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Dear Yawn

...here's some info pertaining to the Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts' panel discussion of the Situationist International... (I) challenged Greil Marcus (art critic NYC Village Voice) and read the Art Strike flyer. He interrupted, 'I don't believe artists are murderers...' Oddly, no applause. He continued, 'The Neoists and Stewart Home are only using the Art Strike to call attention to themselves.' He concluded, 'Art Strike will fail!' I countered, 'Of course it will fail, but you've lost the entire point of why Art Strike must happen.
Lebanon, New Hampshire.

...I've been thinking about this Art Strike thang after reading a pamphlet about it, and this is how I see it. I'm not going to go along w/ any Art Strike because what's in it for me. Little ol' me is supposed to stop doing my measly art books with no thanks from anyone while the people who put out 'Art Strike' pamphlets and manifestos are going to go right on doing it, keeping right on going with their conceptual art project! Forget it!
San Francisco, California.


It's amusing to think that 'Art Strikers' could so value their work that they imagine its cessation would change the economic topography of our country. If they actually saw Art Strike as a practical solution to the problem of the artist's contribution to the perpetuation of an oppressive system, they would be guilty of the egotism and elitism they deplore. They would be elevated to the status of tragic heroes, like the lost Olympians, who sacrificed personal glory to the dream of a greater good.

The participants have no delusions about their (non)action and yet, in the imagination the ramifications of Art Strike are exhilarating. If cultural workers suddenly shut up and could no longer view themselves as superior beings, humanity would truly have the chance to create itself anew. What would this new humanity rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of its own culture be like? Art Strike is a brilliant gesture.

Art Strike is symbolic, merely provocative. It is meant to provoke conversation among artists, like all the other insulated works it rails against. It is a piece of performance art that will break down the boundaries between art and non-art to focus on life.

Since Art Strike is art, during Art Strike, Art Strike itself won't be possible. Conceptual art in the wake of Art Strike would be redundant and superficial. No single work of art could approach the brilliant simplicity/complexity of Art Strike. I imagine artists spilling out of the ship of culture like so many bewildered rats, only to drown.

Since art will be irrelevant after the strike, the strike will have accomplished its mission, even though by definition this is impossible. Art Strike is the sound of one hand clapping. Therefore it is the most important art of this century make that this millenium. Karen Eliot


Jean-Rene Lassalle, student, Berlin, 24/12/89: 'This Art Strike is hysterical really... One might say that it's like the graffiti of May '68; sentences... which were made up to provoke (thought among other things) while perhaps their immediate significance is not so very important. The mystique of the Artist bothers me some. On the other hand, if one creates, he gives of himself... and this is worthy of some recognition.' (Translated from the French).

Jacques Abeille, novelist, Bordeaux 31/12/89: 'What a silly idea, this Art Strike_ it's a logical paradox; that is to say, a statement which involves a contradiction, a proposition which negates itself. To choose to do this strike assumes in the first place that you are what you pretend to end: one must first be an artist in order to quit being one. It follows from this that all who during these three years present themselves as non-artists will be artists, and that all those who present themselves as artists won't be...

By this formal logic one will allege that its proposals are universals that do not pertain: the Art Strike doesn't apply to everyone, but only to those who are already manifested as artists. One should not say 'all who...,' but instead only 'those who...' or 'certain...' So the proposal of an Art Strike doesn't entail the advancement of a universal proposition, therefore it holds to the official and mercantile distinctions between artists and the rest of the human population. In other words, to subvert this distinction, you accept the basis of what you're trying to subvert, and end up prolonging it by adding on a new criterion: from now on the artists will be the ones participating in the Art Strike during these three years.


Now that I have learned the reasons for the international Art Strike 1990-1993 I declare that I will support it, but in Yugoslavia, the country where I am living and making art, an Art Strike would have no sense because: 1. There is no art market here yet.

2. Prices of art works are so low that you don't sell at all. You make art for pleasure, philosophical and creative reasons.

3. We have only a few art critics and curators, and they have no power or influence upon artists.

4. You don't have to pay the galleries for having your own exhibition, but galleries pay you for that. Shows are not commercial at all, so alternative artists can exhibit in official gallery spaces .

