va_2012_painterpainter_bug_alpha[1]In Studio Sessions, our ongoing web series, the 15 artists in the Walker-organized exhibition Painter Painter respond to an open-ended query about their practices. Here New York–based artist Joseph Montgomery discusses how 3D modeling — both actual and virtual — influences his thinking on exhibition making.

My day jobs during and after graduate school were always in the art handling, exhibition design, and fabrication fields. I had the opportunity to work for an array of employers in the art world, both commercial and nonprofit, laying out and installing exhibitions. This taught me about the exhibition process and timeline for artwork after it leaves the artist’s studio.

One specific lesson from these jobs was that digital visualizations of gallery spaces could increase communication by better engaging the artists, curators, art-handlers, and fabricators throughout the installation.

It is common practice for institutions to create visual prototypes or surrogates of both space and art. Museums often use foamcore models – as the Walker, SFMOMA and the Getty do – although some create more permanent models (the Menil Collection in Houston, for instance, created models complete with periscopes to view the miniature galleries at eye level). The process of laying out the shows, moving artwork from wall to wall, is deeply satisfying.

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Scale model of The Menil Collection galleries in the exhibitions department

To further explore the potential iterations of an exhibition’s design, I began using Google’s 3D rendering software, SketchUp, on a repeated basis. Such digital layouts of a space can be both helpful and absurd.

One of the reasons I make paintings the way I do is to render a representation of abstraction. This reasoning extends to the titling of the finished painting: “Image” + a number indicating its place in the progress of the studio project.

Interestingly, the painting is least like itself when it is photographed: dimensions are flattened, textures are approximated as pixels. These transformations complete the image but question the veracity of the representation.
The photographic image creates expectations or assumptions about the object. 3D rendering plays with both functions; a flat image stuck on a 3D rendering of a box poorly describes a physical interaction with the work, but it is also useful. It is sufficient with nearly the least amount of information, and that economy is satisfying to me and amusing, much as the layering and materials of a physical collage are disguised and poorly rendered by a photographic image and yet the flat photographic image is assumed to be the pinnacle of description.

Here are two different images of one of my paintings:

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Image One Hundred Eighty, 2007-13

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Image One Hundred Eighty, 2007-13

And here it is in the SketchUp world:

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Image One Hundred Eighty, 2007-13, rendered in SketchUp

I have used SketchUp earnestly to expand some of the ideas in my work, particularly the shims. It is useful for imagining scale shifts and the extension of lines:

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Before using this free software on my own projects, I discovered it while working on exhibitions for other artists. For example, here is my rendering of a Dan Flavin installation:

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And here’s the layout for Christian Marclay’s first New York showing of The Clock:

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My absolute favorite person to work with, Sherrie Levine, used SketchUp to help visualize her recent show at the Whitney. We had fun with the layout and made an animation from the perspective of someone walking through the third floor of the museum:

WhitneySketchupAnimation from Joseph Montgomery on Vimeo.

As my exhibition opportunities have grown and I no longer work for anyone but myself, I have begun using SketchUp as personal layout tool.

For my recently opened exhibition Five Sets Five Reps at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, I have measured and built the digital version of the Brown Gallery, which is in the northeast section of the museum campus.

Here are three animations, the most recent layout being the last animation.

MASS MoCA Sketchup Version 1 from Joseph Montgomery on Vimeo.

MASS MoCA Sketchup Version 2 from Joseph Montgomery on Vimeo.

MASS MoCA Sketchup Version 3 from Joseph Montgomery on Vimeo.

As you can see from these layouts, I like to mix the types of work together. While we could have laid out the show categorically (shims, collages, canvases, cardboards) and segregate the galleries by type, we instead decided to communicate the fact that each genre’s process, forms, and materials overlap. The differences in the genres exist because there are myriad ways of constructing an image that represents abstraction. I use the processes that both originally excite me and precipitate from progress in the studio. We intend Five Sets Five Reps to provide not a timeline but the paintings in context with each other as fluid catalysts.

The three pieces at the Walker are a miniature version of this kind of installation: three different iterations of the wedge, the shim, play roles in the assembly of three different abstract images.

When I make a 3D version of one of my pieces, I usually just make a rectangular box of the same dimensions and depth and stick the flat image on top of the box.

