Original post here:
All this ranting about winter, these columns, comments and blogs, sounds like we're "Embracing Winter"...hey wait, wasn't that a show mounted at the Warehouse Gallery by Astria Suparak in the winter of 2007? A show with an entire wall dedicated to snowfall amounts...much like your proposed "high profile downtown chart that keeps track of snowfall inches"? Suparak also mounted shovels (to borrow) and pillars of salt, and played the soothing (and hopeful?) sounds of ice melting. Perhaps it was no accident that Suparak, a Californian, had moved to Syracuse from Montreal.
I have lived in the cities mentioned by Environment Canada's weather stats guru (including St. John's Nfld) but I have never seen snow like Syracuse. This is the only place where it pours snow and is the only place I know that gives a snowfall rate. I moved here just in time for the Blizzard of '93...I think snow fell at around 7 inches/hr!
Whatever the Canadian weather guy says, Syracuse has those Canadian cities beat by miles. And by feet, inches, centimeters and any other measure.
I definitely agree that in Syracuse we should celebrate our superlatives. But I also think we should start thinking "neighborhood" instead of always thinking about big events and revitalizing "downtown". Every neighborhood has snow and cold. Syracuse also has wonderful hills, and almost every neighborhood has a hill or hills. Many people have told me they used to ski near Drumlins and on South Campus. (Did you know that there is a bobsled run behind Ed Smith, built I think, in the 1930's and abandoned following an accident?)
Almost every Canadian city I lived in had outdoor neighborhood rinks, some small and rough, most with lights, often flooded by firemen and shovelled by city workers (or parents). Almost every neighborhood also had an area, a park or other area, with some kind of hill for sledding.
Hills, snow, cold, ice, neighborhood parks...the ingredients necessary for embracing and celebrating winter and we have these ingredients in abundance in Syracuse. It's all here. Maybe we just have to rediscover it.
This is a great topic for discussion! Thank you.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Original post here:
Posted by Whats this? at 9:03 PM
Friday, December 21, 2007
[ Reposted from here ]
Well kids & cats, I have some really weird and sad news.
All I’ve heard about Syracuse University is that their art world suddenly exploded into the 22nd Century by hiring my really amazing curator friend Astria Suparak.
If it wasn’t for Astria I would have never had the opportunity to show my work at the National Women in the Arts Museum.
I definitely consider this post a feminist and artist as activist post.
Please keep reading why.
Basically, I was at the closing party of the National Women in the Arts museum here in Washington D.C. when I heard of an injustice! Astria was fired. Apparently the University didn’t want its Freshmen to see real contemporary art that was feminist, progressive and critical to capitalism and social issues pertinent to today’s real world experiences.
I was advised by a friend that my dear sweet, loving, kind, SUPER PROFESSIONAL favorite YOUNG but geniously talented Astria Suparak was “let go” only after a few months at the Warehouse Gallery of Contemporary Arts Museum at Syracuse University
Bloggers, please REBLOG anything you can if you want to help Astria get her job back @ The Warehouse Gallery!
The Warehouse Gallery
350 West Fayette Street
Syracuse, New York 13202
don’t read my horrible writing on this issue, I’m pissed, I’m not about to start working on my grammar. As anyone who read this blog knows that when I’m pissed off, i refuse to capitalize words or try to make any perfect sense.
The facists at SU don’t deserve to be written about in good grammar.
in any case, read Journalist SAYEJ’s New York Times article on the now highly controversial issue.
Gallery Director’s Dismissal Ignites Syracuse Protest
The ouster of the founding director of an art gallery overseen by Syracuse University has drawn protest from academics and art professionals there. The director, Astria Suparak, below, of the Warehouse Gallery, said that Jeffrey Hoone, who oversees the university’s art centers, had told her on Sept. 7 that she would be dismissed effective Sept. 30. She said he did not give a reason beyond saying that the gallery was being restructured. (In a telephone interview, Mr. Hoone said he could not discuss Ms. Suparak but that he was revamping the gallery’s leadership.) Carole Brzozowski, the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, said the content of gallery shows organized by Ms. Suparak had nothing to do with her dismissal. But people in the arts at Syracuse, including university art teachers, asserted that the ouster was related to risk-taking or innovative exhibitions she organized since becoming the director last year. (Many have posted protests of her dismissal at syracuse-warehouse.blogspot.com.)
Ms. Suparak said of Mr. Hoone: “My aesthetic is very different from his. I’m interested in street art, riot grrl and D.I.Y. aesthetics.” A sign at the entrance to the gallery’s current show, “Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze,” reads, “This exhibition contains work generally intended for mature audiences.” Ms. Suparak said it was posted at Mr. Hoone’s behest. NADJA SAYEJ
Posted by Whats this? at 3:32 PM
Thursday, December 6, 2007
6 December 2007
To everyone who has expressed support for my curatorial and community work, I offer my heartfelt gratitude. During the past three months I've received an abundance of emails and phone calls, which I deeply appreciate, from artists, organizers, business owners, and educators who I have worked with over the last decade and across many cities. It's an honor to receive such strong advocacy and encouragement from fellow curators and institutions that I admire, and I'm delighted that my exhibitions, events, and screenings have been memorable for so many. I never expected this wellspring of support.
I recognize that my situation has touched upon critical issues of creative and academic freedom, institutional transparency, effective civic engagement, and the support for emerging visions and artists. Below you'll find an update on the situation. Through this ordeal, I've thankfully gotten to know the brave residents of Syracuse who are committed to open discourse and social justice. Your collective passion, acuity, and clear articulation are phenomenal. You have given me hope and inspiration during an incredibly difficult time.
