In the spring of 2007 I conceived a performance piece titled ‘Counter Intrusion’ as part of an exhibition at Inspire Fine art that I was having during the Art in Chicago “art fair”.
Art in Chicago is one of many contemporary art “festivals” that act as conventions for fine art. Commercial (and sometimes non profit) galleries pay a rental price to have a section of physical space in a large convention hall. They divide up the space and show their wares much in the way a toy collectors convention or film collectors convention occurs. Though the spaces in which the display occurs might be a little more fancy the format is identical.
These art fairs are becoming a proving ground for the commercial art world. By setting up these conventions corporate entities like the Merchandise Mart are able to not only make a huge impact on the ‘salability” of an artist but to now influence the art media about the importance of specific artists in the evolution of art history. (Through their PR programs and advertising budgets.)
What impact is there on an art world model that is being controlled by a hotel chain or an alcohol vendor? How is the ‘evolution’ of art to continue if the importance of a work (or artist as a whole) is decided on its value as a commodity? What forms of internal censorship are being decided by those that nominate artists for grants and exhibitions? As corporate control over art expands one has to ask, is this art that is occurring or simply media advertising in disguise?
When a Banksy appears on the London landscape a sense of interest occurs in the public. People start walking by the work, tell others about its location, knowing it personally. I have recently read that when he does work in America he paints over it himself in a matter of hours so that it doesn?t get taken down and sold. Smart.
So Art in Chicago was to come to Chicago again and I thought to myself, since I am having a show I should consider this art fair and its role in the art world. Thus I wrote, directed and performed in a new piece Counter Intrusion, but I did not get what I thought I would get out of my performance.
The basic plot of the piece was to dress in dark suits, looking as ‘straight’ as we could (I say we as I was accompanied by Jacob Myers as my co actor and followed by Kait who documented the piece in stills) and act as some kind of ‘agents.’ We spent the better part of a day walking around with a video camera in hand, creating a sense of mild tension where ever we went. Everyone figured we were cops of FBI or something but no one did anything more than mild muttering under their breath. We pointed our camera at anything and anyone and yet no one said a word to us. I got a lot of looks that said to me “Who do you think you are?!” but not a word to stop us. We questioned various gallery workers about the artists themselves but did not receive a single demand for us to stop or to present identification.
By late afternoon and having pushed my way into whatever place I wanted to go I had grown distraught and tired. ?What the hell was happening?? I thought to myself in disgust. No one said a word. Are they all so complacent, so beaten down that they never uttered a word of resistance?
But then I realized – they don’t care. Not the galleries or the ‘artists’. That in the end they act like they are, capable of dealing with a situation of being violated by a government body without the ability to resist. Like a sheep while it is shorn they stood and they did not like it but they did nothing to stop it. Because the hands that shear them are the same that feed them.