TEXT WRITTEN BY JULIE (FROM CHICAGO):

‘First of all, a big problem is that people the world over are so drenched in western/”white” supremacy that they abandoned alternative cultural notions, processes, ideas of creativity , imagination, and resourcefulness, to buy into one notion of art propagated by the art world/market…which is not unrelated to war/profit/wall street capitalism… go figure. Its not as if art/oogles of creativity and live installation/performance acts (from souping up candy colored cars and jim dandy rims to flash bicycle parades)‚ of various kinds weren’t happening on the south side before this exclusive definition of it arrived and tells the natives what is and isn’t “ART”… Power is in the people’s self-definition, self-empowerment, self-cdeterminancy but they don’t live in an isolation block. You can’t restore culture from the outside. You can only buy it?

theaster-gates

I recall when when people actually had power. Folks are naive. They believe the problems afflicting the south side and similar urban neighborhoods throughout the country (since the end of the civil rights era) is because of the neighborhood. You have to witness the kinds of oppression, meddling, corruption, institutional and non-profit profiteering (if all these money bags weren’t so busy enriching themselves and paying huge administrative salaries to stay alive…on the backs of these problems might have had some problems solved instead of getting progressively worse. I say these communities would be more successful if it weren’t for the kinds of things I’ve witnessed (many in the name of good intentions, philanthropy) being done unto them—over and over. Part of the problem is that the people who identify, name, define problems don’t know what they are talking about.

You can not mix goodwill with $. Ghandi wasn’t paid, Mother Theresa, MLK, and the Freedom Riders didn’t get paid to do what they did because they did it out of love. If money is involved you can believe there’s a red herring in the cracks. Then there’s red-lining, crack, denial of basic services, loss of jobs, shitty miseducation, the “state”…. Who listens to the people for real? Values their stories enough to get them right. Interpreters, translators…and all the rest are clueless. And the press just repeat the same bi-lines, spreads the same de-information. You have to have lived in a poor urban community for at least a decade to really know what’s going on. Period. The road to hell is paved with good intentions everywhere—more so in poor communities where folks are still stit’n on land…to be had, to be chalked up as violations with no $ for repairs.. And if you haven’t that clue then you have no cure.

Marc-Bamuthi-Joseph-Tommy-Shepherd-and-Theaster-Gates-in-Red-Black-and-Green-a-Blues-Photo-by-Bethanie-Hines

As someone who witnessed the destruction of my neighborhood from a riot, these type of pun-ny glib ironic come-ons only work on those who don’t know from experience. They are simply making hay with fake histories. The burning in my community, as the books will never say, came more from shopkeepers burning their own stores and then using the insurance dough to take off for the suburbs they were headed to. How do I know? Because children and teens were the ones approached to light a match…for a few greedy dollars. History written by those with the means and self-defense mechanism to cast a particular view. So “open in case of riot” should be pointed in another direction. yes, in the galleries where he, and so many other artists awash in eyedentity-based work, cash their check.

I say, if you use an impoverished culture’s motifs to get ahead, the least one can do is pay some of it back. It’s what few will ever get to see (hard to with these kind of blanket-statements stereotyping places) that’s doing and undoing interesting things that would spread that love a little farther. Many so-culled non-profits replaced the can-do action of communities of great economic power , drive, and self-determination.Black people survived because they took care of each other on an informal and personal basis. We really were a nation within a nation and you have to have known that type of power, and the paths to and away from it to understand long-lasting solutions don’t come from money. They come from something money can never buy. In the end, self-reliance, in the face of endless meddling and exploitation, met its waterloo in the generation of “gaining access thru integration”. They cut the cord, ran to the ‘burbs. Left the lumpen in the street. Used to be, due to segregation, all the intellectuals/artists lived within the community, were a part of the community…not better, and never talking down. When Muhammed Ali, Malcolm, Rosa, MLK, Belafonte, Ruby Dee & Ossie came to town, they came straight to the community—and rode, walked and strived among the people as one. They didn’t first go to the university, the TV station, the top venue or restaurant. All of that was mistrusted, and was not the audience. They were visible, accessible, and you could reach out and touch them. None of them were above the people. The actors and entertainers, sport stars and artists of my day got where they were on the basis of community connection and a profound sense of social responsibility. “We all rise or fall together.” That was before SELF-INTEREST (“I’m gonna get MINES”) became normalized as a mode of success. Alas, things are different now, and those communities were destroyed by forces Gates probably has no idea of—and if told why would find it hard to fathom. SWhat’s missing is the real history lesson and experience to understand and mitigate those processes.

Gates is starting where he knows best—with the plantation, the big house, and the field… realizing how interdependent one is on the other. Yet, there are other models and economies. Give him time. He’s learning. And at least he’s around and around and around. Fact is, there are many many people doing same and similar community work. And with no funding or resources. You just don’t know it. Their horn isn’t tooted. In fact, its the $$$ that does all the talking, those that can do, and who do plenty without it are never pronounced, do what they do privately and quietly. It’s the art world fashion that props up money as god. This kind of artist based work is old as time. It’s only new to the wealthy who need ever more creative ways to hide their money. and to profit off the reputation that comes with being “saviors” at the same time.’

In other words, the problem isn’t Gates! He is creating something interesting, even if its a dialog around these themes. Who wants to be in artist in that art world. That rascist scene that seldom includes artists of color unless they are talking about color—not as in color of sky, trees, land, earth—but race…a subject in itself that has always been profitable for those who control the dialogue. I just don’t get this psyche of young artists so devoted to a one-way conversation that excludes the very people depicted, leaves them outside the gates, until it becomes profitable to include them. I feel sorry for poor overworked and underpaid social workers who could barely find ways to support their efforts. Now they have to compete with the art market, and know-it-all EGO afflicted “artist” who come into the neighborhood like missionaries who know best, better, and…

The rest is history. But at least Gates is at home, and engaged on both fronts, the prairie and the homestead. I think this is just a real mid-western “heart” land cultural kind of thing to do for TG. A natural. It’s as Chi-Town, Cleveland, Detroited, Pittsburgh as can be…something different from New York state of mind. I think Gates is just at home with being home and doing home improvement, home ec at the same time… A labor of love too. I don’t believe what he says about “WHY”… I think that’s just showmanship. He comes out of religion, Japan, throwing pots and shards. He country and city at the same time. His dad owned a construction company and he is just doing what he knows naturally…expanded family dedication. He might be a little naive about what some of the sharks he is in bed with are up to. Which is why some of these words appear to suit him.

WATCH MY REVIEW OF JEFF KOONS’ SHOW AT THE WHITNEY MUSEUM