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December 11, 2018

————-german below————-



Who we are: Migrant/Black/Indigenous/Lesbian/Queer/Trans* Artists of Color

On November 12, 2018, artist and filmmaker Cana Bilir-Meier was invited to take part in a public conversation regarding Germany’s political shift to the right at the Münchner Kammerspiele. The talk was organized and moderated by curator Kasper König. After the talk, Bilir-Meier wrote a Facebook post in which she talked about König’s racist behaviour and wordings, both before and during the discussion. She also posted a video clip of a short excerpt from the talk. The entire event (german) can be seen here:

With this letter we would like to emphasize our solidarity with Cana Bilir-Meier. We have witnessed how the discussions that followed this incident have been reduced to Cana Bilir-Meier as an individual. We insist that this incident is not an isolated case. It is not at all about an interpersonal conflict between two people. On the contrary – this incident reveals mechanisms that we as migrant/black/indigenous/lesbian/queer/trans artists of Color have experienced numerous times.

While our individual experiences of discrimination might differ, we have all been confronted with racism. Hierarchies in the art world and the dependencies they produce (yes, even we have to live from something!) do not always allow us to speak out and defend ourselves against discrimination. Cana Bilir-Meier however defended herself, giving voice not only to the discrimination she faced, but also to that faced by many people!

1. We observe that the structural levels of racism and discrimination disappear when we express our criticism, and that we are accused of being aggressive or self-pitying when we call it out! WE ARE SICK OF

  • constantly explaining that capitalism, nation-states, hegemony, heteronormativity and various forms of discrimination are entwined with one another.
  • the fact that forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, anti-semitism, anti-muslim racism/islamophobia, and transphobia are used to judge, to select and yes, ultimately, to kill. They are employed to enable participation in and access to economic and political orders for certain people. They are always employed in order to sustain structures of domination.
  • the personalization of structural discrimination, which trivializes and conceals its political and socio-economic impact.
  • how people express solidarity, profess anti-racism and position themselves against racial discrimination, but then are unwilling to change anything structurally.

2. Institutions acquire „critical“ knowledge without assuming responsibility, and thus reproduce forms of discrimination! WE ARE SICK OF

  • an art world that, on the one hand, deals “critically” with migration, racism, colonialism, etc., yet reproduces discrimination at the same time.
  • the fact that people talk to us, but then make our perspectives and voices invisible. That we are invited, but are only interesting as long as our criticism does not interfere with the everyday praxis of the institution/person, but instead helps them improve their image.
  • the fact that institutions only temporarily bring in critical artistic, political positions from outside and accuse us of belligerence or of being uncooperative as soon as we express ourselves critically about racism.
  • how big art and cultural institutions want to critically reflect on racism, migration, colonialism, but then only white people get well paid, non-precarious jobs.
  • the same people and institutions all too often remain silent about discrimination(s) and that they still have to be made aware of it.
  • people and institutions embellishing themselves with “openness,” critical consciousness and discourses, while decisions and actions never change.

3. What impact does structural discrimination have on our lives and our creativity? WE ARE SICK OF

  • being judged and having stereotypical images constructed about us.
  • being objectified by art and cultural institutions and universities, them determining what art and knowledge production must look like, which language they can be articulated in, who talks about whom and how.
  • the ways in which power structures and gazes define what thinking, feeling, writing, learning and seeing are.
  • being accused of making “personal and constructive conversations” impossible because we are not willing to have these conversations behind closed doors and in an individualized manner.
  • hearing that we simply misunderstood and that it wasn’t meant like that, that we are exaggerating and it has nothing at all to do with racism.
  • of our opinions being discredited because discrimination affects us emotionally and we are not involved on a purely factual level.

You want to sign the statment email to:

After the video of the event was posted online, the Municipal Theater in Munich apologized for König’s remarks.

The municipal theater posted this message on its Facebook page (translated from German):

On November 12, 2018, in Chamber 3 of the Munich Kammerspiele, a discussion took place in the “König” series, in which Cana Bilir-Meier, Wilhelm Klotzek and Henrike Naumann were to be in discussion with Kasper König as moderator. The term “Homeland” was the topic and with it, its fitness for the art world and the accompanying aesthetic political discourse around the concept was to be discussed. This attempt missed his goal. In this respect, statements made by the host, which can be understood as degrading in particular to (post-)migrants; Kasper König has apologized to the artist, Bilir-Meier. Matthias Lilienthal, as director of the Munich Kammerspiele, apologizes for the fact that in an event he has been responsible, he has been chosen to have insulted both Bilir-Meier and (post-)migrants in Germany. A discussion on the subject is in planning.

Read more in Hyperallergic:

German Museum Director and Curator Accused of Making Racist Remarks About German-Turks at Panel





Wer sind wir: migrantische/Schwarze/indigene/lesbische/queere/trans Künstler*innen of Color.

Am 12. November 2018 ist die Künstlerin und Filmemacherin Cana Bilir-Meier zu einem Talk eingeladen worden, der im Rahmen der Münchner Kammerspiele vom Kurator Kasper König organisiert und moderiert wurde. Thema der Veranstaltung war der Rechtsruck in Deutschland. Nach dem Talk schrieb Cana Bilir-Meier einen Facebook-Post, in dem sie den rassistischen Umgang und die Ausdrucksweise von König vor und während der öffentlichen Diskussion thematisierte.

