The State of Political Art After a Year of Protest Movements

Back to the white cube

What all of these shows do, however, is return protest and activism to the white cube and institutions funded, as Occupy Museums points out, by the very people the art work theoretically rails against. "Stop using my art to wash your money," one participant said at Momenta. But this happens all the time.

Artists can resist, just as the Cairo-based media collective Mosireen did two weeks ago when it addressed a letter to Creative Time, whose Summit showcasing socially engaged art happened this past weekend. After learning that an "in-depth partner" of the summit was partially funded by the Israeli government, the group withdrew. A similar, extraordinary thing happened this summer when all four artists quit the board of Los Angeles MOCA in protest of the firing of curator Paul Schimmel—but also of the museum's general shift toward a more market-driven program influenced by wealthy trustees.

Apexart brings it inside.
Courtesy Apexart
Apexart brings it inside.

Like other fields, art has a serious money and institution problem that reached a breaking point under neoliberalism. What past art movements taught us is that changing the medium or the definition of an artist doesn't help. And, as one artist pointed out to me recently, there are aesthetics and art being made all the time within the space of social movements—so why put it inside the institution as an exhibition?

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