In addition to the over one hundred letters that have been posted at www.syracuse-warehouse.blogspot.com, I would like to acknowledge the thousands of others who have privately endorsed my reinstatement at The Warehouse Gallery and/or my hire in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, and who have voiced disappointment over my dismissal. I appreciate the rallies and receptions organized on my behalf, as well as my appointment to the first Public Art Commission of the City of Syracuse, based on my involvement with Tomorrow's Neighborhoods Today, Th3 Citywide Art Night, Syracuse Experimental Film & Media Workshop, and the 40 Below Public Arts Task Force.
My chief goal as a citizen and as a curator is to enrich the communities in which I live and work, through engaging, exciting, and relevant creative work. I believe that the thousands of Warehouse Gallery visitors, the consistently positive exhibition reviews and attendant press, the invitations to tour exhibitions, and the ample enthusiastic viewer comments demonstrate my ability to fulfill that goal.
I'm unsure what the future holds for me, but I look forward to bringing new exhibitions and events to other spaces and locations, both here and elsewhere. Thanks to initiatives like the Syracuse Public Art Commission, Th3, Lipe Art Park, the Public Arts Task Force, and the Gear Factory; emergent small businesses like Roji Tea Lounge, Sugar Pearl, Second Story Books, and Funk'n Waffles; and collaborative, interdisciplinary arts organizations like Spark Contemporary Art Space, the Community Folk Art Center, Delavan Center, and The Redhouse, Syracuse is beginning to fulfill its promise as a rising cultural center. Regardless of whether the Connective Corridor delivers on its rhetoric about building bridges between University Hill and downtown, I am optimistic that the inspirited residents and students of Syracuse will take up the cause to make this city a better place to live – actually, they're already doing it!
Very truly yours,
- My work at the gallery and information on all of the artists that I exhibited were removed from the official Warehouse Gallery website, so I have archived them at www.astriasuparak.com/thewarehousegallery
My situation with Syracuse University has been convoluted and confusing over the past few months. Contradictory reasons were given by Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Vice Chancellor Eric Spina, Dean Carole Brzozowski, Associate Dean Ann Clarke, and Jeffrey Hoone for my dismissal from The Warehouse Gallery as well as the withdrawal of an offer of a new position in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Here I've attempted to address the questions that people frequently ask.
• My personnel file contains no reason for layoff, no performance review, no complaints, and no warning.
• Syracuse University offered and then withdrew, within the same day, a consulting agreement for my Curator-in-Residence services in VPA (which would have been funded by the Chancellor's Initiatives).
• During my employment at SU, I had only one meeting with a Human Resources representative and Hoone, which seemed to indicate, along with the assignment of a new direct supervisor, a commitment to my work at the gallery for the next programming year.
• Hoone gave me 7 weeks to program one year's worth of exhibitions. When he laid me off, he effectively cancelled two years of programming plans.
• Hoone backtracked on his decision to cancel my Yes Men exhibition and attempted to continue the show without my involvement. The Yes Men, whose work focuses on corporate malpractice and social injustice, refused Hoone's turncoat overture to exhibit without me.
• Hoone stated that my programming was a reason for my dismissal (after weeks of claiming I was laid off for "organizational restructuring," and then for "confidential personnel issue"), although it is this same programming that was a major factor in my hire.
• Hoone asked for changes to nearly every exhibition I organized. For example, I was asked twice by Hoone to remove the word "feminist" from an exhibition title.
Posted by Whats this? at 11:47 PM
Censorship is an issue many observers have instinctively seized upon, primarily due to the subject matter of some of my exhibitions and the timing and way in which I was dismissed. Mr. Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of the umbrella organization that oversees The Warehouse Gallery, asked for changes to nearly every exhibition, including exhibition premises, titles, presentation, and publicity materials. I prefer if people draw their own conclusions about whether there was censorship, based on some of the evidence that has already been made public.
Posted by Whats this? at 11:47 PM
During the hiring process for the position of Director of Arts Programming in May 2006, I submitted several pages of curated, group exhibition proposals that detailed the ideas, issues, and artists that I wished to work with. These exhibition proposals, along with my curatorial history, resume, and website, were reviewed and discussed during the hiring process. The overall response from the hiring committee to my exhibition proposals was that they were integral to the eight-person committee's unanimous decision to hire me. All of the exhibitions I curated for the gallery were drawn from this original list. I clearly expressed the direction I wanted to take this new organization, which I named The Warehouse Gallery, and the exhibitions that I would organize there. I fulfilled what I set out to do. Mr. Hoone recently stated to a journalist that my programming was a reason for my dismissal (this after weeks of claiming I was laid off for "organizational restructuring", and then for "confidential personnel issue"), although it is this same programming that was a major factor in my hiring.
After I included artist duo and Syracuse University Transmedia faculty members Duke and Battersby in the Faux Naturel group exhibition (which was reviewed in a major international art magazine and toured to a Canadian university), Mr. Hoone mandated that The Warehouse Gallery would no longer include Syracuse University faculty or student work.
