We regret to inform you that this Wednesday's Yes Lab event, organized by Not An Alternative, with UK climate campaign campaigners John Stewart and Dan Glass has been postponed.
A few days ago, Stewart landed in JFK Airport for a month-long US speaking tour, only to be escorted off the plane by 6 police officers, interrogated for six hrs by the FBI, Secret Service, NY police, and Immigration, and put on a plane back to the UK. The other tour member, environmental activist Dan Glass, was also supposed to come but was stopped by the CIA on the UK side.
These guys are celebrated environmentalists, recognized by The Independent and the Guardian as the most effective and innovative green activists in the UK. They won support from direct action activists and even the Conservatives in Parliament, waging a successful campaign to reduce carbon emissions and stop the expansion of Heathrow airport. For some reason, however, our own government isn't keen on them coming here.
We're going to bring them to you anyway. Please save the date: on Thursday, November 3rd we'll host a special Skype session with these revered (and reviled?) climate revolutionaries. The best part...no transcontinental air emissions involved!
Thursday, November 3, 7pm
Department of Performance Studies
721 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10003
(photo ID required)
And now that your Wednesday is freed up, consider joining us at #OccupyWallStreet! Wednesday is the biggest action yet, with labor unions and countless economic justice and community organizations taking part in a massive march to the Liberty Plaza encampment. Starts at 4:30pm at City Hall, 250 Broadway Ave.
Not An Alternative is coordinating a creative intervention there, an installation and action at the intersection of architecture and activism. That's all we can say about it, so come join us to get the full skinny!
Focusing on her book-in-progress THE COMMUNIST HORIZON, this seminar mounts a provocative response to the economic and social crises that define our time. From the extremes of corporate bonuses to the attacks on public sector unions, the antagonism that cuts across capitalist countries is increasingly apparent.
Democracy is no panacea, Dean argues. Extreme inequality is not inevitable. Politics are not dead. Communism didn't end in 1989. Instead, the communist horizon is our horizon.
Come to discuss the potential of communism as the contemporary name for left political and economic aspiration. What possibilities does it open up? What aspects of our current conjunction suggest the continued force of communism as a universal and egalitarian ideal?
Jodi Dean is Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. She has authored or edited ten books, including, most recently, ‘Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies’ (Duke 2009), “Blog Theory’ (Polity 2010), and 'Zizek's Politics" (Routledge 2006). She is the co-editor of Theory & Event.
"Jodi Dean...provides what we have all been waiting for: the authentic theoretical analysis of how ideology functions in today’s global capitalism. Her diagnosis of ‘communicative capitalism’ discloses how our ‘really-existing democracies’ curtail prospects of radical emancipatory politics. Dean demonstrates this status of democracy as a political fantasy not through cheap pseudo-Marxist denunciations, but through a detailed examination of social, symbolic, and libidinal mechanisms and practices.’”—Slavoj Zizek
"Tate Modern: Tomorrow Is Another Day (After the Economic Crisis)" installation produced by Not An Alternative for the Tate Modern’s 10th anniversary show “No Soul for Sale: A Festival of Independents.” The work implicated corporate sponsor, Morgan Stanley, for its role in the economic crisis. The piece was accompanied by an essay situating the work art historically as in intervention on participatory art, while simultaneously linking it to other local campaigns targeting Tate sponsorship. May 14-16, 2010 Photo by Not An Alternative.
I encountered the art group Not An Alternative for the first time about a month ago in Corona, Queens, where Tania Bruguera (featured last month in 5 Questions) had assembled a panel on “useful art.” What immediately impressed me was the group’s ability to articulate its ongoing project, which aims both to create new spaces for cultural production and to question the ways that various participatory structures (social media, election processes, relational aesthetics) exclude certain subjects and amplify social and economic inequalities by means of participation.
Through their highly engaged work, work that functions somewhere between political activism, social service, and institutional critique, Not An Alternative confront the limits of what political theorist Jodi Dean has called, after a variety of critical theoretical debates, “communicative capitalism.” In a time of communicative capitalism, our political and social participation is increasingly exploited by the use of new media. Not An Alternative foregrounds this fact, presenting ways of navigating a relatively new digital landscape in which values once cherished by the militant left and avant-garde alike–participation, reflexivity, interactivity–have become corporate watchwords for how neoliberalism manages consent in a networked age.