Dazu hat sie ein Video gepostet, das einen kurzen Ausschnitt aus dem Talk zeigt. Die gesamte Veranstaltung ist auf folgendem Link anzusehen:

Mit diesem Schreiben möchten wir unsere Solidarität mit Cana Bilir-Meier unterstreichen. Denn: In der Diskussion, die auf die Veranstaltung folgte, müssen wir einmal mehr feststellen, dass der Vorfall auf Cana Bilir-Meier persönlich reduziert wird. Wir möchten jedoch entschieden darauf hinweisen, dass dieser Vorfall kein Einzelfall ist. Es geht hier keinesfalls um einen persönlichen Konflikt, im Gegenteil werden vielmehr Mechanismen sichtbar, die wir als migrantische/schwarze/indigene/lesbische/queere/trans Künstler*innen of Color selbst schon mehrfach erlebt haben.

Wir sind zwar unterschiedlich von Diskriminierung betroffen, jedoch sind wir alle schon mit rassistischen Positionen konfrontiert worden. Hierarchien im Kunstkontext und damit verbundene Abhängigkeiten (Ja, auch wir müssen von etwas leben!) lassen es nicht immer zu, dass wir uns dagegen wehren können. Cana Bilir-Meier hat sich jedoch zur Wehr gesetzt und damit nicht nur die Diskriminierung ihr gegenüber, sondern gegenüber Vielen sichtbar gemacht!

1. Wir stellen fest, dass die strukturelle Ebene von Rassismus und Diskriminierungen ausgeblendet wird, wenn wir unsere Kritik formulieren und wir anschließend beschuldigt werden, aggressiv oder wehleidig zu sein! ES KOTZT UNS AN, DASS

  • wir immer erklären müssen, dass Kapitalismus, Nationalstaatlichkeit, Hegemonie, Heternormativitäten und Diskriminierungsformen miteinander verschränkt sind.
  • Diskriminierungsformen wie Rassismus, Sexismus, Homophobie, Klassismus, Antisemitismus, antimuslimischer Rassismus, Transphobie Werkzeuge sind, um zu bewerten,  zu selektieren, ja letztendlich zu töten. Immer werden sie dafür eingesetzt, die Teilhabe und den Zugang zu ökonomischen und politischen Privilegien nur bestimmten Menschen zu ermöglichen. Immer werden sie dafür eingesetzt, Herrschaftsstrukturen aufrechtzuerhalten.
  • strukturelle Diskriminierungen personalisiert werden und die politische und sozioökonomische Bedeutung dadurch verharmlost oder verschwiegen wird.
  • sich Leute solidarisieren, sich gegen Rassismus bekennen und positionieren, dann aber strukturell nichts ändern wollen.

2. Institutionen eignen sich “kritisches” Wissen an, ohne Verantwortung zu übernehmen und reproduzieren somit Formen von Diskriminierungen! ES KOTZT UNS AN, DASS

  • ein Kunstkontext, der sich auf der einen Seite „kritisch“ mit Migration, Rassismus, Klassismus und Kolonialismus auseinandersetzt, gleichzeitig Diskriminierungen reproduziert.
  • mit uns gesprochen wird, aber unsere Perspektiven und Stimmen unsichtbar gemacht werden. Dass wir eingeladen werden, aber nur interessant sind, solange unsere Kritik nicht die alltägliche Praxis der Institution/Person kritisiert, sondern ihr bei einer Imageverbesserung hilft.
  • sich Institutionen kritische künstlerisch-politische Positionen nur temporär von außen holen und uns Streitlust oder mangelnde Kooperation vorwerfen, sobald wir uns kritisch gegenüber Rassismus äußern.
  • sich die großen Kunst- und Kulturinstitutionen kritisch mit Rassismus, Migration, Kolonialismus auseinander setzen wollen, dann aber nur weiße Personen die gut bezahlten und nicht prekären Jobs bekommen.
  • dieselben Personen und Institutionen allzu oft zu Diskriminierung(en) schweigen und immer noch auf diese hingewiesen werden müssen.
  • sich Personen und Institutionen zwar mit “Offenheit”, kritischem Bewusstsein und Diskursen schmücken, sich gleichzeitig jedoch Entscheidungen und Handlungen nicht verändern.

3. Welche Auswirkungen haben strukturelle Diskriminierungen auf unser Leben und Schaffen? ES KOTZT UNS AN, DASS

  • wir von Kunst- und Kulturinstitutionen und Universitäten objektiviert werden und diese bestimmen, wie Kunst- und Wissensproduktion aussehen müssen, in welcher Sprache sie artikuliert werden dürfen, wer wie über wen spricht.
  • wir bewertet werden und dass dadurch stereotype Bilder über uns konstruiert werden.
  • die Machtstrukturen und Blickkonstruktionen das Denken, Fühlen, Schreiben, Lernen und Schauen an sich strukturieren.
  • wir beschuldigt werden, „persönliche und konstruktive Gespräche“ zu verunmöglichen, weil wir nicht bereit sind, die Diskussion nur hinter verschlossenen Türen und in individualisierter Weise zu führen.
  • wir dann hören, dass wir nur was falsch verstanden haben und es nicht so gemeint war, dass wir übertreiben und es sich überhaupt nicht um Rassismus handelt.
  • unsere Meinungen diskreditiert werden, weil uns Diskriminierungen auch emotional betreffen und wir nicht rein sachlich beteiligt sind.