Mr. Hoone also stated a desire for solo exhibitions. I explained that I wanted to spend the inaugural year developing and refining the new organization's operation and exhibition procedures, hiring staff, and building the gallery's reputation before approaching accomplished and emerging artists for solo shows. Also, many established artists are booked years in advance. Over the course of my first year, I began correspondence with several prominent artists about solo exhibitions. On July 1, 2007, six out of eight exhibitions that I proposed for the next two years were solo shows, featuring Paul Chan, Natalie Jeremijenko, Nina Katchadourian, Walid Raad and the Yes Men, among others. These exhibitions would have fulfilled the gallery's mission by "illuminating the critical issues of our life and times," including social justice, corporate inhumanity, cultural identity, environmental contamination, militarization, and systems of language and organization. Mr. Hoone expressed personal disinterest in many of the artists I proposed, and described these proposals as "too dense" and too similar, implying they were overly complex and academic. This response contradicted his earlier criticism that the previous exhibitions were "more style than substance." According to visitor testimonials and press reviews, most would disagree with his opinion.
When asked for a written statement clarifying the reasons for my layoff and the cancellation of the first-ever solo exhibition by internationally-acclaimed, anti-corporate artists the Yes Men, Mr. Hoone responded by saying he "determined that there was not enough continuity to effectively proceed with the Yes Men exhibition at this time." Within hours, Mr. Hoone asked for all of my correspondence and exhibition plans with the Yes Men. That is, in the face of mounting faculty pressure in support of my curatorial practice and the Yes Men exhibition, Mr. Hoone backtracked on his decision to cancel my Yes Men exhibition and attempted to continue the show without my involvement. The Yes Men, whose work focuses on social injustice and corporate malpractice, refused Hoone's turncoat overture to exhibit without my participation. They stated that they didn't trust Mr. Hoone or his organization. Furthermore, Mr. Hoone mislead people about the exhibition's cancellation, by blaming me, and then the artists, for what was his initial decision.
When Mr. Hoone laid me off, I had to personally contact all of the artists with whom I had been making exhibition plans for the next two years to tell them that the shows were cancelled, which was extremely distressing. This not only compromised my integrity as a curator, but also the integrity and reputations of the gallery, CMAC, and Syracuse University.
Posted by Whats this? at 11:46 PM
I was never given a formal, first, or final warning indicating that my job at The Warehouse Gallery was in jeopardy.
In March 2007, Mr. Hoone asked me to resign, weeks prior to the University-wide performance review process. Within days of this request, Mr. Hoone left on an unexplained, (in his words) "sudden" Leave of Absence, with instructions that he was not to be contacted. Ms. Patricia Tassini, Assistant Director of Employment Practices and Equal Employment Opportunities at the Human Resources Department of Syracuse University, expressed surprise over Mr. Hoone's request for my resignation, as there was nothing in my personnel file indicating a problem. She implied to me that the proper H.R. procedure had not been followed. Ms. Tassini advised me via phone to continue working as if the conversation with Mr. Hoone never occurred. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Tom Walsh, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement in the Chancellor's Cabinet, contacted me via phone to ensure that I would continue working on the next exhibition I programmed at the gallery, which he understood to be important for the University. This exhibition was Networked Nature, organized by Rhizome at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.
Following this unexpected turn of events, I contacted the members of my hiring committee. One by one, each expressed shock over Mr. Hoone's decision to dismiss me. They all felt my work at the gallery was successful and in lockstep with what I proposed during the hiring process. It appears that Mr. Hoone did not discuss my performance or his decision with Mr. Frank Olive, my Assistant Director, a person I hired and worked closely with, or the eight members of the hiring committee that moved me from Montreal to Syracuse for the inaugural position of Director.
After Mr. Hoone returned from a month-long Leave of Absence in April, I had one meeting with him and Ms. Tassini from Human Resources, during which his request for my resignation was never acknowledged, discussed, or explained. Based on conversations with Ms. Tassini, I was under the impression that at this meeting we would discuss my performance in accordance to Human Resource's review process and a set of goals would be created together. I was led to believe that Mr. Hoone's request for resignation was off the record and without due process. One of the goals given to me by Mr. Hoone was to program the next year of exhibitions, with budgets, within seven weeks. Two weeks after this meeting, I was assigned a new direct supervisor: Mr. Domenic Iacono, Director of SUArt Galleries. In light of my meeting with Mr. Hoone and Ms. Tassini, the list of goals for the 2007-2008 programming year, and the assignment of a new supervisor, I felt secure in my position for the upcoming exhibition year.
Since I was never given a performance review (although I turned in the documents to begin the process), I was left to assess my own performance according to the success of my work's public reception; invitations for the exhibitions to tour internationally; increased attendance for each exhibition (reaching over 4,000 for Come On); and the growing press attention, including consistently positive reviews in the local media and in international contemporary art publications. Attributing to my confidence that I was on the right performance track were the requests that I received to serve on juries for a state arts council and a local art competition; as a recommender for two major national arts grants; as a panelist for final MFA reviews at a highly-respected institution; as an advisory board member for a National Museum's film festival; and as a thesis committee member for a MFA student at Syracuse University; as well as the growing partnerships I had built with various departments at Syracuse University and community businesses and organizations.
With less than a day's notice, Mr. Hoone scheduled a meeting with me for September 7, 2007. At this impromptu meeting, Mr. Hoone stated that he was laying me off. He did not give a clear reason for this, nor was my direct supervisor present. Mr. Hoone expressed concern about the gallery's direction. When I asked what direction he wanted for the gallery, he answered: the same direction it was always going in. This answer was confusing to me. Then I asked what was going to happen with the next exhibition with the Yes Men, scheduled to open two months later. Mr. Hoone told me this exhibition wasn't going to happen. I was responsible for notifying the artists and the many professors in various departments who invested financially and pedagogically in this exhibition, included it in their curricula, and scheduled class visits.