Networked for some, but obviously not for all. Not An Alternative’s work is also crucial in the ways that it foregrounds exclusion, offering ways to visualize the limits of participation in a society in which obviously one’s ability to participate is largely determined by social and economic privilege. As Not An Alternative said during their presentation in Corona, referring to their collaboration with a homeless advocacy group in the Bronx (discussed below), they recognize the important of “desubjectifying” themselves, where to draw attention to their efforts may work against the causes of the community groups with whom they choose to work.
The Not (or nots, plural) of Not An Alternative are significant in a time in which terms like “collaboration,” “participation,” and “interactivity” remain largely unquestioned. What would it mean to drop out, when dropping out would no longer seem an option? Not An Alternative do not so much drop out as use the resources and machinery of communicative capitalism to produce a different set of results that undermine the seamless functioning of neoliberalism. In this way they negate and refuse, but their refusal also has a positive effect.
On Saturday, April 23, Not An Alternative took part in A Conversation on Useful Art #1, an event organized by artist Tania Bruguera as part of Immigrant Movement International, a year-long, socio-political movement initiated by the artist in Corona, Queens presented by Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art. The event took place at Immigrant Movement International headquarters and was held in conjunction with the Useful Art Association and featured an introduction to Useful Art followed by a series of brief conversations with artists and presenters Patrick Bernier and Olive Martin, Mel Chin, Not An Alternative, Rick Lowe, Pase Usted, Creative Time Chief Curator Nato Thompson, QMA Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl, Larissa Harris, Gregory Sholette, representatives from Make the Road, New York, and N.I.C.E. (New Immigrant Community Empowerment), and New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras.
With the wave of opposition to austerity measures in the UK, many new creative political groups and projects have appeared. Not only the high-profile actions of UK Uncut, but others such as the University of Strategic Optimism, Arts Against Cuts, Precarious Workers Brigade, the Really Free School, and the Free University of Liverpool.
On Thursday, May 12, UK-based academic and art/activist Gavin Grindon will present stories and films from recent groups and activities that experiment with new creative approaches to activism’s materials and performance. From the Book Bloc’s very literate means of protecting crowds from police batons, to The University of Strategic Optimism’s critical theory lectures in high-street banks; from Liberate Tate’s oil spills inside the Tate galleries to encourage them to drop BP sponsorship, to the Space Hijackers driving a tank into an arms fair, and the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination&`;s reverse-engineering of hundreds of bikes into a swarming mass of direct action machines.
Gavin will introduce some of these groups and activities, tell some ridiculous stories of general troublemaking and daring misadventure, show some videos and do his best to answer any of your questions.
Gavin Grindon is a postdoctoral research fellow at Kingston University of London. His research focuses on the history of activist-art practices, and art in social movements in the twenteith century, through both objects and performance, and how these can be theorised and historicised in relation to the institutional bases of art history. He has written articles for the Oxford Art Journal, Third Text, Art Monthly and the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, and is a sometime member of the art-activist group the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination.
A Conversation on Useful Art
Hosted by artist Tania Bruguera
Presented by Creative Time and Queens Museum of Art
At the Immigrant Movement International Headquarters
Saturday, April 23, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The event, held in conjunction with the Useful Art Association, will feature an introduction by political performance and installation artist Tania Bruguera, followed by a series of brief presentations with artists Mel Chin, Santiago Cirugeda, Not An Alternative, Rick Lowe, Pase Usted, and Patrick Bernier/Olive Martin.
A conversation will follow with responders Nato Thompson, Chief Curator at Creative Time; Tom Finkelpearl, Executive Director, Queens Museum of Art; Larissa Harris, Curator, Queens Museum of Art; and Gregory Sholette, Chair, MFA Studio Art Program, Queens College CUNY.
