Tag Archives: Maureen Connor

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-9

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

We began on December 5 and every other day since we have posted a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

We have more installment, of our own thoughts at this time. But today, we take a break for a scrapbook.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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From Susan Bee & Mira Schor, “Introduction,” M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism (Duke University Press, 2000):

We felt, as we consider what we should name our publication, that meaning was the concept most discredited by the market-driven postmodernism that dominated art world discourse in the 1980s. While a journal such as October has staked out its title on the ground of a specific sense of history, M/E/A/N/I/N/G announced an ethical and philosophical dimension. But the slashes (technically, virgules) that separate M from E from A from N from I from N from G not only graphically indicate our connection to the influential contemporary poetry journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, they also break up the possibilities of an uninflected metaphysical belief in meaning. We put the concept back on the table of contemporary art discourse, but with a postmodern twist.

Some background details on how the first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G came into being provide an example of how interventions into art discourse emerge from serendipitous sparks between personal histories and historical moments, and also of how artists, can, on a very small budget and from a space of obscurity, achieve a voice in a large, noisy art world.

The two of us first met when we were children through the acquaintance of our parents, Miriam and Sigmund Laufer and Resia and Ilya Schor, all of whom were artists and Jewish refugees from Europe who arrived in New York City in the 1940s. We met again in the late 1970s, as artists living and working in New York City.

Bee had a great deal of experience in publishing and book design.  She has designed, edited, and produced many small press and commercial publications as well as having designed L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which was co-edited by her husband Charles Bernstein. In the early 1980s, Schor had begun to write about gender representation. In the fall of 1986, our disgust with the increasingly overhyped art scene was the final spur to publishing a journal. Over lunch near our studios in Tribeca, we just said, “let’s do it,” not unlike Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, deciding “let’s put on a show.”

 

Mira and Susan in Provincetown, MA, at St. Mary of the Harbor's Beach, 1984.

Mira and Susan in Provincetown, MA, at St. Mary of the Harbor’s Beach, 1984.

Mira and Susan, with issue #5, spring 1990, in the apartment of Mira's mother Resia, New York City

Mira and Susan, with issue #5, spring 1990, in the apartment of Mira’s mother Resia, New York City

Susan and Mira, photo by Sarah Wells, 1991

Susan and Mira, photo by Sarah Wells, 1991

We held a party to celebrate our final print issue, it was on Mira’s birthday, June 1, 1996. Here are some of our friends and contributors from the first ten years of M/E/A/N/I/N/G.

l. to r., Martha Wilson, Carolee Schneemann, and Emma Amos, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

l. to r., Martha Wilson, Carolee Schneemann, and Emma Amos, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996.

l. to r., NIna Felshin, Maureen Connor, and Emily Chen, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

l. to r., Nina Felshin, Maureen Connor, and Emily Cheng, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Carolee Schneemann and David Humphrey, June 1996.

Carolee Schneemann and David Humphrey, June 1996.

Brad Freeman and Johanna Drucker, 1996.

Brad Freeman and Johanna Drucker, 1996.

Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

David Diao and Mimi Gross, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

David Diao and Mimi Gross, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Susan and Mira, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Susan and Mira, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

We had a reception at Accola Griefen Gallery in New York December 15, 2011, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G:

Mira and Susan, photo ©)Lawrence Schwarzwald

Mira and Susan, photo © Lawrence Schwartzwald

l. to r.,Tom McEvilley, Jerry Rothenberg, and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery, December 15, 2011

l. to r.,Thomas McEvilley, Jerome Rothenberg, and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery, December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

Bradley Rubenstein and Joan Waltemath, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery December 15, 2011

Bradley Rubenstein and Joan Waltemath, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

Reception for 25th anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Accola Griefen Gallery, NYC, with Kat Griefen, Kriten Accola, Jackie Brookner, Bob Berlind, Toni Simon, Lenore Malen, Nancy Princenthal, and more, December 15, 2011

Reception for 25th anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Accola Griefen Gallery, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, with Kat Griefen, Kristen Accola, Mary Lucier, Jackie Brookner, Bob Berlind, Judith Linhares, Nancy Princenthal, Lenore Malen, Bradley Rubenstein, Hermine Ford, and more, December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

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Time passes, but friendships and community continue.