Here’s a grid view of all the potential work for the MASS MoCA show grouped by type of work (shim, collage, canvas, cardboard):

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And here’s how the three pieces in Painter Painter at the Walker would look in SketchUp:

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In the end, the physical movement of the work throughout the gallery space of MASS MoCA trumped any sort of digital planning. You can see in the installation shots below that not much of the digital starting point remained.
Here are a two install shots.  For the rest you will have to see the show yourself or just imagine it.  I number the galleries beginning with the blue wall as 1, 2, 3, 4, as you walk walk into the space:

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Gallery 1, Five Sets Five Reps, MASS MoCA

Gallery 2

Gallery 2, Five Sets Five Reps, MASS MoCA

The long views from gallery to gallery, the color of the floors, the change in lighting from the windowed room to the halogen bulb–lit rooms all modified what paintings functioned adjacent to each other and what paintings did not belong in the show at all.

While somewhat quixotic, the SketchUp model still has longevity for my studio practice. I look at it occasionally not as folly but as an interactive relic of decision making. It is very much like collage; the parts are moveable.

If any reader would care to, here are the files that would allow you to install your own version of my show at MASS MoCA: paintinggrid.skp, sketchupmassmoca.skp.

On Nonparticipation: Fatos Ustek, Rachel Anderson, Jeanne Dorado

In conjunction with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler‘s exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited a range of voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s […]

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In conjunction with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler‘s exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited a range of voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s practice into literal acts of definition. Following up reflections by Chris Conry, Nabil Ahmed, Keli Garrett, Larne Abse Gogarty, Olga Gonzalez, and Rahila Gupta, we conclude this week by hearing from Fatos Ustek, Rachel Anderson, and Jeanne Dorado. These responses are part of an in-gallery guide created for the exhibition, available in its entirety as a downloadable pdf.

(Non) / 0
By Fatos Ustek
All prefixes are derivational and they provide lexical meaning. The prefix “non” is twofold, standing both for absence and negation. It suffices to show that what has been is no longer there or is not as it used to be. It might indicate a loss, a condition of without and/or amplify the states of lacking. Zero is both a number and the numerical digit used to represent that number in numerals. It has a function in the numeric system and fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures. Zero is also a conceptual image sharing the qualities of “non,” furthering the concept of nothingness. Zero negates and “non” is the counter-positive of something in existence.

The arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, and multiplication are processes that change an existing value by the force of another number. In applied mathematics, when zero is added to or subtracted from another number, it does not cause a change in the numeric value of that number. But when that number is placed in a multiplication relationship with zero, it loses its numeric value. Division is a function that seeks to break up an entity through a denominator. A complication arises in the process of division when the dividend is zero. The result is no longer definable as it attains multiple values simultaneously, hence is assigned NaN (not a number). Both multiplication and division are processes that can activate a major differentiation in value. As with relationships at large, in mathematics a singular value is always the result of multiple couplings and can be derived by multiple means. That is, the outcome of the two values—introduced to one another at a specific gravity-entropy constellation—might be reached by other relations under variant circumstances. A basic example: 60 is an outcome of 2 and 30, also an outcome of 2 and 120, 5 and 12, and so on. Hence the specificity of the mathematical operation is of great significance, especially when complicated formations and values are at hand (i.e., museum and non, museum and participation, non and participation, and so on).

Fatos Ustek is an independent curator and art critic based in London. She is a member of ICI and AICA TR, the editor of Unexpected Encounters Situations of Contemporary Art and Architecture since 2000, author of Book of Confusions (2012), and founding editor of Nowiswere Contemporary Art Magazine (2008–2012).

When This Thread Snaps
By Rachel Anderson
The revolution won’t be led by red flags and the sound of “Bella Ciao”; it won’t be written about by approved academics whose careers we’ve followed and trusted; it won’t elevate the voices of those we long to hear more of, who affirm us and raise our spirits; it won’t fill our airwaves or our ears with solidarity and the justice for which we stand. It won’t happen between respectable hours and in designated areas, and it won’t have an allocated tea station, information board, or “quiet zone.” There will be no training and organized occupations, no sign-up speaking platforms, no “burn out” support group, no PA system fueled by pedal power, no press photos, no high-visibility vests, no polite unauthoratitive signage.