Whitney Museum Staff Demands Answers Over Vice Chair’s Relationship to Tear Gas Manufacturer

December 4, 2018

To the leadership of the Whitney Museum:

We are writing to convey our outrage upon learning that Whitney Vice Chairman Warren Kanders’ company, Safariland, is the supplier of the tear gas recently used to attack asylum seekers at the US border, and our frustration and confusion at the Whitney’s decision to remain silent on this matter. We understand this is not new information to leadership or likely to the rest of the Board, but many of us learned of the connection via the Hyperallergic article published November 27, 2018. We also understand the nuanced and vital relationship any nonprofit has to its Board. But we believe that this recently aired knowledge about Mr. Kanders’ business is demonstrative of the systemic injustice at the forefront of the Whitney’s ongoing struggle to attract and retain a diverse staff and audience. And because we feel strongly about this, we believe it is our responsibility to speak to this injustice directly, even as the Whitney has chosen not to. To remain silent is to be complicit.

First and foremost, some of us are deeply connected to the communities that are being directly impacted and targeted by the tear gassing at the border. For the Whitney not to acknowledge that this news may impact its staff is to assume we are separate from the issue, that it is happening somewhere else to some other people. Many of us feel the violence inflicted upon the refugees—and against mostly-POC protesters in Ferguson, and mostly-Indigenous protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline, just two of many other instances of militarized tear gassing of unarmed citizens—much more personally than it seems to affect leadership. For many of us, the communities at the border, in Ferguson, in the Dakotas, are our communities. We read the Hyperallergic article and felt not annoyed, not intellectually upset—we felt sick to our stomachs, we shed tears, we felt unsafe.

As of Thursday morning, November 29, we have received no official internal communication addressing the Hyperallergic article. A small group of us were informed of the Whitney’s policy not to comment on the personal business of Trustees, but this is public knowledge, not a private matter of Mr. Kanders’. Setting aside the personal reactions of staff, this choice makes it difficult for staff to function well professionally. Should protests from the public or questions from visitors arise, our visitor-facing staff will be the ones answering them. Leadership choosing not to give a public (or even internal) statement displaces the labor to our visitor-facing staff, who are, generally speaking, our most diverse and lowest paid staff. You will recall similar complaints surrounding the Dana Schutz protests—and we are disappointed that the response by the leadership of this institution remains the same.

So many of us are working towards a more equitable and inclusive institution. We work to bring in artists who are immigrants and artists of color to the collection. We create programming for youth and families who are affected by current immigration policy. Upon learning of Kanders’s business dealings, many of us working on these initiatives feel uncomfortable in our positions. We cannot claim to serve these communities while accepting funding from individuals whose actions are at odds with that mission. This work which we are so proud of does not wash away these connections.

The Whitney has historically followed artists’ lead in finding our way through thorny decisions. Now we encourage the Whitney to follow the lead of its staff.

Here are our current demands:

  • For leadership to convey our concerns to the Board, including that they consider asking for Warren Kanders’ resignation.
  • A public statement from the Whitney in response to the Hyperallergic article
  • A museum wide staff forum for employees to discuss this and other issues, and related policies moving forward
  • The development and distribution of a clear policy around Trustee participation.
    • NB: Here, we intend to clarify what qualifies or disqualifies a wealthy philanthropic individual for the Board. Is there a moral line? If so, what is that line? If this was an instance of a #metoo scandal, would we call for resignation? If this was an instance of overt racism, would we call for resignation? We believe the line should be that we not be afflicted with any Board member whose work or actions are at odds with the museum’s mission.

We acknowledge the difficult position in which these demands will place leadership, and consequently the unfortunate strain any ramifications will put on our staff. But we believe in speaking truth to power, we believe in cultural institutions as community leaders and as sanctuary spaces, and we believe that there is a better way. To achieve true institutional health, measured not on the quality of our exhibitions or the number of tickets sales, but the genuine satisfaction of our audiences and staff, we need to address these uncomfortable issues. We need to interrogate our tendencies to look the other way. We are reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.

Continuing to accept funding—even, or perhaps especially, transformative funding—from individuals who are knowingly complicit in the injustices committed on our own land and across our borders is negative peace. We demand positive peace.

Thank you, and we look forward to a productive dialogue and definitive change.