From l. to r., Johanna Drucker, Susan Bee, Mimi Gross, and Mira Schor at the opening of "Views and Vignettes: The Work of Miriam Laufer," Susan's mother, at the Provincetown ARt Association and Museum, August 11, 2016

From l. to r., Johanna Drucker, Susan Bee, Mimi Gross, and Mira Schor at the opening of “Views and Vignettes: The Work of Miriam Laufer,” Susan’s mother, at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, August 11, 2016.

from l. to r., Mimi Gross, Susan Bee, and Mira Schor, at the opening of their show "Three Friends," at Tim's Used Books, Provincetown, August 19, 2016.

from l. to r., Mimi Gross, Susan Bee, and Mira Schor, at the opening of their show “Three Friends,” at Tim’s Used Books, Provincetown, August 19, 2016.

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One more installment of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here this week with statements by Susan Bee and Mira Schor.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-4

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

Every other day from December 5 until we are done, a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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Susanna Heller: A Pussy in the Boardroom

susanna-heller-new-detail-img_4619

Susanna Heller, ACTUAL SIZE (A Pussy in the Boardroom), December 2, 2016. Oil, fabric, mixed media on wood, canvas and board, 32 x 28 inches spherical, detail.

In the sphere pictured above you see visceral images: paint marks, line marks, blobs, scumbles, drips, and shapes evoking pussy’s world. The escalation, diminishment, or distortion of pussy’s scale, shape,and actual appearance occurs in every person, but the most powerfully destructive distortions are those coming from that great circle of violent power: the men at the table!

Where is MEANING now? One of many places to find meaning is in the glorious force of the physical weight of marks on surface, something I have always nicknamed ‘groiny-ness’.  Whether making things or experiencing things, groiny-ness is empowering and brings courage and joy.

More and more I realize that simply insisting on this feeling in one’s life and work is pretty frightening and challenging to the boardroom-table-men.

Susanna Heller was born in New York. When she was 7, her family moved to Montreal, Canada. After completing college at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Heller returned to New York in 1978. She has lived and worked in Brooklyn since 1981. Her awards include grants and fellowships from the NEA, Guggenheim Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Canada Council, and Yaddo. She is represented by the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto, John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY, and at MagnanMetz gallery in New York.

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Rachel Owens

Rachel Owens, Ginny’s Fist, broken glass and resin, 2015.

Rachel Owens, Ginny’s Fist, broken glass and resin, 2015.

rachel-owens-mothers-fist-text

Rachel Owens lives and works in Brooklyn. Her first job in NYC was helping Mira Schor where she first read M/E/A/N/I/N/G. She makes sculptures, performances, and videos, teaches at SUNY Purchase College, and works with people in all parts of the world. La Lutte Continue!

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Mary D. Garrard: Three Letters

Dear Enlightened Men,

Thank you for supporting Hillary, even though you never really got it. Nor could you have, unless you’d lived it viscerally, and your support of her is a credit to your moral imagination. But you never understood that to see her candidacy through the narrow prisms of her emails and her flaws (as if our greatest heroes didn’t have any flaws) was to distort reality and deflect the energy. Many of you are saying that this election was really about race, and Obama. Pent-up resentment was part of the story, but this time it was her name on the ballot, and her face in the crosshairs. You kept on saying that she just didn’t inspire us. What do you mean us, kemo sabe? Electing Hillary Clinton president was never some kind of tokenist box-checking, it was the end point of a long historical arc that, we now know, may not necessarily bend toward justice. It was to have been, as one writer (male) put it, the fulfillment of Seneca Falls.

 

Dear Clueless Women,

You say that to vote for her because she is a woman would be sexist. No, it wouldn’t. It would be a recognition that the little extra that is always required of women was especially needed now. To fixate on her rare flashes of self-interest or, for god’s sake, her ambition, in the face of the spectacular evidence in this election of patriarchy’s ever-present leer – pathetic or menacing, depending on its power status – is to be blissfully unaware that the butcher’s fat thumb is always on the scale. Until now, when the opportunity to embody and symbolize women’s fully equal humanity was so close at hand. Hillary herself has called out eloquently to little girls, as the standard-bearer of the most recent generation to put up a political fight for what was once called women’s liberation. It’s a liberation that has yet to fully take root in our psyches, but will eternally bloom in the hearts of little girls.

