Delicious Spectacle: New Artist-Run Space
This Friday August 17 is the opening of a new artist-run space in Columbia Heights, Delicious Spectacle. The first exhibition is Stewart Watson: It Was My. "Delicious Spectacle is a curatorial experiment and project space founded by Victoria Greising, Megan Mueller, Dan Perkins, Camden Place, and Sam Scharf. The space was founded for the growing community of emerging artists and artist run spaces in the District of Columbia. Throughout the year, Delicious Spectacle will curate multi-disciplinary exhibitions, host lectures, critiques, and critical theory discussions. This programing attempts to cultivate dialogue surrounding a wide variety of contemporary art making practices and operates as a space for artists and curators to execute novel and challenging projects that redefine and further their thinking."
In Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord describes his current social situation as one in which social interaction is completely replaced by representation by way of commodification. “The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” As a space "for the growing community," Delicious Spectacle is positioned to strengthen social relations among artists and the art community, by way of images- or sculpture- or performance- or whatever- but very much opposed to Debord's "spectacle" which is antagonistical to a positive social. Ironically or not, this new space is reclaiming the "spectacle" for a productive and self-motivated end, a multi-use art space on the first floor of a Columbia Heights rowhouse.
While pop-up shows and the like are popping-up with enough regularity to lose their pop, I'm looking forward to what I expect to be consistency with Delicious Spectacle. Right now the programming for upcoming shows is scheduled through next year. Ambitiously, there will be a new exhibition every month, made possible by distributing curating and working as a group, sharing and dispersing responsibility. Of course, pop-ups are valuable to temporary accomplishments, and have been instrumental in the recent growth in awesomeness of DC art, (see this WPA post) but the time-frame that Delicious Spectacle is operating on will alow them to develop an audience that grows with the space. We get together once, and that's nice, but what happens when we get together again, and again, and again?
To combat the ills of the society of the spectacle, the Situationists constructed détournements, disruptions to the submissive hypnosis of the repetitive everyday. In this wonderful User's Guide to Détournements, Debord and Wolman write, "In itself, the theory of détournement scarcely interests us. But we find it linked to almost all the constructive aspects of the presituationist period of transition. Thus its enrichment, through practice, seems necessary." Likewise, Delicious Spectacle and other temporary and particularly pop-up exhibitions don't seem to be as interested in the political implications of their format, as much as the result: opportunity to show work or host events. In contrast to anti-capitalist, anti-instituational, alternative artist-run spaces which took off in the 60's, much of the alternative art spaces and art shows that I encounter in DC are not created in opposition to anything, but seek to contribute to a growing conversation about the art scene in DC.
Unrelated to Delicious Spectacle exactly but related to the theme- on Monday, June 25 Stephen Crouch and I hosted a discussion at our space in the 52 O Street Studios in response to a panel at the National Building Museum on "Creating Space for Artists." The panel was comprised of developers and one artist, and cost a hefty $20- which isn't unusual for the NBM but became an instant point of controversy for outraged broke artists. Prompted by internet backlash about the panel, and mention of our building in a City Paper blog post, I put out the call through social media and word of mouth about the informal discussion framed as the flip of the NBM Panel, calling it "Artists Creating Space." The City Paper posted about the NBM panel and our talk, Much Dithering at the Building Museum and O Street Studios about Artist Spaces. The article seems surprised that the conversation did not arrive at a clear consensus about how to move forward, though a single simple answer is to say the least difficult to construct when there isn't actually a question being posed. If the question is a vague, "art space?" then a good answer is "Do it yourself," which is exactly what Delicious Spectacle is doing.
In different ways, the NBM talk, subsequent backlash, and the 52 O talk showed the need for open-forum discussion about creating and sustaining creative spaces. To continue the conversation I hosted a second talk on Monday, July16, 8-10pm at 87 Florida, NW, where I had a show I'd organized collaboratively with 229Collective, Natural Fallacy. I wanted to talk about what comprises a creative space, an art space, an artist's space. The second conversation addressed the importance of existent spaces and non-traditional creative spaces as a very basic and critical alternative to creating new spaces. Among the many strong voices present were artists Mariah Johnson who started Porch Projects, and Kristina Bilonick of Pleasant Plains Workshop. Mariah talked about how she started Porch Projects when she was fairly new to DC. Her row house had a nearly function-less old sleeping porch, so she started showing work there. I think that space itself isn't a problem, we all have spaces, it's how we use them, and Mariah's story really echoed that. Kristina operates Pleasant Plains Workshop as an actual business, combining studio space, screen print shop, exhibition space, and a store. On the website, Delicious Spectacle cites both as models, all support and not in competition.
In a confluence of good things, Sam Scharf is performing in Soapbox the same night as the opening of Delicious Spectacle, 7-9. Fortunately, the artists behind the space are sympathetic to how to make an opening fun, so it runs 6-10. My plan is to run from Soapbox to Columbia Heights, and make Delicious Spectacle the after party for Soapbox.
(first posted on DCperformanceart on 8/16/2012)
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