Whitney Biennial 2017 Audio Guide Playlist
Imani Jacqueline Brown: Occupy Museums is a collective of artists and activists that emerged directly from the Occupy Wall Street movement; most of our members met in Zuccotti Park in 2011. The common goal of Occupy Museums is to bring the critique of wealth and inequality directly to the cultural sphere where finance and aesthetics currently collude.
In one previous example of our work, we supported the struggle of Teamsters Union Local 814 who were fighting against a lockout by their employer, Sotheby’s. The auction house wanted to cut their pay and union rights while selling paintings for tens of millions of dollars to the tune of record profits.
This reflects the anti-worker mentality seen in corporate America generally and it shouldn’t be accepted in the arts or any industry. Much of our work has taken the form of direct actions on the streets and actions in museums like MoMA designed to pause business as usual to call out specific injustices perpetuated by said museums. But in this project we have worked closely with the Whitney Museum. Our goal is to create a new way of looking at art objects. We want people to see not only the colors, forms, and meanings intended by the artists, but also the often withering economic realities that frame the practice of art in America today.
Debtfair is based around a single question we asked of artists and the cultural communities at large: "how does your economic reality affect your art?" What we have found is that personal debt—from student loans to credit cards to mortgages—plays a major role in the lives artists can lead and, ultimately, in what their work looks like. In bringing this question to a luxury art museum like the Whitney, Debtfair connects the boom of the art market with the boom of debt as linked realities.
By asking artists to speak openly about their economic realities we hope to open a conversation that is currently taboo, demystify the ways in which our debts are connected, and produce a new lens through which we can see how art is connected to the economic conditions in which it is produced.
And, of course, economic conditions cannot be separated from social and political realities just as personal debts cannot be separated from the collective debts that we as a society hold—national debt, colonial debt, debt to the original inhabitants of this land, and debt to the enslaved Africans who built this country.
Occupy Museums (founded 2011), Debtfair, 2017. Thirty artworks and interactive website, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists. Photograph by Bill Orcutt
- 100 Introduction to Whitney Biennial 2017
- 300 Harold Mendez
- 500 Ajay Kurian
- 501 Dana Schutz
- 502 Cauleen Smith, Overview
- 502-2 Cauleen Smith, Overview
- 503 Jon Kessler
- 503-2 Jon Kessler
- 504a Occupy Museums, Introduction
- 504b Occupy Museums, Installation Overview
- 504c Occupy Museums, Artwork within Debtfair
- 504d Occupy Museums, Student Debt
- 504e Occupy Museums, Debt Resistance Now!
- 505 Pope.L aka William Pope.L
- 505-2 Pope.L aka William Pope.L
- 506 Torey Thornton
- 507 Matt Browning, Overview
- 508 Cameron Rowland
- 511 Shara Hughes
- 514 Harold Mendez
- 515 Casey Gollan and Victoria Sobel
- 516 Julien Nguyen
- 518 Dana Schutz
- 520 Frances Stark
- 521 Lyle Ashton Harris
- 522 Aliza Nisenbaum
- 523 Carrie Moyer
- 527 Raúl de Nieves
- 527-2 Raúl de Nieves
- 528 John Divola
- 529 Irena Haiduk
- 530 John Riepenhoff
- 530-2 John Riepenhoff
- 531 Ulrike Müller
- 532 Chemi Rosado-Seijo
- 603 Jessi Reaves
- 605 KAYA
- 606 Celeste Dupuy-Spencer
- 606-2 Celeste Dupuy-Spencer
- 608 An-My Lê
- 609 Porpentine Charity Heartscape
- 610 Jo Baer
- 611 Deana Lawson
- 612 Jordan Wolfson
- 614 Park McArthur, Overview
- 614-2 Park McArthur, Overview
- 616 Asad Raza
- 617 GCC
- 619 Puppies Puppies
- 619-2 Puppies Puppies