 

Dear Hillary Rodham Clinton,

As a participant, like you, in that now historical women’s movement, I want to thank you on behalf of our generation. Thank you for accepting and taking forward the torch that, in the reach of historical memory, was first ignited in the fifteenth century by Christine de Pizan, and carried proudly by Laura Cereta, Lucrezia Marinella, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and so many others. Sure, it’s comforting to hear you say that a woman will be president one day, maybe sooner than we now think. But it’s cold comfort to realize that once again, a woman has paid a steep price for challenging the patriarchy, and once again the women’s agenda has been subordinated to supposedly more pressing concerns. This long struggle for equality has seen both victories and defeats, and I am so sorry you had to be the sacrificial lamb this time. But you have brought fresh energy and inspiration to the cause, and you’ve given us another role model for the dream that will never die. Thank you, Hillary, for showing a new generation of women and girls what feminism is. We are all so very proud of you.

Mary D. Garrard, Professor Emerita at American University, is the author of Artemisia Gentileschi (1989), and many other writings on women artists and gender issues in art history, including Brunelleschi’s Egg: Nature, Art and Gender in Renaissance Italy (2010). With Norma Broude, she co-edited and contributed to four volumes on feminism and art history, including The Power of Feminist Art (1994). Broude and Garrard were activists in the Feminist Art Movement of the 1970s and ‘80s; Garrard was the second president of Women’s Caucus for Art.

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Kate Gilmore

"It was the Future- Hillary and Mom," 1996.

“It was the Future- Hillary and Mom,” 1996.

Kate Gilmore lives in NY. She has participated in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, The Moscow Biennial (2011), PS1/MoMA Greater New York, (2005 and 2010), in addition to numerous solo exhibitions. Gilmore is Associate Professor of Art and Design at Purchase College, SUNY, Purchase, NY.

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Maureen Connor

For my contribution I’ve used quotes from M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online #4’s Feminist Forum, 2007, as responses to the 2016 election. All of the essays from that issue were moving and inspiring; I’ve chosen these excerpts because for me they can serve as reminders and guides over the next four years.

Sheila Pepe, writing about her mother: As a Sunday painter and homemaker, visibility was not an issue for Josephine. Not like it is for her daughter and her artist colleagues. Service was Josephine’s guiding principle, and as much as I once completely rejected this call as decidedly anti-feminist, I now know its great value. Directing one’s work in the service of a greater good is at the heart of social justice, and therefore, Feminism. And that the art world, no matter how progressive it perceives itself to be, no matter how well the objects it produces claim the ground of good politics, the mechanism of it will always benefit from some old fashioned feminist practice: women willing to work toward a more complex and equitable future.

Carolee Schneemann: (Notes from 1974 for Women in the Year 2000 by CS) In the year 2000, books and courses will only be called, “Man and His Image,” “Man and His Symbols,” “Art History of Man,” to probe the source of disease and mania which compelled patriarchal man to attribute to himself an his masculine forbears every invention and artifact by which civilization was formed for over four millennia.

Faith Wilding: I am NOT interested in canonization or star-making or genius pronouncements. Rather I’m calling for a kind of deep socio-cultural history that can be helpful to all generations of feminists, students, artists, in understanding specifically how feminist artists have used the philosophy, politics, and practices of feminism to embody new images, visions, inventions, ideas, processes, and ways of doing things differently. Dissing “cunt art” was like shooting fish in a barrel for art critics, but let’s see them engage in specific discussions of how feminism can be (and is) embodied as an aesthetic, and as a LIVED ethics of justice.