It will come like a flood in the night, with boundless power and uncatchable form, with inconsistence and unpredictability; it will speak with an invisible voice in a language we won’t understand because we never listened before. It will not see us, and it won’t obey our rational demands or follow the path we prepared for it. It will swell and burst. It will be appalling, misplaced, and reckless. It will prioritize the wrong values, it will dance to the wrong songs and laugh in the wrong places; it will be unreasonable, it will be angry, it will be untamable; it won’t understand that we are the good ones who devoted our lives to this time. We will be left with no choice but to join our old enemies in order to put an end to all this, because we have real work to do and a revolution to prepare for.

Note: Last year I went to a socialist film festival to see a documentary about the 2011 London riots called Wonderland: My Child the Rioter, which presented interviews with young people who were involved in these riots and their parents. There was a panel discussion afterward with a working-class family from the north of England who appeared in the film. The young boy was politicized, angry, and radical; he was a very compelling speaker. I think he was studying politics. The first in his family to go to university, he positioned himself as somewhere between anti-capitalist and Marxist. A woman sitting behind me made a comment during the Q&A that went something like this: “You’re a really bright, articulate young man and I want to congratulate you, but most of those who joined the riots last year weren’t being political.”

The riots took place in August 2011 across London and other cities in the UK. They began after the police shot and killed 29-year-old Mark Dugan in North London. Hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets and thousands were arrested and given severe prison sentences; five people died. Because of the extensive looting that took place during the riots, the mainstream voice of the media and public undermines these actions as not being “political.”

Rachel Anderson is a creative producer based in London. She is responsible for Artangel, London‘s Interaction program.

What Would Socrates Say?
By Jeanne Dorado
What do I have in common with Jesus, Rosa Parks, George Washington, Fidel Castro, and a Quaker? Mavericks or misfits, we offer our communities alternative paths to follow and infinite ideas to be considered outside of perceived respective norms. While we look like anyone else within our species, the whole is greater than the sum of our parts. We live nonparticipation fiercely, demonstrating leadership and perseverance while going against the grain. We ask tough questions, rock boats, and challenge paradigms collectively.

You want in? Here’s how:
1. By Discussing World History: Beauty, like history, lies in the eye of the beholder. Globalization has ensured that it’s now easier than ever to discover alternative mainstreams, occurrences, and perspectives. Experience is like a prism with many angles from which comes color and light. The shade of the Mankato Massacre of 1862 moved Minnesota forward as an immigrant state, while simultaneously moving us backwards in morality. The experience of bullying started long before the Internet. So how do we define progress? Can progress be Cuba’s coastal conservation or is progress developing resort Rivieras?

2. By Asking More Questions: Born in the 1980s, I was raised to think I was unique and irreplaceable. While I appreciate the sentiment, if I’m not a retail sales goal, I’m a credit goal, or it’s networking, advertising, unique visits. Return on investment. You’re quantifiable in the eyes of a ledger. Numbers are like origami—you can shape a statistic into almost any form and it will skew up (or down) into a life of its own. Origami is two-dimensional, like the sheet of paper you hold now—turning you into the passive subject being dazzled and deceived into responding to a prescribed need for planned obsolescence and mind-numbing consumption. Carry on. Corporatocracy has all the answers. But what is the meaning behind this, and at what and whose cost?

3. By Being Paranoid: Don’t look now, but someone is out to get you. There’s no composite facial sketch, but by taking an observant look to count the logos, brands, and hype you confront daily, you should start to get the right idea.

4. By Living the Difference: Don’t let habit get the best of you. Innovate and evolve, human! The legend of Jesus is that of ultimate nonparticipation. He said, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor … and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) The one thing that I’m lacking is no things at all? A profound shift, indeed. Prescribed common sense dictates otherwise, but it is possible to survive without 4G or NYSE—much of the world does this every day.

Why bother?

I’d like to secure a healthy blue dot for the exquisite children that shimmer among us, that they might be assured a life-sustaining planet, shaved ice, and the iridescence of soap bubbles. What could possibly be more important?

Sincerely, nonparticipation is necessary to save ourselves from ourselves. I’m leading the parade and fucking for peace.* Now who’s with me?

* By consent and signed waiver only.

Jeanne Dorado is an advertising professional based in Minneapolis. Obsessions: great advertising, cause marketing, qualitative research, ethnography, travel, Julian Jaynes, total market campaigns.