  1. Dani Lencioni
  2. Elena Ketelsen González
  3. Melissa Robles
  4. Hakimah Abdul-Fattah
  5. Jeanette Gonzalez
  6. Mark Guinto
  7. Dyeemah Simmons
  8. Dina Helal
  9. Levi Friedman
  10. Deja Belardo
  11. Caroline Kelley
  12. Hunter Adams
  13. Christy Yanis
  14. Shaye Thiel
  15. Dante Fumagalli
  16. Natali Cabrera
  17. Billie Rae Vinson
  18. Emma Quaytman
  19. Marcela Guerrero
  20. Vishal Narang
  21. Leslie Castaneda
  22. Isabelle Dow
  23. Amalia Delgado Hodges
  24. Ramsay Kolber
  25. Ambika Trasi
  26. Greta Hartenstein
  27. Christie Mitchell
  28. Rujeko Hockley
  29. Kelly Long
  30. Hilary Devaney
  31. Kennia Lopez
  32. Alana Hernandez
  33. Carly Fischer
  34. Anes Sung
  35. Aliza Sena
  36. Elizabeth Knowlton
  37. Michael Moriah
  38. Claire K. Henry
  39. Clemence White
  40. Justin Allen
  41. Danielle Bias
  42. Jessica Palinski
  43. Lauren Young
  44. Margaret Kross
  45. Madison Zalopany
  46. Colin Brooks
  47. Lawrence Hernandez
  48. Nicholas DiLeonardi
  49. Jackie Foster
  50. Max Chester
  51. Jennifer Ciarleglio
  52. Emma Gluck
  53. Sasha Wortzel
  54. Lauri London Freedman
  55. Micah Musheno
  56. Joseph Shepherd
  57. Megan Heuer
  58. Karly Anderson
  59. Liz Plahn
  60. Andrew Hawkes
  61. Greg Siegel
  62. David Huerta
  63. Mike Jensen
  64. Sofia Sinibaldi
  65. Nancy Joyce
  66. Eric Preiss
  67. Max Parry
  68. Saleem Nasir Gondal
  69. Ricki Rothchild
  70. Aqsa Ahmad
  71. Jennie Goldstein
  72. Laura Phipps
  73. Andrea Ahtziri Reséndiz Gómez
  74. Melinda Lang
  75. Austin Bowes
  76. Ariel Luisa Mercado
  77. Justin Romeo
  78. Nicolas Ochart
  79. Kayla Espinal
  80. Nathaniel LaCelle-Peterson
  81. Jessica Man
  82. Luis Padilla
  83. Jaz Garner
  84. Yon Mi Kim
  85. Rachel Ninomiya
  86. Michael Brogan
  87. Jessica Pepe
  88. Jason Phillips
  89. Rebecca Walsh
  90. Kelley Loftus
  91. Chrissie Iles
  92. Lindsey O’Connor
  93. Joanna Epstein
  94. Zoe Tippl
  95. Joel Snyder


Adam Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art responded to the letter on December 3, 2018


Dear Staff and Trustees,

I write to you now as one community, one family—the Whitney. Together, for the last fifteen years, we have created a place of great promise, hopes and dreams, often against great odds. Our community united in common purpose to reimagine a home for artists in the 21st century where they can envision, experiment, struggle, risk and even protest openly, unencumbered and uncensored. We have fashioned this protected space together through mutual trust, respect, openness and discussion even when opinions differ. We respect the right to dissent as long as we can safeguard the art in our care and the people in our midst. As one director colleague describes the contemporary museum, it is “a safe space for unsafe ideas.” This is the democracy of art.

We truly live in difficult times. People are suffering in our city, the US and around the world: nationalism has risen to unimaginable heights; homelessness is rampant; refugee crises abound; people of color, women and LGBTQ communities feel under attack; and the environment grows more precarious. All these tragedies have understandably led to tremendous sadness and frustration, quick tempers, magnified rhetoric and generational conflict.

Like many contemporary cultural institutions, the Whitney Museum has always been a space for the playing out of disparate and conflicting ideas. Even as we are idealistic and missionary in our belief in artists—as established by our founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney—the Whitney is first and foremost a museum. It cannot right all the ills of an unjust world, nor is that its role. Yet, I contend that the Whitney has a critical and urgent part to play in making sure that unheard and unwanted voices are recognized. Through our openness and independence, we can foreground often marginalized, unconventional and seemingly unacceptable ideas not presented in other sites in our culture.

I am proud of the work we are doing to present progressive and challenging artists and exhibitions for vast audiences, including this year alone: David Wojnarowicz, an outcast voice silenced much too early; Zoe Leonard, a poet of the unseen and unsung; Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay, a chance to experience powerful new Latinx voices; Programmed, a radical rethinking of art and technology; Mary Corse, a giant of her generation often overlooked because of her gender; Grant Wood, who worked in other challenging times; Between the Waters, a view of young artists grappling with environmental precariousness; Nick Mauss’s meditation on dance, fashion, design and untold queer histories; and now, Andy Warhol, whose work continues to interrogate and upend how we think of the world today. Beyond that we have presented a compelling array of artist-centric educational and community programs that reach increasingly diverse publics from our neighborhood and afar.

We at the Whitney have created a culture that is unique and vibrant—but also precious and fragile. This “space” is not one I determine as director but something that we fashion by mutual consent and shared commitment on all levels and in many ways. As members of the Whitney community, we each have our critical and complementary roles: trustees do not hire staff, select exhibitions, organize programs or make acquisitions, and staff does not appoint or remove board members. Our truly extraordinary environment, which lends such high expectations, is something we must preserve collectively. Even as we contend with often profound contradictions within our culture, we must live within the laws of society and observe the “rules” of our Museum—mutual respect, fairness, tolerance and freedom of expression and, speaking personally, a commitment to kindness. It is so easy to tear down but so much more difficult to build and sustain.