Claire Bishop, Associate Professor of Art History, CUNY Graduate Center, will moderate a round table discussion with participants, representatives from local immigrant community organizations Make the Road NY, N.I.C.E. (New Immigrant Community Empowerment), and New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras.
Wed., Mar. 23rd, 6:30-8pm
The New School
55 W 13th st.
Mark Herbst, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest
Member from W.A.G.E.
Beka Economopoulos from Not An Alternative
Chris Mansour, Platypus
This panel will focus on the aesthetic tropes that activists use to express political dissent. Theatrical gestures such as street art (e.g., glamdalism), dance parties (e.g., Funk the War), or costumes have found their way into protest tactics. Simultaneously, many contemporary artists create 'activist' or 'social' art by pulling off media pranks against the government or corporations (e.g., Yes Men), reenact past protests (e.g., Mark Tribe or Sharon Hayes) and other forms of public performances. What are the historical roots that contribute to the use of current aesthetic interventions in political protests? In what ways do they expand or limit the possibilities for protests to transform the social order? How does experimenting with aesthetic and artistic sensibilities influence our political consciousness and practice? Political thinkers and art-activists will address these questions in order to make sense of the various forms of protest today.
1) Contemporary "political" artistic practice aims to raise political consciousness for progressive or left politics. How does -- and how can -- the use of aesthetic, theatrical and narrative elements heighten political possibilities and consciousness?
Parallel Lines is a collaborative project that looks critically at the impact of the construction of the High Line park in Manhattan's west side. Since the High Line opened to the public in June 2009, it has become a frequently celebrated example of public space for community, culture, innovative design, and urban renewal. As the High Line becomes a public space, Parallel Lines critically investigates its processes and structure, its surrounding neighborhoods and history. Through dialogue, observation, research and action, the project works to illuminate the blind spots of unchecked gentrification and find ways to occupy the city in a manner that is conscious, creative and vigilant.
Join us this Thursday as we continue our series on Open Sourcing The City with a screening and performance titled A Public Hearing, by members of the Parallel Lines project. A Public Hearing borrows from the physical and communicative structure of public hearings -- open forums held in New York City to introduce community input into urban development and planning processes. The performance aggregates a number of documents from the public record, to consider developments regarding the High Line and its surrounding neighborhoods. These documents form part of Parallel Line's ongoing research into changes affecting neighborhoods such as the West Village, Chelsea, Meatpacking and Hells Kitchen, and include records and board meeting minutes of public hearings and community input forums, legal depositions, newspaper articles, and fundraising publicity over the past five years. Selections from these sources will be read aloud, to explore how communities struggle over space, perform public speech, and produce notions of “the public record.” This research is conducted at a time when neoliberal urban development and its racial, gendered and economic distributions are increasingly uneven and contradictory.
Thursday, October 14, 7:30pm
w/ Greg Sholette, Shaun Slifer and Jim Constanzo
@ No-Space (formerly known as The Change You Want To See)
At the beginning of this series we announced plans to change the name of our venue from The Change You Want To See Gallery to No-Space. This week’s event offers us as good a time as any to formalize this, as the notion of the No-Space relates nicely to artist/theorist Greg Sholette’s description of Dark Matter.
No-Space is an aspect of architecture, a systematically overlooked invisible and absent variable that gives form to every structure. A room is made up of walls, a floor, a ceiling, and also the space in between. You can't draw this space on its own, it’s nothing after all, but it's something at the same time, one of the somethings that define a room.
In his forthcoming book Sholette describes a related concept of Dark Matter. In cosmology this unseen matter constitutes most of the universe. In terms of cultural production, an invisible world of artistic activity gives shape to the recognized art world. It has a gravitational pull and a power overlooked.
On Thursday we consider the role of dark matter as it applies to history and the city. Through interventions in urban space, art collectives Repo History, Howling Mob Society, and the Aaron Burr Society map excluded histories, radical readings of what is there but unseen. Ultimately these are cartographic projects, as architect Eyal Weizman suggests: geography as defining history in space. Through authorized and unauthorized means, they explore the exchange between media and the cityscape, between the past and the present, and a power that lurks in the shadows.