In October I visited the Office of Human Resources at Syracuse University to review my personnel file. The file contained only six documents: four were standard new employee documents (regarding health benefits, etc.), one was a letter from Human Resources confirming my layoff, dated September 25, 2007, and one was an undated and unsigned list of goals for 2007-2008. At that time, Ms. Curlene Autrey, Director of Diversity and Resolution Processes at Human Resources, informed me that if an employee is let go because of a performance or personnel issue, the employee should first receive a performance review indicating the problem, or a letter clearly stating that if s/he fails to meet a set of criteria the result would be termination. I never received any such documents. My personnel file indicated no reason for my layoff, and contained no performance review, no complaints, and no warning. This indicates a lack of performance and personnel-related issues, and an avoidance of proper Human Resources procedures, highly contrasting the explanation widely distributed by S.U. administration including Chancellor Nancy Cantor, that my dismissal was based on "confidential personnel issues."
Posted by Whats this? at 11:44 PM
In late September 2007, Ms. Ann Clarke, Associate Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, informed me that she was working to create a position for me in VPA at the request of its faculty. This position, created specifically for me with my input, was to be funded by the Chancellor's Initiatives and administered by VPA. Ms. Clarke wrote, "The faculty call for your being brought into VPA , is in significant part due to wanting an even more engaged forum of connection between your work and curriculum." I understood this outreach on the part of VPA as an opportunity to build on the positive relationships I forged with various faculty members, many of whom brought classes to my exhibitions and events, and sponsored lectures, class visits, and critiques by the artists involved in my exhibitions. The VPA professors staged a unanimous boycott of the annual faculty exhibition to protest my dismissal and the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers' lack of dialogue with its constituents.
At VPA's request, I proposed a Curator-in-Residence position informed by research into other residency models and with the advice and input of diverse city residents and professors. After submitting my proposal for this position to Ms. Clarke, there was little follow-up or discussion about how my proposal related to the needs of VPA as perceived by its leadership, or how my proposal was being considered or modified by the administration of VPA.
In the only meeting I had with Ms. Clarke and Ms. Eleanor Ware, Senior Vice President for Human Services and Government Relations, which I was told to arrive alone to, Ms. Ware began with accusatory innuendo about my dismissal and personnel file. She did not allow for questions or a discussion to clarify these issues, because she said she wanted to focus on the future and not the past. Ms. Ware and Ms. Clarke seemed to want to confirm my interest in a position in VPA , but said the terminology used in my Curator-in-Residence proposal, such as "proposal," "position," and "program," could not be used in the new "mutually acceptable arrangement going forward." I was asked to arrive at a second meeting with Ms. Ware and Ms. Clarke to review a draft legal agreement to settle my last position at The Warehouse Gallery and to outline the new contracting services with VPA. I expressed discomfort about attending another meeting alone, to which Ms. Ware replied that the university's lawyer would be present at the next meeting. Thus, I was required to hire an attorney in order to continue negotiations with Syracuse University.
On October 29, I met with Ms. Clarke and Ms. Carole Brzozowski, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, along with two professors, Ms. Joanna Spitzner, School of Art and Design, and Mr. Tom Sherman, Department of Transmedia. In this meeting, Ms. Brzozowski and Ms. Clarke were explicitly reassured by Ms. Spitzner and Mr. Sherman that the position I proposed had the support of VPA faculty. Everyone present seemed to agree that I would positively contribute to the College.
Syracuse University's lawyer provided my attorney with the contracting agreement on November 2, 2007. Less than a day later, Syracuse University withdrew the offer. The reason for this turnabout, provided by Ms. Clarke, was that I spoke to the student paper, The Daily Orange, a day prior. Yet within the same article, titled "Suparak may return as VPA curator, liaison for arts," Vice Chancellor Eric Spina was also quoted. In this article I was quoted about the possibility of working with VPA in positive and general terms: "I feel like we've broken through a bit in finding out more information. I'm really glad that they're receptive to it and that they're looking at it." University administration, including Ms. Clarke, never told me that speaking to the press would compromise this new position.
Ms. Clarke later stated that VPA leadership was focused on creating a position to meet the specific needs of VPA. However, in previous discussions between VPA faculty and administration, it was the faculty and student support of my curatorial work and their desire to retain me in Syracuse that led to the possibility of the Curator-in-Residence position. In yet another strange twist, Ms. Clarke and Ms. Brzozowski announced on November 12 their intent to pursue the Curator-in-Residence position (without me), because the faculty had clearly shown support for it. This occurred after they officially withdrew the proposal we had been working on together. When asked during this meeting why negotiations with Ms. Suparak had ended, Ms. Clarke stated that VPA administration couldn't get past the "nuts and bolts" issues (such as office space), and since "there seemed to be no progress," they decided to "cut their loses" and withdraw the offer. Contrary to what Ms. Clarke told me privately and the media publicly, she did not invoke the Daily Orange article as a reason for cutting off negotiations in this meeting. What Ms. Clarke and Ms. Brzozowski failed to acknowledge was that the Curator-in-Residence position is something I created, drafted, and proposed, in dialogue with university faculty and members of the Syracuse community, in response to VPA's vocal support of my work and their request that I remain at Syracuse University.