To those of you, and I trust it is nearly all, who want to move forward despite some significant differences of opinion, I am here as your partner, to lead and to work hard every day to make the Whitney, and possibly the world, a better place. I accept that there may be a few of you who are not inclined to do so, but I would like nothing more than to continue this journey together. We have important work to do. As Flora Miller Biddle, the granddaughter of our founder, said several years ago, “The Whitney Museum is an idea…” This idea, painstakingly built for close to ninety years, has been bequeathed to us. It is a vulnerable idea,  now ours to nurture.

I am deeply grateful to our extremely committed, thoughtful and generous board, as well as to our talented and dedicated staff.

I look forward to working and meeting with you in the days ahead.

With respect,



Whitney Vice Chair Responds to Open Letter Calling for Action Against Him


To the Whitney Board of Trustees:

I am writing in response to the statement signed by staff members of the Whitney. I am, and always have been, exceptionally proud of my company, its employees and our vital mission to provide safety and survivability products for public safety professionals, which we have been doing for over 50 years. I also appreciate that, while this is a highly politicized and divisive time, these developments create an opportunity for an open and informed dialogue that will hopefully bring us together around common values.

While the staff at the Whitney felt the need to speak out, which I fully support, it is unfortunate that they did not first reach out to me. As such, I have taken it upon myself to respond.

I am the Chairman, CEO and owner of The Safariland Group. We are the largest global manufacturer of body armor for police officers, we provide safety holsters that prevent criminals from taking firearms from cops and we make the majority of the bomb suits worldwide worn by people who risk their lives to keep us safe.

We also manufacture the non-lethal products that started this discussion, including what is commonly known as tear gas. Non-lethal products were created as an alternative to lethal solutions. Regardless of one’s political persuasion, I hope we can all agree that uncontrolled riots pose a serious threat not only to the safety and security of law enforcement, but also to the public in general. When faced with a chaotic situation, law enforcement officers have few options for crowd control, and non-lethal products (including “tear gas”) are on the list.

Safariland’s role as a manufacturer is to ensure the products work, as expected, when needed. Safariland’s role is not to determine when and how they are employed. The staff letter implies that I am responsible for the decision to use these products. I am not. That is not an abdication of responsibility, it is an acknowledgement of reality. We sell products to government institutions, domestically and internationally, all of which must be certified to purchase and use these products. Domestic buyers must be bona fide law enforcement agencies. In the case of international clients, we are required to obtain export licenses from the Department of State for every shipment. In other words, our business is highly regulated to ensure that our products are only sold to governmentapproved users.

Notwithstanding an obvious difference of opinion, I admire the bravery of the staff in stepping forward. Having said that, however, I think it is clear that I am not the problem the authors of the letter seek to solve. I spend a substantial amount of time with the first responders Safariland serves, and they are not the problem either. In fact, they are self-sacrificing men and women who put themselves in danger every day on our collective behalf.

I am proud that we have broadened the Whitney’s role as the preeminent institution devoted to the art of the United States. While my company and the museum have distinct missions, both are important contributors to our society. This is why I believe that the politicization of every aspect of public life, including commercial organizations and cultural institutions, is not productive or healthy.

More than ten years ago, I became involved with the Whitney because I believe its mission is bigger than any one person and that creating a safe space for artists and expression is critical. Let me be clear that my commitment to that mission is unwavering, and I am grateful for the support recently expressed by the Board of Trustees. My involvement with the Whitney also reflects my personal values around diversity, inclusion, access and equality. In fact, just last month, I co-organized a series of exhibitions, installations and public programs at Brown University entitled “On Protest, Art & Activism”. I believe that my record speaks for itself, both with regard to my philanthropic activities as well as the businesses and institutions that I associate with.

My hope is that providing facts about Safariland, and the vital products it produces for public safety professionals worldwide, can lead to a more informed and constructive dialogue as we move forward together.

Warren B. Kanders

It is time to put your ambitions aside and fight for Rome

October 30, 2018

The Macro museum (Rome’s dedicated contemporary art museum) has since September 30th been run by Giorgio de Finis, after a 5 year period with no appointed director. De Finis’s appointment has been controversial for two principle reasons. Firstly he was appointed by the 5 star movement governed council of Rome without an open call (in keeping with the policy whereby the mayor elects museum directors). Secondly, he is operating a completely open policy: anyone can show there. The art and news media have been openly hostile to him and the museum. Critic and curator Mike Watson responds here to the ‘Macro Asilo’s’ critics, among them Raffaele Gavarro and Massimiliano Tonelli, asking for unity against the far right.


Robert Pettena, Ignazio Giordano, Valeria Rugi, Francesca Sandroni,
Live Performance. Grotesque Games, photo by Robert Pettena, 2018


To the Macro’s critics:

I cannot be quiet longer. Having had experience as a critic and curator at the Macro in 2012, 2013 and 2018, and having written over 100 texts on Italian contemporary art for major publications, as well as having curated at several Italian galleries and foundations and at the Biennale di Venezia and Palermo Manifesta, I feel I need to weigh in on the debate around the Macro Asilo, not least as it is a useless distraction at a crucial time. So here is a response following Raffaele Gavarro’s Artribune text, ‘Il Macro Asilo e la politica italiana e romana’, the latest among many made by a group of critics and curators critical of the Macro.

