Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If only the racket were that fragile

Oh, no – another email from someone anxious about a potential Occupy Canyon Road protest – this person is worried because her parents can barely make rent on their gallery. But, hello – your parents can join the protest! I'm so sick of people's ridiculous concerns about interrupting business on Canyon Road – all by email, of course. Maybe I have to stop sending out the meeting announcements, someone else might not be so irritated by someone saying their parents would be "super bummed if we followed through on this.”

What is “this,” anyway? There isn't even a plan – I'm not even sure that the group as a whole has any interest. But, I will say that if we’ve only had one brainstorming meeting, and people who signed up to participate in the action already feel this threatened, well then maybe it’s an even better idea than I originally thought.

I don't think that the fact that you have a stake in something means you also can't be critical. If you're paying $30,000 in rent as a gallery owner, and you make $28,000, shouldn’t you recognize the hypocrisy of the whole scam? If you've been trying to get your art into Canyon Road galleries for years, only to face rejection after rejection because you're not painting the right kind of Southwest landscape or scavenging the right kind of Kachina dolls or producing the definitive austere ‘60s minimalism – shouldn't you recognize the viciousness? Or, even if you are a doyenne of the art market, one of those rare artists actually making a living, shouldn’t you still remain critical of the rarefied, exoticized, vapid and consumer-crazed crap that passes as critical or artistic engagement? Even if you love all the art on Canyon Road, or all the art in Santa Fe, or the fact that the whole thing brings millions and millions of dollars into the hands of rich people in this town every year, even if you love all that – shouldn’t you also want to create a culture where making art isn’t the same thing as making a 1000-dollar donut, or where selling art isn't the same thing as selling a new car. Or, where artists can support themselves without having to commodify every gesture, worrying that some small flamboyant, celebratory, and confrontational protest for a few hours on Canyon Road might just pop the whole art bubble. If only the racket were that fragile.

But okay, back to the campsite. It's raining out, and nothing could be better in Santa Fe than rain – at least as far as I'm concerned. At the campsite, it's mostly the straight male drifter crowd – the younger ones this time. Kind of like a party that I'm not invited to, except for the organizer-types that I know, on the side. The organizer-types seem a little too excited about this movement, as they're calling it, but then suddenly they’re talking about occupying Canyon Road also. Really, I say, because I keep getting emails from people who are worried about interrupting business. But no – these organizers are ready, and I'm glad I came down here in the soft wet air, so rare for Santa Fe.

Back at home, I get a phone call from the person who sent me the earlier email – now that I'm in a good mood, I actually enjoy explaining the ideas behind this potential action to her. Apparently she thought it was happening this Friday. Well, no – first we have to plan it. I guess the important distinction is this: we support individual artists, what we want to critique is the art market. Which seemed clear to me from the beginning, but Santa Fe is not exactly a town reveling in the confrontational spirit, oh my…


Furbird said...

Who would want to make art for the rich? For the 1%. Why would anyone want to make them happier or richer? March on the galleries, the museums, the wheelers and dealers of the art world. They are a big part of the problem.

Ah well you know us and our thoughts about the age old question what is art?

Love and hotness

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

I couldn't agree more, my dear…

Love –

The Slow Revel said...

I have seen a $300k+ figure as a 1% cutoff for America, but I've wondered what the 1% cutoff is on a worldwide basis. What percentage of Americans are in that worldwide 1%?
Supposing that 1st World economic exceptionalism has only been feasible with global movement(theft?) of assets from less "enlightened" economies with populations living in vastly inferior conditions to ours, then how do we tell those in their 20s and younger that the economic imperialism well has run dry, AND that the people in those economies deserve a bit of American idealism and freedom along with the American capitalism. Thank you for your SFe reports, I've been following Seattle closely, because the Slog has such good coverage, and the local PHX scene is just a whole nother world of lockdown from your little peace village, with utterly snarky crap coverage by the local VVoice alt-weekly and editorial shrugging that it's good for the number of comments. Cute pics you! I can't believe your galleries don't see the potential media opportunity with this, of course their moneyed viewpoint would be well represented; they really don't know how to operate in the 21st century, do they? No wonder they can't pay the rent.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

The Slow Revel, I was curious about what the 1% level was for the US – and, yes, yes, I wonder what it would be for the world. And, certainly, first world exceptionalism is only possible with global theft, for sure…

That's interesting to hear that the Slog coverage has been good, I'll check that out – for sure that any Village Voice/New Times coverage anywhere would be awful...

And, I'm sure that very soon we will see some kind of consumerist exploitation of the whole Occupy experience – get ready for Urban Outfitters Occupy T-shirts…

Thanks for writing!

Love –

davka said...

It seems that everyone wants to keep with the generalities. The big, abstract slogans, but when it comes to our communities (more like cities or towns) and what needs to happen within them or, at the very least, what we need to begin to talk about to confront the violence of inequity here and now, people start getting really nervous.

These posts about the Santa Fe art market and Canyon Rd have been so great to read. Give me some more time to think and I will tell you exactly why. Haha. I read the things you write and it all stays with me for sometime, continually providing more and more thoughts/questions/understanding.

I can say that a lot of it is relevant to my experience with a small group of OWS supporters here in a small, mostly wealthy and white Southern California town known to be an "art and spiritual mecca" for pathetic New Agey Hollywood types and since moving here a year or so ago, I have been struggling to articulate so many things that enrage me- namely the monopolizing of the art market by super wealthy people making utter crap, crap that appropriates, in the most offensive and ridiculous ways, native cultures and ideas and motifs while initiatives for art programs for poor people and people of color go unfunded. A few friends have a small organic farm here that has so many supporters and facebook fans and as soon as they tried to get kickstarter money for a food justice program so they could provide free CSA shares to poor families, everyone had an excuse or just didn't even pretend to care and I guess it was that moment, about six months ago, that I really realized how full of shit everyone is here.

Anyway, I am going on and on, but these posts have really helped me understand what it is I am frustrated with. Thanks for your voice! My boyfriend came home from work and I had just read the "tourist brochures inside people's hearts" post and I was so excited, trying to summarize it for him and he was smiling at how excited I was. :) It got us talking about a lot. Just a little wave you put out there into the world. How fun!

ok xoxo

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...


"It seems that everyone wants to keep with the generalities. The big, abstract slogans, but when it comes to our communities (more like cities or towns) and what needs to happen within them or, at the very least, what we need to begin to talk about to confront the violence of inequity here and now, people start getting really nervous."

So true!!!

And, "Just a little wave you put out there into the world. How fun!"

So beautiful – thank you!

Love –