Posted by Whats this? at 8:26 PM
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Up Close and Personal
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I know I'm not alone in wondering what direction The Warehouse Gallery will take in a post-Astria Suparak era. Suparak, the gallery's recently terminated director, had built a solid reputation for mounting smart, edgy-to-the-point-of-controversial group exhibitions. She featured national and international contemporary artists who engaged a wide variety of media. Under her leadership, The Warehouse Gallery was providing the Syracuse visual arts community with a quality and range of shows that no other venue in the area was offering - a breath of fresh air.
So, when I heard The Yes Men - a widely acclaimed, sometimes maligned, band of cultural interventionists - had pulled out of their scheduled "show" at The Warehouse Gallery, I was wondering what would, or could, take their place. The answer is - drum roll, please - a photography show.
This was most likely a quick fill to solve the gap created by the cancellation of The Yes Men, so I think it's only fair to the gallery's interim curator, Jeffrey Hoone, that we wait to see what kinds of shows will be charting the future for this important visual arts venue. Hoone, at the eye of the storm surrounding Suparak's termination, deserves a chance to show us the direction he will take the gallery. He knows he's under a microscope and that community expectations are high.[ Read more here ]
Posted by Whats this? at 1:27 AM
Friday, November 23, 2007
[ Reposted from here ]
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Apparently my old friend Astria Suparak is caught in the middle of some sort of academic ego battle at the
Astria has been super helpful to me over the years, hooking me up with artists Seth Price and Miranda July for different articles and generally schooling me on art film. I was lucky enough to screen one of Astria's short films in a program at years ago, and I can testify that she's a true believer in the DIY community aesthetic. It's been ages since I saw her - upstate is pretty far away sometimes - but I sincerely hope this gets sorted out and she can get back to doing what she does best... This whole situation seems pretty weird and unnecessary.
Check the links:
www.astriasuparak.com art space that she founded a little while back. I don't really know the whole story, but I guess she's been forced out and has had to cancel some shows, which I can attest is a really lame position to be in.
Posted by Whats this? at 11:36 AM
Friday, November 16, 2007
It was the flyer for "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze" that initially caught my attention with its cropped image of I'll Be Your Mirror by Juliet Jacobson and matching seductive title in its glam-metal, fleshy-pink font. In Jacobson's drawing, one half of the graphite image mirrors the other—making it appear that a nude boy with eyes closed reclines and melds into the body of his perfect twin. A giant heart-shape hangs like a moon above the languid pair while skulls and peacock feathers make do as a bed beneath. The name of the exhibition is printed below the image and alludes to Jo-Anne Balcaen's Aw, C'mon while the '80s-rock font suggests Rachel Rampleman's Poison: My Sister Fucked Bret video. My interest piqued, I tracked down the show's curator, Astria Suparak, and the show's three artists for interviews.
The exhibition opened late-August in at the Warehouse Gallery. Affiliated with as one of a consortium of school galleries (Coalition of Museums and Art Centers—CMAC), the space maintains relative independence with its off-campus, downtown location. This location allowed The Warehouse to better fulfill its purported aim to act as a bridge between the university and the population of while presenting international contemporary engaged art, but more specifically by stimulating dialog about art's role in society and expanding notions of art with exposure to current art practice.
Of course, "Come On" did just that with three young women artists taking on desire and sexuality and brought together by a curator who openly describes herself as a "young, queer woman of color." And whether at first by choice and later by dint of circumstance, the ongoing theme of the exhibition was the personal laid bare and exposed. Alternately sexy and uncomfortable the show was always HOT. And not just because of the artwork. Browsing online I found that the exhibition had already been extensively covered by the press; curiously, the curator was fired just after the show opened. It was not too long until speculations about censorship over the content of the exhibition were circulating online. Hot indeed! And presumably no accident either.
An eight-person hiring committee at the university had actively pursued Ms. Suparak for the position of inaugural director of their new contemporary art gallery which she would eventually name The Warehouse. They believed that she possessed the ability to make it a vital space for art. This committee was wowed by her active connection to the contemporary art world. As an independent curator, she had already organized shows for P.S. 1, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, , Participant Inc., Yale University, Eyebeam, New York Underground Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, apexart, etc. According to Suparak, the committee unanimously voted to hire her—and this after she had presented them with many, many fully formed exhibition proposals with titles and lists of artists. Suparak said, "all the exhibitions I organize[d] for the gallery were drawn from that set of ideas." In other words, it appears that the administration knew exactly what they were getting when they hired Suparak—a very active and independent curator. Ostensibly that is what they wanted. Successful, that is precisely what they got; just not as they must have anticipated. It seems that Suparak's vision mightily exceeded that of her superiors' stunted imaginations, and yet not that of The Warehouse's larger audience—"Come On" alone received 4,000 visitors—impressive, especially in a small city like .
For anyone familiar with contemporary art, or even the history of art, the frank sexual content of some of the work in "Come On" would not prove surprising or shocking. Context is another matter as it often compels the judgement of the measure of transgression. Single works of art are routinely removed from exhibitions for their particular content. During our interview, both Rachel Rampleman and Juliet Jacobson mentioned the very recent censoring of a photograph in at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. The snapshot titled Klare and Edda Belly-Dancing shows two young girls playing—one dances above the other who is nude on the floor with legs open. It is part of a 149-piece photo series called and owned by . It was seized by authorities who deemed it pornographic. Those who would have this one photograph removed probably imagine that it does not detract from the work of art. Disagreeing with this limited conception of art, had the remainder of removed from view in support of the integrity of 's work.