I will write in English for clarity and as I no longer live in Italy. I am sure you will follow me fine. I of course can see why you (Tonelli, Gavarro, Vedevotto) and many others are criticising the Macro Asilo project, including the way in which Giorgio de Finis was chosen without an open call as director of Rome’s municipal museum. I know some among you have for years fought for an open call appointment of a new director. Though I disagree with you, both in your reasoning and methodological approach to politics within the art world. Let me firstly remind you that while the former director, Pietromarchi, was sympathetic to an open call for a new director which would take place some time during his tenure, he never actually set a date for that call. He also intended to run as a candidate in the open call. That is to say he intended to apply for his own job. And we can assume that a man who has gone from the Maxxi to the Macro and back to the Maxxi, and who has also curated the Italian pavilion of the biennale would have won his own open call, if he had not been ousted by Sindaco Marino’s giunta before it could take place. So the situation prior to De Finis was never really more likely to bring a genuinely open appointment.

Aside from this, let us be realistic about what an open call means in Italy, and perhaps in many countries. Open calls tend to favor people already in the art system, who are know to the panelists who judge the call. In Rome, where people tend to gain work positions through a nepotistic favour system, the idea of an open call is particularly naive. Though if any of you have a way of making a call genuinely open, I would be interested to hear it. Until then, lets be clear that the Maxxi’s open call, which resulted in the appointment of Hanru, has hardly made the Maxxi an open and democratic cultural center. Hanru has to answer to a number of permanent curators who no one appointed, and is now himself working alongside Pietromarchi… not a good situation for Italy’s national modern and contemporary art museum.

So if we really look at Italy and the recent history of appointments in Rome, the appointment of Giorgio de Finis is not in itself unusual, and in no way worse than what has passed before, not least as he is offering a space in which ANYONE CAN DO ANYTHING. As such his museum is really the most ‘open’ one can conceive of. You may have your doubts about this format, though what it effectively achieves is that it goes one step further than the open appointment of a director, by making the entire museum a tabula rasa. You are complaining about the lack of an open call, when the entire museum is now open.

Now hold that idea in mind, while I now consider the irresponsible charge that the Macro Asilo is a reflection of the political situation today, and more particularly (as Massimiliano Tonelli has reflected) of ‘populism’. Firstly, the term populism itself is very hard to define. In essence it means government for the people, or a politics designed to appeal to the masses. However, it has come to mean a form of right wing politics that plays on people’s fear. Whilst I can see how we could define the Macro Asilo as populist in the sense that it ‘is a museum for the people’, it is not in any sense populist in the right wing sense of a popular government that rules by exploiting people’s anxiety, and it is irresponsible to suggest that the Macro Asilo is in any way linked to this pernicious form of government. Similarly, while the Macro Asilo’s management may reflect some of the horizontalizing practices of the 5* movement, it does not reflect the racism of some of its political partners. Given this confusion, I think it is much more useful to see the Macro Asilo as historically inspired by the avant-gardes of the 20th century. It clearly follows in the line of Duchamp and Beuys… i.e. it takes one step further the democratisation of the arts such that anyone can make art from anything AND EXHIBIT IT. Now, I absolutely fail to see how such an approach can be compared to the political populism of Raggi or Di Maio or Salvini, because De Finis is offering a platform for everyone whereas the 5*-Lega coalition is dividing people. I would even go so far as to say that the Macro Asilo is the largest and most open presence opposed to Salvini’s hateful rhetoric that exists in Rome today.

Contrary to what Raffaele Gavarro states in his text Il Macro Asilo e la politica italiana e romana, the Macro precisely is assuming a ‘posizione critica di fronte al potere’ (which Gavarro calls for)… and not only to the current powers that govern Rome and Italy, but to POWER ITSELF, as it rejects hierarchy via its openness.

This brings me to my final point, which is that Rome and Italy now face a severe threat of a continued shift towards a politics of cruelty and exclusion, which has disturbing parallels with the government of Mussolini. You as educated arts professionals don’t need telling that his government, amongst other things, colluded with the Nazis in deporting Jews, gays and political dissidents to death camps. It is that same strand of politics which are confronting in its early form, and it is that which needs a response now from the art world. I would urge anyone of the left – and anyone from the right who opposes the inhumanity of Salvini and of historical fascism – to stop fighting over the directorship of the Macro and to accept the generosity of an open museum for all, so as to use the space to rethink Italy’s future, whatever your political background is.

You all need to focus your anger at the spacciatori, the mafia who profit from heroin, the racist policies of the current government, the corruption of public life, and the degradation of Rome. Instead you are attacking the man most well known for openness to foreigners in the Roman art world. And you are impeding a project that could give a voice to everyone. It is time to put your ambitions aside and fight for Rome.

Mike Watson

This is (Not) a Love Song – A people’s tribunal in four acts on precarious work and life discussing wage, love, freedom & risk (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

September 9, 2018

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As artists, designers, writers, critics and other cultural workers we have to deal with a lot of flexibility in our everyday life. The work we do in the creative industries is based on our capacity as individuals and on an independent status, making professional relations often tied to an emotional context where the boundaries between life and profession are blurred. Our work is based on our ability to invest ourselves personally – to love what you do, to seduce, to adapt – and to rely on yourself.

