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"To speak of the Art Strike means to speak of the unknown, to speak of a door to a new world, to speak of a desire to discover what one does not know. For how can one know a desire without satisfying it?".

ATA Gallery hosted the Art Strike Mobilisation Week January 3-8 with a variety of events: discussion, performances, propaganda-making, dialogue, testimonial, poetry, direct action, etc. Art Strike, as a polemic, proposes artists give up making art for three years, (1990-1993, The Years Without Art), is an effort to free the artist and the artist's product from the chain of commodity in which it is currently entrenched, challenging the hegemony of an elite art market and freeing the artists' time up for other, more important activities, like saving the world. It proposes that such action, or non-action, will help artists get to the 'real' issues (of which art is not one), such as starving children, flooded villages, earthquake victims. T. Marvin Lowes, initial proponent of Art Strike and ardent polemicist, says:

"...Art has provided us with fantasy worlds, escapes from reality... Art is the glamorous escape, the transformation that shields us from the world... Art has replaced religion as the opiate of the people... But art has sold out to chase its own tail. A self-perpetuating elite market art as a commodity for the wealthy who have everything while making artists themselves rich... Art is money... Artists are murderers! Without art, life would be unendurable! We would have to transform this world... but we do not seize power because we are enchanted by art. Forbid art and revolution will follow the withholding of creative action is man's (sic) only remaining weapon..."

Which is all very nice. But what went on at ATA this past week could more honestly be called a dialogue about aesthetics, or a week-long performance piece, than a direct political action. Then again, that's part of the question the strike ultimately raises: what's the difference? And what is Art Strike? That was the question asked from Monday to Sunday at ATA, generating not one, but many answers. The following is not simply a review, wanting to avoid the slings and arrows of sincere artists tracking toward the truth about Art Strike though I'll tell you right off, I'm getting paid by the inch here, enough to make me feel legitimised in my own pursuit of an identity, and little enough to hide from Uncle Sam. It is interpretation,, collage, all views are not represented; I take a poetic license whenever I can, I say "Art Strike is" a lot because Art Strike is something unto itself, separate from and part of the individual activities that transpired, as well as the collective gathering of what was said/done over the course of the week. It exists in both the past and present tense. Art Strike is a dialogue, a layering, a piling on of words and action. It is what it is: changing, vital, alive.

Art Strike is an aesthetic dialogue aiming to blur further the distinctions between Art and Life. Art Strike is not a cocktail party. Art Strike advocates a performance approach to life, going to a gallery not to see art, but going to a gallery to be art. Art Strike is a provocative declaration of aesthetic value and a condemnation of mainstream 'high' art, the potential of the artist to sell out for big bucks, the cheapening of art through commodification. Art Strike is a political statement about a) the art world, b) capitalism, c) commodity culture, d) our inability to care for one another as human beings. Art Strike is the final leap of the visual artist out of the frame. Art Strike is an excuse for polemical outbursts. A lot of people get belligerent about Art Strike and what it advocates. Art Strike is still unsure of its terminology. Art Strike is a community effort. Art Strike is a good joke. Art Strike is a really bad idea. Art Strike was a good excuse for a good party.

Art Strike wishes people thought of art the way they think of potatoes. Art Strike takes an anti-art stance denoting art just as atheism denotes God (Duchamp). Art Strike is, quite simply, an artistic statement. It is a call for greater creativity in all aspects of one's life. "The whole point is that life during the strike is going to be more creative not less." Art Strike is primarily about artists. The focus of Art Strike on stopping production takes the attention off the artist, which is where it belongs. Art Strike supports the development of the artist into a whole person. Art Strike recognises the primacy of the artist's desire to create and communicate meaningful truths. None of the artists at ATA really wanted to give up making art for three years. Some people thought a good replacement for making art during the strike would be a band. Art Strike is useful for stretching the mind, but not necessarily as a habit of action. Art Strike could be for artists what AA is for alcoholics. Art Strike takes the lid off all that's false.

Art Strike was perhaps the most lively event ever staged at ATA Gallery. Art Strike was a supportive environment for performance. Art Strike provoked a dialogue and performance deserving of note in some critical journal, by some critical critic, somewhere. Art Strike remains unattached to product. Art Strike exists because its less taxing to make personas than it is to make art. Yet Art Strike forbids public personas during The Years Without Art. Art Strike is not about style, and specifically, it is not about being cool. Art Strike is going to fail. Art Strike condemns the easy way out. No one necessarily agrees about what Art Strike is.

Art Strike aims to liberate artists and non-artists from the rigidity of labels and postures limiting our creativity and attentiveness. As such, Art Strike is a communist plot. Art Strike is a self-righteous redetermination by people who produce art of little merit and are resentful about it. Art Strike invests the art object with a peculiar lucidity and cultural mobility that it may or may not possess. The polemic of Art Strike makes some unfathomable leaps: Give up art = Save the starving. Art Strike advocates a deeper relationship to art while at the same time condemning the label 'artist. There were more boys than girls at Art Strike. Art Strike is about the possibilities of union inherent in our meeting. Art Strike is about personal spectacle. Art Strike is a good place to be seen wearing blue and white polka-dotted suits. Art Strike did not address the issue of beauty.

Art Strike is not about God, but it could be. Art Strike advocates the negation of art as the last frontier. Art Strike purports to be new, radical, a frontier, but anti- art's been on the books since the turn of the century. Art Strike has no qualms about plagiarism. Art Strike exists in the Twilight of the Raw, in the belief that there is nothing new to be done in art except to relinquish it. Art Strike is about the intimacy of not knowing. Art Strike is a perpetual challenge. Art Strike never authoritively defined Art, Strike, Aesthetics, or really any other word of import. Art Strike created a forum to talk about all these important words, though. Art Strike was neither subtle nor metaphoric. Art Strike is a critical act and critical inquiry. Art Strike is an intellectual discourse without intellectual rigour. Art Strike is an intellectual discussion obfuscating any commitment to the life of the mind. Art Strike is somewhat self-important. Anti-intellectualism is big at Art Strike. Art Strike is unformed in its lexical considerations. It is not always possible to tell whether or not Art Strike is taking itself at all seriously. Art Strike has a good sense of humour.

Art Strike never even heard of cellular consciousness. Art Strike is committed to a regenerative process of change. Art Strike cries out for the beauty of the person, not the beauty of the art object. Art Strike made it easier for me to go into the studio this morning without worrying if I would have anything to show for it when I left. Art Strike believes in the ultimate power of the artist as an active force in her (sic) environment. Art Strike is primarily about life-style choices. Art Strike is not a replacement for Catholicism. Art Strike is about making New Year's resolutions not to talk to people about your work. Art Strike is the pursuit of polyester and paisley. Art Strike was not about the spirituality inherent in the process of making Art. But it could be .

Art Strike is about how much we love our identities as artists and how much we love contradicting ourselves at the same time. Art Strike comes about because art is contradictory. Art Strike is all about communication and change. Changing is such good art-making. This idea is to be applied in infinite permutations to just about everything. But it is not so much a matter of realising the Art Strike, or even of building on every level of life everything that could only be an Art Strike memory, or an illusion, dreamed and preserved unilaterally. The Art Strike can only be realised by being suppressed .

Rachel Kaplan, first published in Coming Up!, San Francisco, February 1989

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