On Nonparticipation: Larne Abse Gogarty, Olga Gonzalez, Rahila Gupta

In conjunction with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler‘s exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited multiple voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s practice into […]

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In conjunction with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler‘s exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited multiple voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s practice into literal acts of definition. Following up last week’s reflections by Chris Conry, Nabil Ahmed, and Keli Garrett, we hear this week from Larne Abse Gogarty, Olga Gonzalez, and Rahila Gupta. These responses are part of an in-gallery guide created for the exhibition, available in its entirety as a downloadable pdf.

The New New Deal in Art and Politics
By Larne Abse Gogarty
Private and public galleries and institutions are often opposed within contemporary art criticism and discourse with public equated with good, ethical practice, and private equated with corporate baddies. This is problematic insofar as very few, if any, “public” institutions are entirely one or the other. Instead, due to declining public funds for the arts, most work on a mixed income of private and public money. However, in relation to the question of the New Deal and nonparticipation, I want to suggest that this dichotomy also fails to think critically about the relationship between art and the state.

In 1940, the Walker Art Center reopened as part of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project within their Community Art Centers division. Along with hosting special exhibitions and the private collection of T. B. Walker, it began to run art classes and mount ventures relating to the local community. The WPA Federal Art Project was a huge relief program for unemployed artists and ran alongside others within “Federal One” such as the Federal Theatre, Music, and Writers Projects.

These WPA programs positioned cultural workers as useful members of society, not romantics locked away in garrets. Art, theater, literature, and music sponsored by the New Deal therefore had to straddle the divide between being “socially useful” and aesthetically interesting; quantifiers that were arbitrated by the New Deal administration as well as art critics, institutions, and audiences. Artists engaged in participatory, politicized, and social practice today are often said to face similar challenges in having to face up to “ethical” as well aesthetic criteria.

Many of the cultural workers employed by the WPA had leftist sympathies, particularly those employed by the Federal Theatre Project (FTP). Famously, director Hallie Flanagan was asked to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1938 and defend the “communistic” tendencies within the plays supported by the FTP. It closed shortly after, largely due to these accusations.

However, those who created works with “communistic” sympathies felt they were indeed being “socially useful”—and that in order to be at all aesthetically interesting, the arts needed to engender forms of resistance to capitalism. This raises the question: socially useful and aesthetically interesting for whom? And how?

When contemporary art discourse derides social practice as instrumentalized, this is because artists are assumed to be doing the job of the state that contributes funding to their creation. What is missing from this debate is a discussion of politics, and intention on behalf of the artist(s). In placing The Museum of Non Participation in conversation with the idea of the New Deal, we get an image of a political order that creates a terrain for conflict, renewal, and a questioning of the relations between state and citizen within the arts. It raises the possibility of the social within artworks as something to be politicized quite explicitly, in a mode that is not didactic but instead capable of prompting a dialectical process for the viewer. All good art is involved with the social. What needs to be asked is what is the “good” in this equation—and thus, where do your politics lie?

Larne Abse Gogarty is a writer and researcher currently doing doctoral research on community art and collective practice in the United States in the History of Art Department at University College, London.

(Non) Participation
By Olga Gonzalez
There is an apparent absence of presence that suggests indifference or maybe worse, collusion and complicity. In Peru, (non) participation in the form of ignorance and prejudice has contributed to a “culture of impunity” despite the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations toward the pursuit of justice. In 2003 when Salomón Lerner, the chairman of the TRC, handed in the final report to President Alejandro Toledo, he said it “contains a double outrage: that of massive murder, disappearance and torture; and that of indolence, incompetence and indifference of those who could have stopped this humanitarian catastrophe but didn’t.”

In the aftermath of violence, “I didn’t know” emerged as a common phrase, particularly among upper- and middle-class citizens in Lima. It seems ludicrous to think that the estimated 70,000 victims during the 20-year-long internal armed conflict would have come as a shocking surprise to Peruvian society. The truth is that everybody knew but not everybody cared about the fate of indigenous Andean people who had become main targets in the war. With their identities conveniently conflated with terrorism, indigenous people were perceived as the enemy. Framed as such, they became what Judith Butler calls “ungrievable lives.” This is the inconvenient truth that everybody knows but pretends not to know. Silence and denial then. Denial and silence today. The absence of justice, always. And we all know it!