This Is Not A Love Song is a People’s Tribunal addressing the issues relating to precarious work and life conditions taking place on October 11th, in Amsterdam. It sets out to discuss precarity within the arts and beyond in light of current neoliberal tendencies that inform today’s highly flexible, insecure and meritocratic employment model, the logic of which is particularly present in the Netherlands. We will address precarious labor as the predominant working condition in the creative industries, which often translates into unpaid work, short-term contracts or no-contract work or internships, insecure and unstable work and life conditions, individual competition, deprivation of rights and status, reinforced inequalities (class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality) – while promoting an insecure or flexible way of life as the privilege and freedom of making your own choices.

 The artist is easily understood as a paradigm for the ideal worker: passionate about what they do and willing to forgo material wealth for the love of it.[1] This day aims to collectively diagnose how precarity thrives on this argument, how it exploits recognition and promotes the merits of individualistic behavior and competition over those of collectivity and solidarity – a model that is formulated as the blueprint for the future worker based on the artist’s capacity to rely on him or herself. In this respect, while precarious conditions are particularly poignant in the creative field, the discussion will tie into a more general debate on the changing conditions of work and life in an increasingly flexible, deregulated and privatized landscape that forces many more professional occupations into the liberal perspective of a more open relationship that confuses wage and love, freedom and risk.

This Is Not A Love Song is not a love song. It will play out as a People’s Tribunal where the issue will be discussed drawing on courtroom protocols such as shared testimonials, expert witnesses, a collective deliberation and the formulation of a  verdict. We will put specific focus on neoliberal thinking and how its core values affect this issue: Whereas liberalizing the economy allowed for more open terms and free-market policies in the course globalizing trade, today its ‘laissez-faire’ [2] philosophy characterizes many other types of relationships beyond that of economic ones; between governments, enterprises, institutions and individuals, all of which are under pressure to be more flexible and independent as well. In doing so neoliberal thinking normalizes attitudes towards work and the self, discourages collectivism in favor of individual freedom, and fundamentally challenges “what a relationship is”; by promoting the concept of individual autonomy over that of mutual responsibility. According to a recent article in The Guardian it should become clear how the neoliberal perspective ‘has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression. ‘In short,’ The Guardian continues, ‘ “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practice and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organizing principle for human activity’. [3]

The debate will set out to examine this relational shift with regards to precarity as an institutionalized and systematically applied employment model that normalizes insecurity and instability and extorts unpaid labor and other exploitative forms of work that characterize its open, flexible and independent ways.

This Is Not A Love Song aims to discuss precarity first in order to share immediate working conditions that creative practitioners face on a day-to-day basis concretely and practically. Secondly, its role within larger socio-political developments will be deliberated in order shed light on its ideological underpinnings and its current application via institutional frames (cultural institutions, schools, legal frameworks, …) and open the door to how we could be part of a change.

The Precarious Workers Brigade, Training for Exploitation? Politicizing Employability and Reclaiming Educaction (London, Leipzig, Los Angeles: Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2017), 17

Sidney Fine. Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State. (United States: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.)

3 Stephen Metcalf, ‘Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world’, The Guardian, Aug 2017


Guests & Collaborators

We will welcome guest speakers or ‘expert witnesses’ to take the stand; The Precarious Workers Brigade, from the UK, Art Leaks, and Wages For Wages Against, from Switzerland, to share their knowledge on the issue, their experience in calling out in solidarity, in addressing institutions and peers and their tools for doing so. Also joining is artist and activist John Jordan and Isabelle Frémeaux from The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination who’s work merges the imagination of art and the radical engagement of activism. In addition, each of the four acts will include testimonials from different cultural workers, artists, institutions, and audience members. We urge you to contribute as well, in whatever form you find best to express your point of view or your experiences.

You can read more about how to contribute your testimonial here. We’re also excited to partner up with PUB Radio & Journal, and we’ll set up a temporary bookshop during the event with San Serriffe, offering great material on what is work and what is love to continue this debate with after the tribunal. In the meantime, you can have a look at a list that we’ve compiled of groups, books, publications and other platforms that deal with this issue here.



To RSVP we’ve composed a brief anonymous questionnaire with some questions about work. To attend the tribunal we’d like you to fill it out. This process is anonymous and all information will be treated with care; we will use it to share a view of where we stand – and what needs to change. Thank you.If this got you thinking and eager to act, you can also contribute to the tribunal proceedings with your testimonial, more about this up here. Send it to

Learn more at This Is (Not) A Love Song 


This Is Not A love Song is an initiative of Elise van Mourik, Rosa te Velde and Tiphanie Blanc. Graphic design by Miquel Hervás Gómez

Van Gogh Museum ends collaboration with Shell (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

September 7, 2018
Fossil Free Culture NL wants to inform you about a major win for the campaign against Fossil Fuel sponsorship of the Arts and Cultural Sector in the Netherlands. The Van Gogh Museum has confirmed that it has ended its 18-year sponsorship deal with Shell, and two other major Dutch museums have followed suit.


Hot on the heels of the ‘Van Gogh Drops Shell’ announcement, it is our GREAT pleasure to announce that two further major Dutch institutions; Mauritshuis and Museon, have severed their ties with the fossil fuel industry, historically dropping their sponsorship deals in rapid tempo.

That both these institutions are situated in The Hague, home to Shell’s headquarters and the seat of Dutch government, conspicuously reflects the mounting public criticism of Shell’s catastrophic practices, both within the Netherlands and globally. We, and others are working to speed this chain reaction towards critical mass worldwide.

