Temp Expert: Making Museums Moral Again
“When the artists go, resistance goes, and rebellion is the foundation of interesting art and a moral life.”
I was skimming the recently assigned article (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/17/arts/design/making-museums-moral-again.html?_r=0), very intrigued. For one, I used to think my path lay in museum studies. I’ve love museums my entire life. As a child I’d beg my parents to take me to museums. When I realized I moved to NYC I was excited to get that much closer to my goal of being the kids in the mixed up files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler no joke. My first internship was at the met and my first job out of college was working in a contemporary art museum’s education department.
Now I find myself as a community organizer, activist and artist. I’m friends with the folks in Not An Alternative and Occupy Museums. Part of the reason I left the museum field was because of frustrations with the institutions, the capitulations to donors who often carried their own interests above the publics. My sister is currently working with a social practice artist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and has on more than one occasion considered quitting over museum politics interfering with the project’s aims.
I’m currently working with the illuminator, a projection collective that “shines a light” on social justice issues. Some members of the collective were actually arrested for an anti-Koch brothers piece projected on the outside of the met.[Gentrification is reality in new york.] The Illuminator is currently part of the Agitprop! show at the Brooklyn Museum, along withh Not an Alternative and Occupy Museums. There were protests at the BMA last fall because they hosted a realtors conference that was pro-gentrification. The current director is the former head of Creative Time so takes issues seriously, listened to the artist and organizers and decided to devote a room in the show to the protests, allowing the commentary of the institution to exist within the institution. We’re creating a documentary that asks how museums exist for the public good.
To return to the quote above, the sentiment feels weak to me considering the aims of this piece. Rebellion is the foundation of interesting art and a moral life? This sounds like some bourgeois milquetoast bs, just the kind of upper class diction that’s pervasive in these institutions. “Oo wouldn’t a rebellion just be fun and its enough to remind us that we need to be decent human beings.”
Unfortunately as it stands, old guard institutions like the Met stand more for authority and commodification than risqué, rule-breaking and thought-provoking experiences. And that’s because they still cater to their old funders and donors.