ABOUT THE PROJECTS REPOhistory began in Manhattan in 1989 as a study group of artists, scholars, teachers, and writers focused on the relationship of history to contemporary society. It grew into a forum for developing public art projects based on history and a platform for creating them. For more than ten years REPOhistory's goal was "to retrieve and relocate absent historical narratives at specific locations in the New York City area through counter-monuments, actions, and events". Uncomfortable memories of New York's half-forgotten past were written directly on the skin of a gentrified city using its own system of public signage. REPOhistory's subject matter included workers, abolitionists, slaves, radicals, native Americans and children whose lives were lost in sweat shops and streets that 'drank their tender tears.' As global neoliberalism turned urban spaces into zones of managed consumption and ubiquitous surveillance, REPOhistory believed the battle for public memory had to be played out from within the city’s own repertoire of semiotic management. Eventually REPOhistory ran afoul of municipal and cultural authorities. By the end of the 1990's its subaltern archive was slammed shut once more. http://www.repohistory.org
The Howling Mob Society was a collaboration of artists, activists and amateur historians who convened in 2007 with a commitment to unearthing stories neglected by mainstream history. HMS hoped to bring increased visibility to the radical history of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania through a series of independently researched and installed historical markers with a focus on The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a national uprising that saw some of its most dramatic moments in our city. While the mainstream media—both past and present—frame events in terms of their effect on national economic interests, the Howling Mob investigated history through the experiences of common, working people. http://howlingmobsociety.org
The 2nd Whiskey Rebellion is the Aaron Burr Society’s latest public artwork designed to expose the Myth of the Free Market and rewrite American history. The original Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was a referendum on the Constitution and its two-tiered economic system that privileged Alexander Hamilton’s northeastern oligarchy and Thomas Jefferson’s southern plantations. Prior to the 2nd Whiskey Rebellion, the Aaron Burr Society initiated the Free Money Movement by spending paper currency stamped “Slave of Wall Street” on one side and “Free Money” on the other. Both the Whiskey Rebellion and the Free Money Movement are not metaphorical but symbolic. By this we mean that it is not “like” or “as” a rebellion but a symbol for a revolt against Wall Street, Oil, Coal and their corporate cronies to save the planet. http://aaronburrsociety.org
Please join us this Thursday, September 16 as we continue our programming series Open-Sourcing the City: Invited and Uninvited Participation. In the last event, professor/author Miriam Greenberg established the relationship between city branding and urban development agendas like Bloomberg's "Luxury City". Against this backdrop, how can cultural creatives and spatial practitioners participate productively? What are constructive forms of critical engagement?
Drawing from her own practice and from first-hand research, artist/activist Emily Forman will take us on a visual tour of the contested Neoliberal City, highlighting the ‘uninvited participation’ of its discontent inhabitants; grandmothers, squatters, and artists, joined together in a shared struggle for spatial justice.
First we will go to Chicago, where the mythic ‘Department of Space and Land Reclamation’ catalyzes a flurry of public interventions around hyperreal governance and runaway gentrification; and where an anonymous PR campaign nearly threatens to implode the City’s careful rebranding of its controversial public housing policies.
Then we visit ‘Miles de Viviendas’, a social center and ‘Pirate University’, housed in a squatted police barracks in seaside Barceloneta; where the neighbors bring culture to the barricades, defending themselves against immanent displacement and tourist-driven Disneyfication using bottom-up urban planning, critical cartography, tactical textiles, and creative direct action.
Not An Alternative is a hybrid arts collective and non-profit organization with a mission to affect popular understandings of events, symbols, and history. We curate and produce interventions on immaterial and material space, leveraging the tools of architecture, exhibit design, branding, and public relations. Programs are hosted at a variety of venues, including our Brooklyn-based gallery No-Space (formerly known as The Change You Want to See Gallery).
No-Space is host to free lectures, screenings, panel discussions, workshops and artist presentations. The space also consists of a production workshop, filming studio and video editing suite. During the day it is a collaborative office space (aka coworking) for freelancers and cultural producers.
Contact us Not An Alternative info[AT]notanalternative.net 917-426-5562