Mira Schor, speaking about giving tours at the feminist installation, Womanhouse in 1972: One day when I was there, a number of middle-aged ladies from the neighborhood came by in their housedresses. As our little group of young feminist art students realized that we were approaching Judy Chicago’s Menstruation Bathroom, filled with feminine hygiene products and “bloody” tampons, we melted away, leaving these ladies to their own devices. Later, they came to find us and laughingly chided us for thinking they would be embarrassed. I realized how much we were still girls while they were women, and also how one should never underestimate any audience for art.

Maureen Connor, collage with photo of “Thinner Than You”, 1990 and images of Fasicat Sexy Whole Body Stockings Unisex Bondage Sheer Encasement Cocoons, 2016

Maureen Connor, collage with photo of “Thinner Than You”, 1990 and images of Fasicat Sexy Whole Body Stockings Unisex Bondage Sheer Encasement Cocoons, 2016

Maureen Connor’s work combines installation, video, interior design, ethnography, human resources, feminism, and radical pedagogy. Current projects include Dis-con-tent, a series of community events that considers the human story behind certain medical advances; and her ongoing projects Personnel and with the collective Institute for Wishful Thinking (IWT), both of which aim to bring more democracy to the workplace. Now Emerita Professor of Art at Queens College, CUNY where she co-founded Social Practice Queens (SPQ) in 2010 in partnership with the Queens Museum, she also co-founded the Pedagogy Group, a cooperative of art educators from many institutions who consider how to embody anti-capitalist politics in the ways we teach and learn.

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Bailey Doogan

Fingered Smiles

Bailey Doogan, Split-Fingered Smile and Four-Fingered Smile, 2013. Graphite on Duralar with Prismacolor on verso, 36” x 24”

Bailey Doogan, Split-Fingered Smile and Four-Fingered Smile, 2013. Graphite on Duralar with Prismacolor on verso, 36” x 24”

These graphite self-portrait drawings, Split-Fingered Smile and Four-Fingered Smile, done in 2013 continue a series of works about manipulating my face to feign a pleasant, socially acceptable expression. I was invited to an opening that I couldn’t refuse, and so I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and used my own hand to push and pull smiles and grins onto my face. Thus a series of large charcoals, small paintings, and these graphite drawings ensued. This body of work from 2008 to 2013 alternately deepened, and ultimately purged, my depression. This July I started a series of paintings of women in long skirts.

Bailey Doogan, Skirt I and Skirt II, 2016. Gouache and oil on primed paper, 17” x 11”

Bailey Doogan, Skirt I and Skirt II, 2016. Gouache and oil on primed paper, 17” x 11”

Skirts

These small paintings on primed paper are the first two works in a series entitled Skirts. They were begun in July 2016. For years, my work has been about the body, usually women’s bodies, often specifically my own. I have always worked from photographs and for the past five years I’ve been unhappy with that process.

The first painting, Skirt I started as an earnest attempt to paint a portrait of my daughter’s Chihuahua, Kiko. After a few strokes quickly done, the women in the skirt appeared. My heart pounded. I kept on painting. I didn’t have a thought in my head. I was filled with joy. There are now six Skirts. Trump was elected. I cried for days but these paintings still fill me with joy, The skirts have a life of their own, girding and girdling my loins—Donald Trump can’t become my president, not mine.

Bailey Doogan is a seventy-five-year old artist living in Tucson, AZ and Nova Scotia, Canada. She is Professor Emerita at the U of A where she taught for thirty-two years. In 2009, she was awarded a Joan Mitchell Painting Grant.

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Suzy Spence: Plotting

We’re so ready, so it’s a shock to learn that society is still not ready for us. There will be no basking in Hillary Clinton’s matriarchal glory. The difficult election proves that progressive politics were not as well seeded as we’d thought. To their credit Mira and Susan’s first issues of M/E/A/N/I/N/G read as if they were written today: gender and racial dissonance are the subject of most of the critical writing from the 80s and 90s and those concerns continue to be central. For sure leftist ideals once relegated to the university fringe have slowly infiltrated the mainstream, in part enabled by the massive transition we’ve made to live a portion of our lives online. It’s as if the digital age has allowed our collective consciousness to grow a subterranean stem, changing our perspectives in ways we could never have predicted.