In “post-conflict” Peru, symbolic reparations in the form of public apologies, memorials, and museums create the illusion of a nation coming to terms, as does the paradigmatic “Never Again.” To remember is not for all. In Peru, differences between political and ethnic factions are pushed to clear delineation. For economic and political elites who justify the military violence as unfortunate but necessary “excesses of war,” to forget is the only path to reconciliation. For the Quechua-speaking peasants, to erase the traces of any sympathy they could have had with the Shining Path guerrillas, particularly at the beginning of the war, is the only path to become “the innocent victim” entitled to adequate economic reparation. These tensions with memory are reflected in the country’s “sites of memory.” The critical visitor to these places might notice the silences, so tangible in their own invisibility, and attempt to denounce and create the missing stories. In other cases, the visitor’s absence condemns the site to oblivion, making (non) participation a powerful means to question a memorial or museum’s failure to challenge the status quo. We forget that to build does not always mean to construct!

Olga Gonzalez is assistant professor of anthropology at Macalester College. Her research examines the relationships between the politics of memory/secrecy, visuality/representation, truth/reconciliation, and violence/subjectivity in Latin America.

The Journey
By Rahila Gupta
Perhaps nonparticipation should not be written off.

When it is unconscious, it is not worth remarking upon because we do not even know what it is in which we have not participated.

Postmodernism presents nonparticipation as an acceptable, alternate reality and deems the political impulse to change it invalid because that would reintroduce the binary idea of right and wrong.

Nonparticipation, however, might be an act of resistance.

If it is actively chosen because the activity that seeks your participation needs to be critiqued, then nonparticipation or noncooperation becomes a critique (compare with the teachings of Gandhi).

But to make the resistance visible and concrete, steps will have to be taken, and in that process nonparticipation will mutate into something other, its alter ego.

It has been my life’s work as a writer and activist, using every political and artistic strategy, to shift resistance and noncommitment from inaction to action.

Whether it is working with women escaping violence, fighting for the right of disabled children to be embraced by the mainstream, standing up against racism or religious fundamentalism, or treading a careful line between the competing claims of race, gender, and class.

So that it becomes an addiction.

So that it becomes as inevitable as drawing breath.

So that you feel the vibrating energy of a group of people embarking on a joint project.

My artistic endeavor is about setting up a honey trap, snagging your emotions, drawing you in, inviting identification, empathy, analysis—all this embedding a call to action.

But to be true to itself, the artistic impulse cannot live in black and white. It must heighten color, muddy the waters; it must tear at the soul with an irreconcilable sense of contradiction; it must take you to the edge of the cliff. You must experience the breathlessness of falling before it draws you back and allows you the sensation of relief.

You walk unsuspecting into the easy rhythm of a ballad, the embrace of a soap opera, the snare of a thriller.

That part of the journey must not be difficult.

I surrender experiment with form, language, and genre.

It is when you have been lured in that the difficult questions will be posed. It is then that I stand to lose my newly won audience. Will you stick with me through the rest of the journey? Will you heed the call to action? Will you resist this relationship that appears to be based on a denial of agency? Or will the attempt to live up to its standards serve the artistic impulse but strangle the political will?

And when all of that has been bridged and you, as one in a hundred, have made the leap of faith, you must face the imperatives of the political—the contradictions between the quest for numbers and the quality of the participation, the insistence on the right political analysis and the right language.

We argue about language because it embeds attitudes, and yet when language changes to signify a break with the past, the landscape of prejudice often doesn’t change but rather ambushes new words with old ideas.

You walk into this purer-than-pure ideological space of the museum, newly enthused by your brush with art, and feel confused.

The activist needs to understand your journey and needs to learn to embrace you.

Rahila Gupta is a writer and activist. Her recent e.book, The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong, a verse novella, is a love story between a mother and her disabled son.

On Nonparticipation: Chris Conry, Nabil Ahmed, Keli Garrett

In conjunction with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler‘s exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited multiple voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s practice into […]

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In conjunction with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler‘s exhibition The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited multiple voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s practice into literal acts of definition. This week we hear from organizer Chris Conry, artist/writer Nabil Ahmed, and playwright Keli Garrett. These responses are part of an in-gallery guide created for the exhibition, available in its entirety as a downloadable pdf.

