Culture Inside/Culture Outside and recent work and influences
Posted by Frank Shifreen on February 28, 2009 at 1:13pm in Art critics / philosophers / writers
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My impulse as a young artist was to create and mount exhibitions, since that is the area in art creation where the reality principle operates, where the forces of control, power and money exercise their will. Economic power acts as a censor and gatekeeper to prevent artistic innovation and experimentation, in my view.
Real Estate is where the rubber meets the road. The difficulty and problem in controlling space is the rationale for temporary autonomous zones as conceived by Hakim Bey. (T.A.Z. Hakim Bey 1985) People without money or power cannot own the space, public or private. For them, space can be used but can not be successfully defended. Stage an action, art show,performance or party and when finished -the crowd melts away. In my view, many of the great developments in modern art have been artists banding together and supporting each others work co-operatively or in many other ways, as opposed to institutional or commercial forms.
My mentor at Teachers College is an Australian artist-professor named Dr.Graeme Sullivan. He is an academician with strong oppositional art practice to his other role . His own artworks are called streetworks- Outsider installations of images and sculpture that he places in various places in the world (www.streetworksart.com). He does not sell or sign them.He leaves them to the mercy of the elements. He documents them.
I think that takes a lot of courage to forgo the egocentricity of art creation.
Dr. Sullivan also wrote a book that is very important. Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in the Visual Arts (Sage 2004). The concept that inquiry is as important in the visual arts as in other forms of knowledge is the basis of his book. Action research, experimentation, identification are critical areas. Art can be a powerful social tool for knowledge acquisition engagement and social activism.
I have organized many exhibitions, almost all of them attempting to change a social dynamic or examine an important issue. My last curated exhibition was called Souped-up Pontiac at the Museum of New Art in Pontiac Michigan may 2008. I invited artists from around the world, including Native American artists, to exhibit works that investigate the contradiction or divergence of Chief Pontiac, a great Ottawa War leader who the city of Pontiac was named for, and the Car brand Pontiac.
I wrote this at the time
Souped-up Pontiac" is an exhibition at the Museum of New Art in Pontiac that runs from May 10th to June 7. It will be a hyperkinetic mash-up of art and visuality by a group of artists from around the world. Art in the show will include live action painting by Dr.Barnaby Ruhe and Frank Shifreen in a battle to the death creating mural sized paintings done on the spot. This is a show of artists talking to other artists and the public is welcome to drop in on the conversation. The name "Souped-Up Pontiac" says Frank Shifreen, is a title that reflects the deep ambiguity of American Culture. Art can depict the realities of our society and give them beauty and meaning. Pontiac is an important symbol of the clash of two worlds. The lost Native American civilization versus automobile consumer culture that was ascendant and now perhaps is in decline. It is an art exhibition that is in turns celebration, elegy, comedy, tragedy and farce. Shifreen chose artists whose work goes deeper than the superficial. Meaning is one of the measures of depth.
Pontiac is a great town and a center of the automobile industry and car culture. The automobile has been an iconic symbol of freedom and prosperity. The ability to travel freely and move over long distances is a powerful lure for those needing a change. Power, mobility, entitlement The car brand Pontiac celebrates the release of its new model "G8" this month. Pontiac is a great American car made by GM. It is interesting that the name "G8" also refers to the Summit of industrial democracies and Russia that meet every year to plan economic policy and to develop consistent strategies for issues rising to the forefront.. It is the most powerful non-governmental economic group in the world. The G8 meetings stress cooperation and opportunity. Critics have misgivings about their intentions and call it a cabal. G8 insists they are not a cartel. Much of what happens in the summit is secret. There have been numerous protests in the streets of cities around the globe in recent years. The exhibition ironically celebrates an automobile with a powerful supercharged engine and a a powerful economic engine with the same name, as well.
The town is named for Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Nation. The story of Pontiac and the First peoples who lived in the Michigan area is a great but tragic counterpoint to the story of Capitalism and industry. Chief Pontiac fought colonization and tried to preserve the land of his people. He organized the most successful war by the First Nations against the European invasion. Dr. Will Grant, one of the artists in the exhibition is of the Chippewa, one of allied Nations of the Three Fires Council. that allied with Pontiac. His family has deep roots in Michigan history and still lives in the North Country. He says "We have lived here for 10.000 years". Other artists reflect these questions and dilemmas as subtext. Modern Art is a bastion of Do-it-yourself wild anarchist joy. Some of the works are not political. Making art itself is a response to Disneyfication of America. Art through the ages is about darkness and light, and this show is in that tradition
I just wanted to share how I think and develop my ideas for exhibitions
I am working with a group of close friends, Gila and Dominique Paris, based in Luxembourg, on a website called Cultureinside, a free artist networking site similar to Ning networks. We are expanding exponentially. We are planning a sister site called Culture Outside, that will be a site developing and creating exhibitions, encouraging artists and curators to to organize shows that will be displayed on site as a catalog. The exhibitions that we select will be leasable to galleries and institutions as well as published in books as part of the process.
I will be coming to Luxembourg this summer and organizing Brick and Mortar exhibitions in Luxembourg
with Gila Paris. One will be called "zeitgeist" and the other will be called "Rooted"
For Brevity I will discuss them in the next post