That said, coming of age in the era of Obama was a stroke of luck for some of us. At eleven, my child is already meeting our immediate predicament with resistance. She is obsessed with the play Hamilton; its multiracial cast and tight poetic score are as poignant to her as the story being told. Nothing Lin Manuel Miranda intended to lay raw is lost on this child, she is for it, and of it.

I’ve also been struck by the work of two young journalists at The Guardian who produced a video series that’s run parallel to election news called The Vagina Dispatches. Mona Chalabi and Mae Ryan’s earnest, confessional reporting is hopeful, and reminds me that the fringe can always work the back end, in order to make the front end look deeply unstable. Their first episode asks the blunt question, “do you know about vaginas?”  The reporters demonstrate anatomy using puppets, photography, quizzes — the material feminist artists have reached for time and again, but this go round is for the general public. They reveal there is a terrible lack of knowledge (almost as shocking as Hillary’s loss), but it’s remarkable to see a major newspaper supporting their earnest investigations, indeed putting them on the home page.

In the final episode Chalabi wears a soft costume vagina on a trip to Washington DC, her head popping out near the clitoris, the labia spreading around her sides. Somehow she manages to stroll nonchalantly about the Lincoln Memorial, stopping briefly in front of Lincoln’s spread legs. In doing so I felt she sent the message that being invisible doesn’t necessarily mean being without agency. In other words even if we’re hidden we can still be plotting. The problem of countering misogyny and racism will be ongoing, a giant project handed down from one generation to the next for as long as it takes.

Suzy Spence, Untitled, 2016. Paint on paper, 11”x14

Suzy Spence, Untitled, 2016. Paint on paper, 11”x14

Suzy Spence is an Artist and Curator who divides her time between Vermont and New York.

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Faith Wilding

faith-wilding-scan-3-new

Faith Wilding is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, educator.  Co-founder of the feminist art movement in Southern California. Solo and group shows for forty+ years in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Southeast Asia. Her work addresses the recombinant and distributed bio-tech body in various media including 2-D, video, digital media, installations, and performances. Wilding co-founded, and collaborates with, subRosa, a reproducible cyberfeminist cell of cultural researchers using BioArt and tactical performance to explore and critique the intersections of information and biotechnologies in women’s bodies, lives, and work.

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Further installments of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here every other day. Contributors will include Alexandria Smith, Altoon Sultan, Ann McCoy, Aziz+Cucher, Aviva Rahmani, Erica Hunt, Hermine Ford, Jennifer Bartlett, Jenny Perlin, Joy Garnett and Bill Jones, Joyce Kozloff, Judith Linhares, Julie Harrison, Kat Griefen, Legacy Russell, LigoranoReeese, Mary Garrard, Michelle Jaffé, Mimi Gross, Myrel Chernick, Noah Dillon, Noah Fischer,  LigoranoReese, Robert C. Morgan, Robin Mitchell, Roger Denson, Tamara Gonzalez and Chris Martin, Susan Bee, Mira Schor, and more. If you are interested in this series and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to A Year of Positive Thinking during this period, by clicking on subscribe at the upper right of the blog online, making sure to verify your email when prompted.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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Free Speech

Free speech seems to be the latest thing, but in a strangely nostalgic way. This coming Saturday alone in New York City there are at least two events which will feature readings out loud from historical and contemporary political texts. Unfortunately I can’t be in two places at the same time so I won’t be able to attend “‘A riot is the language of the unheard’: an exercise in unrestrained speech” at The Rose Auditorium of Cooper Union at 4PM but wish I could. The event announcement includes this description:

Taking its cue from a quote from a 1968 speech about injustice and freedom by Dr. Martin Luther King, this public event engages in the use of the voice in imagining collective and political speech through short readings by artists, scholars, writers, poets, musicians, and speakers.

The event features a variety of contemporary and historic material such as re-performed texts, poetry, experimental theater, pedagogic exercises, as well as everyday collections of testimonials, essays, and private ruminations.

Envisioned as a “rough cut” anthology of live subversive speech acts, “A riot is the language of the unheard” is an experimental tribute to parrhesia, or defiant and confrontational speech. As surveillance and force is becoming increasingly utilized to control and manage resistance, this program seeks to address how the right to speak is also a politics of listening.