What Does It Mean to Not Participate?
By Chris Conry
Let’s start with what “nonparticipation” is not. It is not apathy, protest, or renunciation. Nonparticipation works something like the quantum mechanical concept of the observer effect: to observe a particle is to change it. Nonparticipation is an unstable state that requires consciousness to be observed, but is instantly transformed by that same observation. It starts with pain. Once aware of our nonparticipation, we tell ourselves stories: “I never wanted to be part of that crew.” “The two-party system is inherently flawed.” “I’m the black sheep of this family.” You know there is a thing and you know you ain’t part of it.

Nonparticipation, in another way, is akin to the concept of quantum superposition: a particle exists simultaneously in multiple physical states until it’s observed and gets measured as ice, water, or steam. Nonparticipation is not-yet-participating. During the pain, we have a choice. What is the meaning of our not being an active part of something? Who are we, if we’re not that?

The craft of politics is the self-serving story. I can tell you what it means that the unemployment rate is up, the Dow Jones is down, or the election is too close to call. I can tell you a story to help you be part of (or not part of) some particular set of facts. Nonparticipation, then, is the space where we get to engineer a new story that tangles with, co-opts, or succumbs to the thing we are already re/joining anyhow.

So, if there is a choice to be made, how do we make it?

Once-trusted givers of order are increasingly viewed as unresponsive and self-serving. The US Congress, the church, and the financial system are experiencing crises of legitimacy. People view them as impenetrable or foreign, with power based in history, but ill-suited to our present needs. In response, people are innovating with political forms that are decentralized and democratic: online networks, occupations, and lending circles that are open-ended, personalized, and temporary. These two entities—established institutions and self-organizing people—pose competing claims for legitimacy: one based in authority, the other in authenticity.

So here we are in a museum—excuse me, an art center—that is temporarily hosting a “museum” that is itself not a building, but a multilayered project, including a play by Bertolt Brecht and a reflection on the New Deal. Step outside. In Minnesota we are, in fact, renegotiating the New Deal. Can we afford Medicare? Should we cut Social Security? Should we expand Medicaid? Can we save the New Deal? Do we need a new New Deal? Who’s party to that deal? Should we include immigrants? Should corporations pay? Is working hard and playing by the rules going to get you ahead?

Visiting The Museum of Non Participation, I am reminded that with the pain of alienation, there is freedom. I’m a voter. I’m Lutheran. I have a mortgage. I’m simultaneously a participant and critic of our institutional authorities. As the exceptions to their rule grow more numerous, I have a choice: to plunder what’s left before it is gone or to repurpose and reauthorize what remains.

Chris Conry is an organizer currently working at TakeAction Minnesota, where he leads Organizing a New Economy, a program focused on improving state and federal tax and economic policy.

Notes on Nonparticipation and an Entangled Earth
By Nabil Ahmed
In 1990, the first assessment report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that large-scale global migration due to climate change is the“greatest single impact” on world security. The climate is increasingly acting as a trigger to future conflicts around not only resources but also over migration at an unprecedented scale. A new contested term has entered the political imaginary through an environmental sensibility: climate refugees. The people of the mega deltas and the Island States in the South Pacific, Indian Ocean, or in the Caribbean—Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Maldives, or the Bahamas—face a radical future with the rising oceans and the loss of their state.

Statelessness is in itself not a new concept. Historically, however, it is embedded in either multistate systems or it forms part of a complex national identity, geopolitically present through separatist movements that result in actions ranging from negotiating representation to guerrilla wars. Climate change will produce a completely new definition of stateless population where geographic territory submerges, redefining the very terms of politics that shake the foundations of a political philosophy understood by Carl Schmitt as an epic battle between the land and the sea. Can a state still exist without territory under international law? And what will be the rights of the people? The global north wants to protect a pristine nature that no longer exists, but at the same time use national immigration laws designed as deterrents and as instruments of antagonism, animosity, and violence on the human body.

Nonparticipation might be one way to understand this disparity between the global north and the global south. The first is responsible for the majority of the world’s carbon emissions and extractivist fetishism, while the second pays the price through their historical nonparticipation in the global economy and epistemologies of the north. But I argue it is precisely in their nonparticipation that space for politics in the global south has opened up. The people of the global south share nonparticipation with nature after centuries of domination. In politics after nature in the Anthropocene—the geological epoch coproduced by humans that resonates the deep time of the planet—the global south and nature come to the table for a proposed contract between Earth and its inhabitants, poised between a gesture and a protocol.