This deal dropping domino effect cannot be a coincidence*. We believe an ethical tipping point in sponsorship norms has been reached in the Dutch cultural sector.

At long last it’s time for the fossil fuel industry to take their well-deserved place alongside tobacco as morally unacceptable sponsors. Sponsors that any self-respecting institution would hurry to wash their hands of. It’s our firm hope that the code of conduct regarding sponsorship of cultural institutions will soon be updated to cement this position into law.

Now that all reference to their former partner Shell has hastily been removed from the Van Gogh Museum’s website, we find ourselves following the current chain of events to their logical conclusion, and arrive at this question; as the last cultural institution on the Museumplein still stained by Shell’s dirty hands, isn’t it time for Concertgebouw to come to their senses and #DropShell?

A Fossil Free Museumplein Amsterdam would certainly be music to many ears.

Maria Rietbergen
For more information visit:



Performance End The Fossil Free Age Now June 9th 2018 – FFCNL

Last chance to see BLIND SPOT at LE CAP – Centre d’arts plastiques de Saint-Fons

July 21, 2018


Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Forensic Architecture


9 June – 21 July 2018
Free entry from Tuesday to Saturday,  2-6 PM 


BLIND SPOT is a group exhibition bringing together three artists and collective groups that are engaged in issues of social justice, and whose activities have a real impact in resolving conflict; using advanced technological tools, developing inquiry and investigation methods that can refer to architecture or the exact sciences, they aspire to a future of fair redistributed social balances.

The BLIND SPOT exhibition is marked by documentary research, modelling sensitivities, and poetic positions in the field of social discourse, and by artists’ civic engagement within civil society in which aesthetics and politics are intimately linked.

The projects shown in the exhibition bear witness to today’s artists and artistic practices ability in enhancing aesthetic research in fields that go far beyond the field of exhibitions and contemporary art.

Moreover, the three artists and collectives presented in BLIND SPOT share a common goal in working for causes, or contributing to investigations (judicial, humanitarian…), which comes as no surprise given the importance that the porosity of these fields of expertise have played in recent art history.

By extension, these artists highlight the importance of aesthetic research as a field of expertise and representation to reveal blind spots that institutions, states or constituted groups seek to keep hidden. Form becomes a field of study and tension. By revealing leaks (ArtLeaks), by formalizing inaudible sounds (Lawrence Abu Hamdan), by modelling conflict zones (Forensic Architecture), these artists demonstrate that not only aesthetics and associated methodology can produce results from a careful examination of sensitive matter, but by penetrating the dimensional complexity of forms BLIND SPOT 09 June – 21 July 2018 Access Entrée libre From Tuesday to Saturday 14.00-18.00 and by appointment rue de la Rochette 69190 Saint-Fons FRANCE Public transport Tram T4 Lénine – Corsière Bus 60 Yves Farge Bus 93 La Rochette-Clochettes With the support of the gallery Mor Charpentier, Paris can allow us to fully comprehend what we would not understand through simple normative approaches, (application of exact sciences, politics, social sciences…) offering new options in addressing crisis situations.

Reading forms is not just a matter of dilettante pleasure, it can involve the challenge of interpretations and struggles at the heart of which, to paraphrase Jacques Rancière*, our sensory faculties and our inclination to the sensitive bear witness to our own political strength.

Nicolas Audureau, Curator of the exhibition

* Jacques Rancière, Le partage du sensible, esthétique et politique, Paris : La fabrique, 2000.


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BLIND SPOT (LE CAP – Centre d’arts plastiques, Saint-Fons, France)

June 2, 2018

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Saydnaya (ray traces), 2017. Courtesy : galerie mor charpentier et l’artiste


Lawrence Abu Hamdan


Forensic Architecture

09.06 – 21.07.2018

Vendredi 8 JUIN
à 18h     

Please scroll down for the english version

Blind Spot est une exposition collective regroupant trois artistes et collectifs engagés dans des questions de justice sociale, dont les activités ont un réel impact dans la résolution de conflits, utilisant des outils technologiques avancés, développant des méthodes d’enquête et d’investigation pouvant se référer à l’architecture ou aux sciences exactes, tous aspirant à un futur aux équilibres sociaux redistribués.

L’exposition Blind Spot a une esthétique marquée par des recherches documentaires, par des modélisations du sensible, par des positions poétiques dans le champs du discours social, et par l’implication citoyenne des artistes au sein de la société civile ; dans laquelle esthétique et politique sont intimement liés par le prisme de l’implication des artistes dans des situations de crise.
Nicolas Audureau, curateur.

English version

The exhibition Blind Spot is devoted to three artists or groups engaged in questions of social justice, whose work takes the form of a research or an investigation and appropriates advanced technologies as an instrument of counter-power. The aesthetics and politics in their work are closely bound up enriching each other in the Distribution of the Sensible as famously formulated by Jacques Rancière.

The aesthetic of the exhibition Blind Spot is influenced by documentary researches, by modeling sensitivity, by poetical positions in the field of social discourse, and by the involvement of artists as citizens within Civil society. Aesthetics and politics are closely connected through the real implication of artists into situations of crisis.
Nicolas Audureau, curator.

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