This question of content and context is particularly illuminating in light of curator Astria Suparak's dismissal mid-showing of the "Come On" exhibition. In a series of emails, published online at "syracuse loses again," Jeffrey Hoone, the executive director of CMAC who personally dismissed Suparak, asks her to defend the work in the "Come On" exhibition, which he continually characterized as "weak and seriously flawed." Hoone stated that they would "have to do quite a bit of work to provide a context and rationalization for exhibiting these pieces." He singled out Juliet Jacobson's drawings, the content of which he claimed would be "clearly offensive to a good number of people" and would "be a challenge for sophisticated art lovers…and certainly seen as controversial by many."
Juliet Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based artist. She had four works in the show—huge graphite drawings (some as large as 48 by 114 inches) of nude males taken from the pages of '70s and '80s "European, men's-interest magazines." Men pose languorously in these drawings. They penetrate each other as in You Said You Hated Your Body, That It's Just a Piece of Meat, But I Think You're Wrong. I Think You're Beautiful; they kiss in No Weak Heart Shall Prosper; or they hold their erect penises as in Narcissus or I'll Be Your Mirror; and sometimes when they are coupled, one boy is white and one boy is black. All of the images are symmetrically composed where the figures are mirrored or bifurcate from the center. Included are images of snakes, skulls, feathers, flowers and the moon. For Jacobson, the flowers and skulls figure symbolically as a "wish to dismantle limits in love and sex and the demarcation of death as a singular horizon for being." The drawings distort and fracture the body in space and collapse their center. This collapse is presumably the effect of love—something that Jacobson speaks of in reference to her work—human meaning created by the mutuality of self and other rather than the hierarchical arrangement of self and other.
Rachel Rampleman, who also lives in Brooklyn and whose work includes video, photography and sculpture, provided a contrast to Jacobson's work. Poison: My Sister Fucked Bret (2006) is a 30-minute video account of Rampleman's little sister Sarah's night with '80s glam-rock band Poison's lead singer Bret Michaels. It is the memory of being a suburban, teen in the throes of total rock-idol worship to the excitement and disappointment of actually getting to meet him. Flashback images of a younger Sarah are interspersed with Poison video clips, Bret posters and an older Sarah, who now has a different body, narrating her encounter with her teenage-dream idol. She speaks from the backdrop of her home—in her bedroom on her bed, in her bathroom seated in front of a large mirror, in front of a television against which her body is only a black silhouette—sometimes a toddler walks in and out of the frame, or can be heard repeating "la la la la la la." From the clip that's on youtube, you get the sense that her experience with Bret was a mixture of awe and deflated expectation, but matter-of-factly so and not without a dose of humor. At the end of the encounter Bret asks Sarah if he could do anything different for her, in her mind she says, "get an enlargement…take some Viagra."
Neither Rampleman nor her sister expected many people to see this trailer. But they did. On youtube her story was dismissed by comments, the "basic gist," of which, Rampleman said, "was, 'Does Bret bang the fat fans? We think not.' A lot of people were like, 'There's no way.'" Even though these comments were not part of the "Come On" exhibition, they are telling. They acutely register that when it comes to women, bodies are judged first, words second; comments went so far as to suggest that if they found her undesirable, then her story was not even plausible.
Montreal-based artist Jo-Anne-Balcaen felt that her work Blow had much in common with Rampleman's Poison. It was a sculpture made of long skinny black balloons with all their tied openings bound together on a wall. This created a neat rosette of black tubes, which incidentally, resembled condoms with their nippled, receptacle ends pointing out. Since the work was comprised of blown up balloons, it wilted and deflated over the course of the show—mirroring the fate of expectation or memory of celebration turned to disappointment or a return to the mundane. Blow might also intimate that physical female sexual desire does not want to be let down.
Balcaen's other four works in the show were text-based. They included the taunting and reassuring phrase Aw, C'mon written in a heavy-metal font cut from a silvery Plexiglas that made the words reflect like a mirror. Dictionary Definitions: Prince of Darkness , Yearning Year Round, Blurt Blush juxtaposed words and their definitions, alluding to the flux of connotation and meaning inherent in words. Deceptive in their straight forwardness, these works were reminders that words are just like balloons, or other mundane objects, in that they arouse expectation and suggest associations. Hinted at is a cultural inheritance that informs the expectation that words are gendered—as if one word could obviously be feminine, while another, obviously masculine.
Returning to the idea of content and context, it may be tempting to accuse Jeffrey Hoone of censorship in light of his email correspondence with Astria Suparak, the director and curator of the Warehouse Gallery, whom he dismissed. The problem with this accusation is that it narrows and occludes the perception of a constellation of relevant issues at play. In these emails, Hoone demands an account of the work in the show to which Suparak supplies a lengthy defense citing its timeliness with regard to the recent "WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution" at LA MOCA and "Global Feminisms" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; and then further contextualizes the work in regard to third-wave feminism, but especially foregrounds the subject of female sexuality and desire juxtaposed and complicated with the imagery of sexualized, homosexual males. She closes by confirming the exhibition's relevance to a list of several classes at the university.
Hoone lights upon Suparak's mentioning of recent art exhibitions that deal with feminism and contends that she could have borrowed some of these artists like "Catherine Opie, Kara Walker, Sam Taylor-Wood and others" to "introduce the Central audience to important artists dealing with issues of gender, sexuality and representation." This statement admits much, particularly that he misunderstand Jacobson's or Rampleman's or Balcaen's work; or what feminism might mean to a generation of artists with roots and familiarity with DIY, Riot Grrrl, third-wave feminism and queer theory; and how it is that this versatility and fluency with theoretical positions and mediums might inform their practice. He betrays fixed thinking in recommending certain artists, subtly suggesting that feminism—or worse, women artists as a general category—comes prepackaged with ready discourse attached. In doing so he does a great disservice to these established artists by implying that there is a text-book approach to dealing with women and art.