Nabil Ahmed is an artist and writer who lives and works in London. He is currently undertaking doctoral research at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, London, where he also teaches. His practice and current research interest is in nonhuman political agency and the making of contemporary ecological interventions in the Bengal Delta.

12.18
(Untitled)
By Keli Garrett

While I wrote this I kept thinking, I guess it is okay that every day approximately thirty-three people die from gun violence. That our violence is quotidian, expected, anticipated, and therefore our sacrament. That when seven women and twenty-six seven-year-olds are shot up, missing limbs and chins and fingers, life will go on here as usual. The NRA guys will get together and buy T-shirts with guns on them, renew their memberships, and assemble to heckle the grieving parents and families of the victims. Surely, I thought, the rest of us shouldn’t be condemned to sharing the same sky with such people. Really? I thought. Yes, really, was the answer.

THE NEW DEAL

I

At any point
when
the violence
has been
too hard
to bear

I’ve checked out
And

checked in
to video
moving picture,
word streams
of aimless,
narcissistic rambling
and have opted in
to commune
with the solipsistic
who center
themselves because
really, what else is there to see?

Potholes and fractures
don’t exist
except in
the movies played by
James Cagney and Matt Damon,
and, really, what else is there? besides those
or the two by two
copy cats
that follow the
same smack
injected into the arms of
nameless cats
Black,
who having no recourse but to play

the words as they are written

happily ingest the poison,
the stuff of which
their dreams will be made,
not of Kubla Kahn
but of
never.

II
In a matter of moments

We were galvanized.

Some ranted
Some ran

We drank instead and
Closed our thoughts
No more dark things

We instead
Dared dream

Nightmares can be forgotten

Deluded
We are what we think

Thanked our lucky stars

On est a l’abri nulle part

That we live in a place
Where one can
Shop all day and night

And that food is copious and plentiful

Plenty

We decided instead
To eat too much

Living the Dream

Devouring our distresses

Anything not to peer into oneself
An abyss without and within

Our holes are vast though,
And nothing will fill them

Keli Garrett is a playwright and performer. She is a 2011 recipient of a McKnight Advancement Grant from the Playwrights’ Center, where she is also a Core Member Playwright.

Non Participation: Acts of Definition and Redefinition

What does it mean to name and define not only a body of work, but a political or philosophical position, an artistic practice, or relationship to a wider social context? These are questions propelling The Museum of Non Participation, a long-running project and Walker exhibition by artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler. Through the very […]

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What does it mean to name and define not only a body of work, but a political or philosophical position, an artistic practice, or relationship to a wider social context? These are questions propelling The Museum of Non Participation, a long-running project and Walker exhibition by artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler. Through the very act of naming and identifying their project under the concept of “nonparticipation,” the artists activate a collective process of inquiry around this inherently malleable and expansive term.

For Mirza and Butler, “nonparticipation” speaks to urgent social conditions and pervasive everyday realities. As they describe it, “one aspect of nonparticipation is to acknowledge that it is a life condition, both consciously and unconsciously exercised in each of our lives. Internationally it exists in the excess of one’s own society, which is often gained at the expense of another’s nameless plight elsewhere. Locally it is recognizable when, for example, people encounter an issue that they believe is valid or necessary—say, homelessness, the right to protest, the Iraq War, but in that simultaneous moment they ignore it or reject it.”

As nonparticipation surfaces in our daily lives, Mirza and Butler assert that rather than being a position of negation or denial, it is a position from which to speak.

In conjunction with The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, we’ve invited multiple voices to address “non participation”—within the context of personal and professional lives or thinking on the convergences of art and political praxis—with the aim of bringing the expansive spirit of Mirza and Butler’s practice into literal acts of definition. In coming weeks, we’ll publish texts written by these international and local collaborators: Nabil Ahmed, Rachel Anderson, Chris Conry, Jeanne Dorado, Keli Garrett, Larne Abse Gogarty, Olga Gonzalez, Rahila Gupta, and Fatos Ustek. These responses are part of an in-gallery guide created for the exhibition, available in its entirety as a downloadable pdf.

For them, nonparticipation is understood variously in relationship to large-scale global migration and climate change, post-conflict situations, endemics of violence, daily habits, agency and identification as a citizen, social welfare, and resistance and revolution.

We extend an invitation to you to take on nonparticipation in your own terms.