Later that day, from 6 to 8 I will be among a few artists invited to read at the closing event for an exhibition organized by some of my MFA students at Parsons, “Question for Revolution and Universal Brotherhood” where performances have included other public readings of political texts with an emphasis on utopian possibilities, some from the past but all for the current era. Invited participants at the closing events will also include Maureen Connor, Andrea Geyer, Heather Love, John T. McGrath, and Alex Segade.

Last week saw an iteration of the Free University in New York City, first initiated last May 1, with seminars taking place in the open air at Madison Square Park over a four day period, an Occupy-related event for once unmolested by the NYPD. Discussion included topics such as “What is Money – What is Debt” led by Sue Waters, “The Sirens and Subjection: Homer, Kakfa, and Adorno” led by Julie Napolin, “Letters to a Young Artist: What should young artists know?” led by Caroline Woolard (which was planning to begin with a reading and discussion on Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet), and “Discussion of The Alienated Librarian” led by Chris Alen Sula (a discussion inititated with students from Pratt Institute’s School of Information & Library Science of Marcia Nauratil’s 1989 book “The Alienated Librarian,” which examines the work of librarians from a labor perspective. (for the full schedule of events that took place September 18-22, click on the Five Day Schedule link on this Free University Page and for more photos from the event you can look at their Flickr page).

Inspired by the idea of the Free University, on Sunday October 14, I will lead a similar type of reading of Bill Readings’ predictive 1997 book The University in Ruins at Momenta Art as part of the current exhibition Occupy Your BFF, an exchange of ideas with Occupy Wall Street, with the involvement of Occupy related groups including the Arts&Labor group. Institutions including Parsons The New School of Design and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts are hosting some of the events listed on this schedule.

This ferment, in the case of these examples mentioned above, has centered around education within and beyond the confines of the university and in many instances focused on political texts from earlier moments of political fervor, conflict, and engagement is part of a world wide growing movement of radical critique of post-War neo-liberalism and the ravages of global, unregulated super capitalism. In the US the increase in such activity seems to be framed by the crash of the 2008 economy and the upcoming election, although some within the Occupy Movement are so convinced of the evil of the two lesser of two evils argument of our electoral choices that they are rejecting participation in the vote.

While many media voices declare that Occupy is dead or has failed, discussion about the political and economic situation and how to affect it positively, continues, large or small, public events such as the ones at educational institutions or on web-based projects such as Nicholas Mirzoeff’s year long daily blog Occupy 2012 or in small ongoing private discussion groups, the large meetings inspirational and occasionally dramatic (as people on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook share news pictures of huge mass demonstrations around the world, usually not discussed at any length if at all on American mainstream media, including such liberal sites as MSNBC, which focus on domestic events, with a tendency to get seduced by the horse-race aspect of electoral and party politics in the US). The smaller groups are interesting and moving in another more intimate way. I should note that including the Free University, I have attended only a couple of events in recent weeks, so my view is pretty limited but my sense is of a tender struggle, with a desire for positive social inclusion at the level of the everyday, for modest cumulative efforts to interject criticality but also small tangible moments of community and warmth into a media entertainment, corporatized, corrupted and alienated culture. Some of these efforts have a tentative aspect which may lead to media commentary of the death of Occupy, but these small meetings, as much as the larger public events such as the occupation of Zuccotti Park, at least reveal to each individual that they are not alone in their hopes and desires for a different and better world.

The turn to historical texts is significant in this regard. My totally unscientifc and personal view is that from the French Revolution, if you really want to go far back, through the Russian Revolution, to the crucible of the Great Depression with its powerful political battles between totalitarianism, fascism, communism and progressive liberalism, great union movements, and great battles for civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights, up to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the voices for political engagement were sharp, confident, fearless, funny, inspiring, historically rooted, with deep roots in the assertion of rebellion. The 1980s marked the beginning of the institutionalization of some of these voices into the university but underscored with a growing disappointment with the “failure” of the 60s and a creeping complicity with the corporatization of the world.

