Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ben Russell

Dear Chancellor Cantor,

It is with no small amount of sorrow that I am writing to you in protest of Astria Suparak's impending dismissal as Director of the Warehouse Gallery. As a media artist, a film/video curator, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Moving Image at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Astria professionally for over seven years, and I have been consistently impressed with and inspired by the inventiveness, drive, and commitment that she has brought to her curatorial practice. Astria's support of experimental, underground, and alternate art practices through her own indefatigable work ethic has been invaluable to the arts community as a whole; as an active member of this community, I am perplexed as to why Astria is being removed from a position that has made manifest her strengths as a curator and has placed Syracuse University at the forefront of contemporary arts exhibition.

From her earlier days as a traveling film/video programmer to her regrettably tenuous present as Director of the Warehouse Gallery, I have been fortunate to bear witness to the growth in Astria's practice. Her dynamic, provocative, and rigorous approach to curation is one that I drew heavily from when I began an experimental film/video series in 2003 called Magic Lantern in Providence, Rhode Island. I invited Astria to show the "Quantum Leaps" program at Magic Lantern in 2006, and it was truly an honor to host her in a space that she had been a source of inspiration for. Since that time, it has been abundantly clear to me that the shows/screenings/lectures that she has organized in her all-too-brief tenure at the Warehouse Gallery are among the best she's ever put together, and while I have not been fortunate to visit any of the exhibitions in person, the press releases/ emails/ postcards I've received always make me wish that Syracuse was the next city over. I envy those who were able to see "Faux Naturel" and "Embracing Nature" and "COME ON," and I certainly sympathize with those Syracuse residents who will be unable to experience Astria's future curatorial projects if Mr. Hoone's inexplicable decision comes to fruition.

In closing, I'd like to say that while I haven't always agreed with Astria's programming choices, I've always been thankful to hear her voice above the din of what tends to be a cautious, careful, and joyless approach to the presentation of contemporary art. Disagreement and dissent are vital elements in the larger conversation that we're all engaged in - Astria's work has been critical in moving this discourse forward, and it will be a true shame if her dismissal comes to pass. While I have no doubt that Astria will move on to better things, the Syracuse community will be hard-pressed to do so in her absence. I strongly urge you to reconsider Mr. Hoone's decision.

Respectfully Yours,

Ben Russell
Visiting Assistant Professor in Moving Image, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Syracuse has lost one its greatest assets. Astria Suparak, Inaugural Director of The Warehouse Gallery of Syracuse University, was removed from her position as of Sept. 30th, 2007, despite widespread support from community members, students, faculty, and the international art community. This decision was made unilaterally by Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC).

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.