Standing in sharp contrast to this text-book approach was Suparak whose exhibition's resisted narrow thinking and neat categorization—"Come On" was exemplary in this regard. For Hoone though, it must have had the character of something he could not understand nor contain—it was too messy, too sexy, too complicated—overall, too hot. But it was the same HOT thing that embraced; and while probably challenging, a threat it was not. The fact is that Suparak did curate contextually strong exhibitions. This is why she had a following. This is why the Warehouse was widely hailed as a success. And this is why no one but Hoone balked at "Come On: Desire Under the Female Gaze." Suparak was exceedingly capable of creating a context for challenging and new work. So Hoone could not really censor her, subtracting one work from her well-conceived exhibition would not sufficiently stop her as a phenomenon. There was only one possible solution to removing Suparak as a threat. He unilaterally decided to terminate her position.
Promptly after he did so, in a swift chronology of events, he cancelled the next show Suparak had scheduled, "Keep it Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with the Yes Men," furthering an attempt to stamp out her sphere of influence. There was an outcry from the faculty who had given funds for the exhibition and Hoone decided not to cancel it. In support of Suparak and protest at her dismissal, the Yes Men declined to show if they could not work with her. Hundreds of people, even beyond the city limits of , have protested her firing and written letters and lobbied for her reinstatement. A protest was even staged at the front doors of the gallery itself. These include statements of support from Lauren Cornell, executive director of Rhizome; artist Carolee Schneemann; artist Stephen Vitiello; the Faculty of the Department of Film and Electronic Arts; and the Chairs of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at . She was even appointed by a vote of 7-0 by the Common Council to the city's new Public Arts Commission in recognition of the fact that her influence did indeed extend beyond that of the university. Still, a unilateral decision made by one man is somehow being allowed to stand, depriving a university and a city of something they want and no doubt leaving in its wake a new culture of fear and distrust.
Yvonne C. Olivas
Thank you Sady for all your help.
cover image is from Jo-Anne Balcaen's, Blow, 2001, balloons, approximately 8 by 11 by 3 feet and (right) Aw, C'mon, 2005, Plexiglas, 14 by 40 by 3/4 inches.
Please check out:
Jo-Anne Balcaen: http://www.joannebalcaen.ca/
Juliet Jacobson: http://www.sevenseven.com/jacobson/
Rachel Rampleman: http://www.cynthiabroan.com/frameset_Rampleman.html
And for more information about Astria Suparak and recent events:
Copyright 2006 Fanzine Media (www.thefanzine.com) - All Rights Reserved.
Posted by Whats this? at 11:38 AM
Monday, November 12, 2007
November 11, 2007
The corporate takeover of art at
On September 28, 2007, Astria Suparak was dismissed as Director and Curator ofUniversity’s Warehouse Gallery. Suparak was given no reason for the termination of her contract—Chancellor Nancy Cantor told the press and a broad constituency supporting Suparak that this dismissal was a personnel issue, not a decision to censor Suparak based on the content of her shows. Hundreds of SU faculty, students and a national and international art scene continue to believe otherwise and the story has traveled far and wide (New York Times, Artforum, Flash Art, Art Info, Buffalo News, , etc.). This unexplained dismissal of a well-known and respected curator, in tune with her community and on the ascent, is a huge embarrassment for Chancellor Cantor, Syracuse University and the city of Syracuse.
Although all evidence pointed toward censorship (Suparak’s last exhibition was “Come On: desire under the female gaze,” a show Chancellor Cantor and members of her cabinet tried to hide from incoming freshmen), Jeffrey Hoone, the Executive Director of the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers at(CMAC) stated publicly that he dismissed Suparak because he was ‘restructuring’ the Warehouse Gallery. Between SU’s administration hiding behind a shield of “confidential personnel issues” and Hoone’s vague restructuring explanation, the story exploded nationally and internationally, severely damaging the reputation of the arts at and the city of Syracuse.
Throughout the month of October 2007, Chancellor Cantor and Vice-Chancellor Eric Spina continued to support Hoone’s decision to dismiss Suparak, while behind the scenes this same administration encouraged the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) to work out a deal to hire Suparak as a Curator-in-Residence. Ann Clarke, Associate Dean of VPA, asked Suparak to submit a proposal for such a position and Clarke began meeting with the faculties of the Department of Transmedia and theand Design to involve the University community in the formation of this Curator-in-Residence position. The Administration (Cantor and Spina), asked Eleanor Ware, SU’s Senior Vice-President for Human Services and Government Relations to work with VPA’s Ann Clark and Astria Suparak to strike a deal. The idea was that the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor would put up the money, the College of Visual and Performing Arts would be the administrative home of this new position, and this new initiative would allow Suparak to continue her innovative curatorial work minus a permanent space (SU’s Administration refused to reverse their decision that the Warehouse Gallery would be transformed into an extension of CMAC’s SU Art Gallery with Jeff Hoone as Interim Curator).