5. The serious culture hardly exists here, it is repressed by the primitive, peasant culture, so our aim is to develop and support culture here.

So I am suggesting all art strikers to come and settle in Yugoslavia during the period 1990-1993 and continue making art and exhibitions.

Andrej Tisma, Novi Sad, 11 December 1989


I would like to criticise several points in this Art Strike (1990-1993) project. First, I disagree with some of the opinions formulated in its promoters' texts. For example, I do not believe that various forms of mischievousness, as greed, might be suppressed with the only and hypothetical abolition of the 'capitalist system' of production; nor that the 'unendurable' aspects of the human condition, that art would help us to bear, depend on our economic organisation; nor that it is unjust to designate with a particular word 'artist,' those who manifest certain particular talents; nor that it is deplorable the fact that 'creativity' is unequally spread among the people. Moreover, it is impossible for me to consider, in the private sphere of my 'artistic creation' activity, any idea of prohibition (just as I reject the idea of any obligation to create, such as it often appears in the activity of the professional artists and of the apprentices who aim at becoming so).

Nevertheless, there is without doubt much to deplore, and so to criticise, in the present state of arts, culture and civilisation: at least enough, I think, to make it possible to consider this unrealistic idea of the Art Strike (1990-1993) as opportune, even if only as a curse, or an invitation to reflection. Because the point is, first of all, to ascertain and to assert the notable distance which separates us pretty distinctly from the 'art world.' So, with the same meaning with which I declared in last June, at my 33rd birthday, that I wanted to 'retire' as an artist, I accept to follow this (in)action movement by refusing in advance, for this period, any new exhibition project, by limiting my publications to the minimum; by associating to it my collection, lately begun of unopened mail, which gathers postal objects coming from the official, associational or commercial institutions, so as various letters of shabby canvassing; by studying the evolution of the debates raised in the American, free and anonymous newsletter YAWN. One will allege against me that this is too easy. This is partly true. So what?

(Translated by Ph. Bille, reprinted from Lettre Documentaire, Bordeaux, December 1989)


Perhaps years of neglect can produce dictatorial desires in even the most stalwart of the usually egalitarian underground. Somebody out there (in here) came up with the idea that for the next three years (1990-1993) artists refrain from producing art. The idea, known as Art Strike, has been discussed in a surprising number of journals, considering its impossibility, authoritarian high-handedness and ultimate disposability as ideas go. In fact it was one notion that should have been disposed of, but wasn't. And so we will be doing without the work of avowed strikers for three years.

The issue touches me in a sensitive spot and deserves to be exhumed, because it goes well beyond just 'fun and games' in the artistic underground. If Art Strike be not a whispered vicious trick of some swift-tongued disembodied enemy of creativity, let us assume it has developed out of the sense of despair and powerlessness which grips those of us in the midst of creative working in a world of recycled artistic idolatry.

Art Strike is a negative power feeding on the despair experienced from time to time by those who have chosen not to join the ready-made bandwagon of success in a very unsane surface world. This despair is a burden which is, as we speak, slowing down the progress of a thing which could become far more real and far more strong. To adopt a pose of cynicism or nihilism is an understandable response to the great beast of mass-produced culture, but it is an uneducated and unproductive response.

I certainly congratulate the perpetrator of this idea virus called Art Strike. As a meme it has gone very far. It has changed peoples' plans; stopped their progress dead in its tracks: it demonstrates the power a well placed idea can have, even coming from the 'powerless' underground. Some would say that that is precisely the point of Art Strike. If so, let's start planting seeds of artistic fecundity instead of spraying herbicides or exponentially increasing barrenness. The harnessing of this power of ideas (verbal and non-verbal) is, ultimately, the greatest responsibility an artist will ever have.