Post–The Exception and the Rule

By Susy Bielak, Karen Mirza, Brad Butler, Yesomi Umolu We are about to tell you the story of a journey. An exploiter and two of the exploited are the travelers. Examine carefully the behavior of these people. Find it surprising though not unusual. Inexplicable though normal, incomprehensible though it is the rule – Bertolt Brecht, […]

By Susy Bielak, Karen Mirza, Brad Butler, Yesomi Umolu

We are about to tell you the story of a journey.
An exploiter and two of the exploited are the travelers.
Examine carefully the behavior of these people.
Find it surprising though not unusual.
Inexplicable though normal, incomprehensible though it is the rule

- Bertolt Brecht, extract from The Exception and the Rule

Image courtesy Alexandra Harley/Veronica Ochoa

Image courtesy Alexandra Harley/Veronica Ochoa

Last Thursday night, in the midst of a blizzard, a collection of players and spect-actors created a forum in the Museum of Non Participation. Within the space of the gallery, we enacted a play, Bertolt Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule, whose very subject was on trial.

Also, on trial, were these questions:

  • Where does power reside in the room?
  • Who gets to speak, and who is silenced?
  • Which facets of a narrative will come to light?

Within Brecht’s play , the “rule” implies a legal language or a directive, while the “exception” evokes being ungovernable or searching for an alternative to either the state or the free market. Together, they act as both a statement, that “the rule cannot exist without the exception,” and a question, as to what a state of exception might be. Through the story of a merchant and his servant, The Exception and the Rule explores themes of capitalism and economics, labor and hierarchy, legislation and state ideology, hiding and secrecy, and the lack of union rights.

Image courtesy Alexandra Harley/Veronica Ochoa

Image courtesy Alexandra Harley/Veronica Ochoa

As described in our prior post, a significant part of Karen Mirza and Brad Butler’s engagement at the Walker and in Minneapolis was working together with Twin Cities’ citizens to translate this play, using methods of Augosto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed in a series of four day-long workshops. The performance—presented as a one-night only event–was the culmination of this immersive work. How do you take process-based practice and the intimate space of a closed workshop to the open and very public space of the gallery? These were the challenges and the risks at play as we presented our interpretation of the play to an audience of between 80 – 120 people.

                 7

I am the narrator
I am the translator
I am the transcriber

I am the one who bears witness
To the uncomfortable being of other
In that in-between space

Who holds the tension in this space?
Who has author(ity) here?

- Andrea Jenkins, extract from Deep Privilege

The audience, or spect-actors, were brought into the Rules of Engagement through the Games for Actors and Non Actors:

GameofActors

Within the performance, there were formal contradictions between flow and rupture. Ruptures came from literally breaking out of Brecht’s tale through freeze frames and Forum Theater. Through freeze frames, players and audience alike were able to pause and silence the performance in order to interject narratives/opinions/discontents from their own lives and experiences. In Forum Theater, a real event was enacted in which the spect-actors were invited to take up the position of the oprimido and re-imagine the scenario, in order to affect change.

co-erced, manipulated, guided, coaxed, rehearsed, coddled,
cajoled, nursed, pushed into…..forgetting a—l-l of that mess-s-s-ss-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s through …..

- Veronica Ochoa, extract from of 13 ……

There were tensions between image (Boal) and narrative (Brecht). Throughout the course of the performance, players cycled as readers made their way through the script. Multiple players voiced single characters, while, simultaneously, others generated improvisational tableaus (the body as phonetics). Both pushed against binaries, engaging the simultaneous roles as oppressors and oppressed.

In conclusion, we find ourselves in a contraction, in the space of having generated new modes of language, and acknowledging the limits of language. There’s an inability to find a means to speak to all of the registers on which this work operates–mute, voiced, gestural, political, social, personal, anguished, agent.

(nos)-otr@s *

A reconfiguration of nosotros, the Spanish for WE. There is nos, the subject “we”. This is the people with power [the oppressor, colonizer, privileged] contained with-in—– hyphenated —–yet in constant exchange with the other, el otro, the oppressed. I add the @ to have both-genders-in-one and in order to neutralize the masculine predominance that exists within the Spanish language.

- Rigoberto Lara Guzman

This can’t be the conclusion.

The performance—an ephemeral, manifold act—was, and is, experienced through a host of positions (of body, perspective, etc.). We acknowledge that this work can only be documented collectively. We invite you to join us in the process by adding to the comments stream below.

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