On Friday morning, November 2, 2007, lawyers representingand Astria Suparak exchanged a draft contract for this Curator-in-Residence position in VPA. VPA Dean Carole Brzozowski and Ann Clarke had met earlier, on Monday of that week, with Suparak and SU faculty members, Tom Sherman and Joanna Spitzner. All agreed this was a chance to invent something exciting, a new kind of position that could put a charge into a stagnant, somewhat dusty visual arts component of the College. Many were hopeful a deal was about to be struck a little over a month after Suparak’s last day at the Warehouse Gallery. But on November 2nd, late in the afternoon on that same Friday, Astria Suparak received word from her lawyer that SU’s lawyer had called to say the University had withdrawn the offer. Ann Clarke later sent an e-mail to Suparak confirming that the University’s offer for the Curator-in-Residence position had been withdrawn by VPA’s administration, Carole Brzozowski and Ann Clarke. Clarke said the offer was withdrawn because of a lack of trust (their decision was apparently based on their perception of a lack of ‘chemistry’ between them and Suparak), and because VPA is in too poor a shape to take the University’s money for the Curator-in-Residence position!!??.
Since the money for this new position was coming exclusively from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor’s offices, did Brzozowski and Clarke consult with Cantor and Spina before pulling the plug? To date Brzozowski and Clarke have made no attempt to communicate with the public on the reasons for their withdrawal of this offer.
Let’s reflect on the events of this autumn and where we might go from here. Jeffrey Hoone dismissed Suparak, during the ascent of her growing success at the Warehouse Gallery, without giving cause. The Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor stood by this decision, supporting Hoone, stating that SU’s Human Resources policies had been followed and implying that there was cause, while hundreds of letters and thousands of e-mails from, national and international artists, curators, educators, business leaders, city officials and concerned individuals were demanding Suparak’s reinstatement at the Warehouse Gallery. Everyone wanted to know why Suparak was fired and how this could be supported by the University. Toward the end of October, Suparak was permitted to check her file at SU’s Office of Human Resources. There was no statement of cause for dismissal in this file. There was no evidence of a performance review. No review ever occurred. No complaint or citation about her performance was ever filed. In fact, her file was completely clean.
Meanwhile, CMAC remains intact with Hoone as its Executive Director, and a chill has been cast over CMAC’s once independent galleries and spaces. The faculties of the Department of Transmedia and theand Design have boycotted and effectively cancelled SU’s 2007 Faculty Show. These faculties were not only protesting Suparak’s dismissal but the total disconnect between the creative academic mission of these Departments and the University-imposed CMAC ‘coalition.’ VPA’s visual and media arts faculty and students find themselves literally without exhibition space for their own work. The Warehouse Gallery that they were investing in financially and pedagogically (the Yes Men show and Suparak’s other unrealized exhibitions) has been snatched away to serve Cantor, Spina and Hoone’s vision of the arts at SU. What expertise do they employ when making their decisions? Has the College of Visual and Performing Arts ever been weaker?
Trust between the administration and faculty, students and alumni has been shattered. The University and city have been hurt badly. Young people were actually moving to and staying inbecause the scene was showing signs of life. If the arts are indeed part of ’s rebirth, then we have all suffered quite a setback. The reputations of many of the key players have been tarnished. We should all be deeply embarrassed. The global arts scene is wired and communicative and has a long memory. From to Brooklyn to to to —if you are in the arts you would have to be under a rock to have missed this story. Our first international arts story since a retrospective brought Ono and to the Everson Museum in 1971, and it is this stinker! This CMAC/Warehouse Gallery fiasco will cost the city in the long run and will hurt the University in its efforts to recruit and retain good faculty, staff and students.
This whole mess could have been avoided, had it not been for the excesses of an uptight corporate university culture and a group of decision-makers sharing a basic disrespect for artists and creative, open-minded people in general. Silencing a respected curator profoundly in-tune with her community and on the ascent is a blatant act of censorship. Spin it anyway you like—the direction, timing and nature of the hostility toward Suparak and the community that supported her speaks for itself. Take a look around this city and University. You will see a demoralized, disenfranchised, angry creative sector. You will see an art scene wounded by a corporate University fearful of and hell-bent on oppressing the energy, inventiveness and joyful noise of its creative community.
Where do we go from here? The first thing we ask is for an explanation of why the University’s offer of the Curator-in-Residence position was withdrawn. Astria Suparak was negotiating in good faith with the University, and many people within the community had worked very hard to make something positive happen in the aftermath of the CMAC/Warehouse Gallery debacle. While the best solution would have been to simply reinstate Suparak at the Warehouse Gallery, the Curator-in-Residence alternative made a lot of sense. Why was the University’s offer to fund and facilitate this new position withdrawn and who withdrew it?
The other question is what is the University going to do to address the critical need for space for faculty and students in the Departments of theand Design and Transmedia to exhibit their work and interact with the public? Drama and music have dedicated theatre and concert spaces; engineering, biology and chemistry have their labs. Exhibition spaces for the visual and media arts are the equivalent of laboratories in other disciplines. After years of being criticized for low visibility, now in this climate of scholarship in action we find the University’s art galleries and spaces serving other interests. Why does the University choose to ignore the pedagogical and social needs of the faculties and students of its degree programs in visual and media arts?
This community deserves answers to these questions. Awaiting public statements on these issues from the University administration and the College of Visual and Performing Arts,
Posted by Whats this? at 10:34 AM
[Reposted from here]
Would-be curator loses offer to return to SU
By: Matthew Nojiri
Posted by Whats this? at 10:30 AM
Friday, November 2, 2007
[Reposted from here]
Suparak may return as VPA curator, liaison for arts
By: Eddie Jacovino
Posted by Whats this? at 12:00 PM
At the time of Suparak's dismissal, Hoone also canceled her forthcoming exhibitions, including "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men," due to open in November 2007.