The turn to the historical texts and voices indicates a current thirst for the courage, eloquence, and, after thirty years of the triumph of irony, for the authenticity of such voices. At the same time it is quite interesting to note the trend towards re-performance, recently a hot subject of debate with regards to performance art. Events, political actions and interventions, and artworks whose contingent nature was completely a part of their meaning are now being not just celebrated but also re-performed under quite luxurious and heavily promoted circumstances–things artists and political thinkers did in conditions often of near anonymity, not that many such figures did not seek attention for their causes and themselves and document their practices as best they could, but I still would describe as near anonymity relative to current conditions of instant self-documentation, promotion, and commodification on pretty much everyone’s part. One problem is that questions of political belief and authenticity are still hard to bring up, in fact I type these words with censorious critical voices loudly whispering in my ear!

The interest in something like a Free University is also an indication, a recognition that things are not quite so rosy in institutions of higher education, just as they are not rosy in the public school system, in fact in every system. The moral economy of the 1% occurs in every part of culture: we see some of the public protests against the marketization of education, in faculty and student protests against closing of liberal arts departments, libraries, and archives and in the firing of even University Presidents, or, rather, some of these situations are so egregious that they actually get some coverage, but also we see the kinds of small repressions and erosions of  knowledge bases that take place throughout the university system in favor of new global imperatives connected to the very same system critiqued by the Occupy movement. Some things will no longer be taught, and thus eventually some may then reappear in the small instances of extra-institutional education Free University proposes and is just one example of, or indicator of the need for–all the more significant as higher education becomes too expensive for even upper middle class people and begins to seem non-cost effective as jobs do not exist for the subjects being taught, particularly in the liberal arts and arts.

This is what has led me to be interested in extra-institutional teaching situations though perhaps it may be therefore inferred that even some such erosions and repressions take place right in the middle of the most progressive institutions in the name of the most advanced political positioning.

In this blog I have occasionally linked to some of the stirring political speeches and the closeness to historical turmoil that marked the generations before me. These  framed my initiation into politics in my early teens: the admiration (the word is not sufficient) my parents’ generation had for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the policies of the New Deal–which current Right Wing politics in the US are intent on finally at long last repealing, after 80 years of concerted efforts to do so. My parents’ experiences with fascism and the Holocaust and the formative experiences of their American friends in the Great Depression and during  the post-war McCarthy era were a strong influence on me as I grew up listening to their stories. In recent years as labor unions have come under attack, I have often thought about the general tendency towards progressive political thinking within immigrant groups in the US that had experienced political and religious repression in the lands of their birth and how these tendencies were part of what drove the labor union movement in the US in the early twentieth century. The political figures who I witnessed through the 60s and 70s had been formed in these crucibles and carried their traces still even as post-war economic conditions began to shift towards the situation we are currently struggling against. These are just some of the experiences that marked the atmosphere of the pre-1980s period as I experienced them, as were the examples of civil rights leaders and workers such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King Jr.

My interest in the possibilities of the structure of Free University seminars is based on experiences I have related on this blog before, in a provocatively titled and, significantly, pre-Occupy post, including one comment that alas will ring in my mind for years, a student’s negative comment in a faculty evaluation of me to the effect that “she made us listen to a speech by Martin Luther King” in a seminar on contemporary art issues (King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered April 4, 1967, a year exactly before his assassination). Apparently the market based expectations of students (how will this help me be a viable contemporary artist and promote my work?) clashed with my feeling that certain kinds of speech are more important than the orthodoxies of critical theory or some art discourse as well as art market gossip that still hold sway even as such types of speech are now being celebrated in the events that I mentioned at the beginning of this post happening this week in educational and alternative art institutions this week in New York City.

Politics is not for the faint of heart and can be mind-spinningly complex and soul-breakingly frustrating, as are most human beings, and because of that an engagement with politics can end up making people flee back to the interests of their daily lives. As in the past it is the realization that the safety and comfort of those personal lives are contingent and subject to larger historical forces that turns our attention again to political speech from other times when such threats were also great and yet a political perspective was more part of common thought.

*

Despair and possibility for political activism through speech are also concerns of my current visual work:

Mira Schor, The Bland Face of An Untransparent Authority, ink and gesso on tracing paper, 2012 — a pessimistic realist view

Mira Schor, Voice and Speech, 2010. Ink and rabbit skin glue on gesso on linen, 2010. The optimistic activist view

 

 

 

 

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Ongoing Upcoming

I really felt that my mother understood me when, at the beginning of one of our many summers together in Provincetown, as I was getting the house and garden ready, I overheard her telling a friend on the phone, “You know, Mira is very busy, she hasn’t started working yet.”

When I say “my work” I always mean painting, next is writing which is part of the constant process of thinking, and the rest is just work work, job work. I always say that I can paint and write at the same time, the two occupations are complementary and mutually generative. I can teach + try to do all the things one must try to do in order to maintain a professional life, that is, all the things that make all of us say and feel that we are so busy that we have no time to think expansively, spend time with our dearest friends, or do much of anything that might be restful, pleasurable, or generative of new ideas–with a modicum of clean clothes and cooked dinners now and then–and also write, maybe, or maybe also paint, maybe. I can’t do all three, my work, writing, and the big busy of work work job work: this winter writing for A Year of Positive Thinking has proved impossible as I have prepared for a show which just opened and a conference to be held this week while teaching intensely absorbing new courses and the rest of the daily stuff that must get done from the never finished “to do” list.

I really miss writing for the blog and hope to return to it very soon. Meanwhile here is what I’ve been working on and some of the ongoing and upcoming events I’m involved with.

Exhibition: Mira Schor Voice and Speech

I hope you can see my exhibition at Marvelli Gallery in New York City, which just opened and is up until April 28th.

See “The Thing Itself: Mira Schor + Bradley Rubenstein,” a recent interview about the work in the show.

I will do a reading at the gallery April 21 at 6PM to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of A Year of Positive Thinking and will send out more information about that closer to the date.

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Conference: This week on Thursday, April 5th:

Art Practice, Activism, and Pedagogy: Some Feminist Views

The conference will consider feminist art as a zone of multi-disciplinary art production associated with a radical critique of gendered power relations in society. The women artists participating will speak about their current work, their history within feminism, and the relevance of feminist identification and communities to their creative endeavors. They will discuss what it means to be a feminist artist today within an extended range of diverse political engagement.

Speakers include Susan Bee, A. K. Burns, Audrey Chan, Maureen Connor, Andrea Geyer, Caitlin Rueter & Suzanne Stroebe, Ulrike Müller, and Mira Schor. The conference concludes the first MFA Advanced Practice course in Feminist Art taught by Mira Schor in the Parsons Fine Arts MFA Program.

This event is FREE: no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

Parsons The New School for Design Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall

55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY

Schedule:

*9AM Brief introductory remarks

*Group 1 (9:15)

A.K. Burns, Andrea Geyer, Maureen Connor

*Group 2 (11am)

Susan Bee, Ulrike Müller, Mira Schor

*Lunch break

*Group 3 (1:45pm)

Caitlin Martin-Rueter & Suzanne Stroebe (collaborative+individual presentation), Audrey Chan

*General discussion

The conference concludes the first MFA Advanced Practice course in Feminist Art taught by Mira Schor and at 4PM there will be a screening of MFA student work from the class at the Fine Arts MFA Program studios at 25 East 13th Street, 5th floor.

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Also Ongoing & Upcoming:

*I have an essay in Draw it with your eyes closed: the art of the art assignment published by Paper Monument. The book has gotten rave reviews including one by Dwight Gardner on the New York Times artsbeat blog. Take a look, it’s a great resource, serious and entertaining at the same time.

*CB1 Gallery at the Dallas Art Fair–with Alexander Kroll, Chris Oatey & Mira Schor, April 12-April 15

*Take a look at Agape Enterprise‘s Kickstarter Project and support Momenta Art at their upcoming Spring Benefit 2012 on April 25th at 6PM-10PM

*And do take another look at M/E/A/N/I/N/G‘s 25th Anniversary Edition, published in late 2011. Susan Bee and I are immensely proud of it and hope that readers will continue to come to the important texts by the many artists and writers who contributed to this issue. It is also available on Amazon Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

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