There is an alchemy where art and daily life meet, are one, are sweet, effortless and closer to the existential bone than thirteen billion printed words on Art Strike (or, for that matter, thirteen billion scatological album titles, misanthropic song lyrics, or other by-products of despair). There is a realisation, which can be cultivated, wherein one can calculate the effect of Good one's creation will have upon the planet. Perhaps these intangibles present a vast and uncharted challenge, but their reward is sweeter than upsetting a corporate board meeting with free jazz. There is a realm where one is shown the truth (transitional or penultimate though it may be) in statements like, 'God is a foot, Magic is alive' (and art is footwork proper placement of one's 'dogs' and a minimum of howling at the moon footwork and fortuitous event). Divorce the shamanistic function of the artist and you get artifice: the glamour we know all too well which dominates the media (Garfield vs. Zippy). We need good art. Better, far better than we're getting. And you Art Strikers are urging voluntary lobotomy for three years? My bardic muse writes, 'Methinks you have been quelled by mutant forms who, from the spirit world, cast a pointless dare your way in order to destabilise a Goodness.

With these words beyond me, let me resume my usual cheery countenance and wish well to all participants or even semi-participants in the great Art Strike 1990-1993. I do see the whimsy and the irony in your flurry of non- activity. Enjoy your vacation, and choose your bowling ball carefully. It's all in the heft.

Reprinted from The Void-Post 6


The Bible narrates that the Jews conquered Jericho by playing the trumpets with such an intensity that the walls tumbled. Today, a group of artists have repeated this story with a certain difference. They want to destroy the walls of powerful art institutions by means of radical silence: by the refusal of all activities of art.

A total Art Strike has been suggested by Stewart Home and the PRAXIS Group for the three-year period of 1990-1993. This Art Strike is being organised by Art Strike Action Committees residing mostly in America and England. Several months after the start of the Art Strike, I received documents of the following kinds: statements and letters from artists, declarations by magazine editors active in the strike, and pages of discussion from the underground and serious press alike. These reactions portrayed a frustrated group of people. Major institutions did not take much notice of this strike, which was being directed against them. Furthermore, a debate raged among the organisers and other artists concerned with the Art Strike: does such a strike make any sense at all?

I took all the Art Strike documents available to me since the start of this action, and I tried to find out the reasons for this disturbance and frustration.

Stewart Home's reference to the successful 'strike' of Polish artists in the period after 1981 was an error and a starting point for a number of later mistakes.

A strike is A) an organised extortion; B) for a concrete purpose; C) by people who stand in opposition to their employer. There was not any artists' strike in Poland because A) it arose spontaneously and amorphously; B) for no concrete result; C) by independent careerists who took part in a general boycott against a military takeover. It was part of a national resistance in a desperate situation and it was an attempt to demoralise the authorities. It was combat; that is, a revolutionary act completely in the spirit of classical history.

The other action, Metzger's Art Strike (1977-1980), was planned as an economic strike, however, it failed because the individual producers failed to organise. Their personal intents vary so greatly that every member of such a social group became scabs (even in the situations where some large institutions are acting as 'employers'). Furthermore, Metzger could not offer any concrete agenda to the individual participants in his strike, and no concrete organisation was brought forth to formulate and administer possible individual declarations.

In contrast, the current (second) Art Strike was planned as a political resistance and not as an economic strike. But a resistance is a general movement supported by a whole population, and its precondition is a kind of extreme emergency; that is to say, a 'revolutionary situation' is required. To imagine that intellectuals or artists would take part in such a resistance at any time (like a walk-out) because of their unique problems (as an attempt to break the monopoly of the institutions of the arts or to destroy the present cultural hierarchy) is simply not realistic. It is possible to build an administration corps for this job and propaganda can be distributed, as well; but one cannot create a revolutionary situation complete with the required general 'desperation.' Therefore, this attempt remains simply an advertisement, a campaign for something 'like a strike' with the usual mixed echoes that normally goes with a campaign among the intellectual elite (indeed, such internal affairs are always hysterical and turbulent, but the culture generally has trouble taking it seriously).

However there is another important fact of this strike. This is the very 'metaphysical' nature of the attempt: the strike was thought to be the refusal of all kinds of creative activity; that is, a radical form of silence. Let us say no more about the difficult question of reaching an audience with this silence, an audience that's been ignoring you all along anyway. We still have another question: how should artists who stop their activity act? What should they do?

The human being who goes on strike interrupts his professional activity. But the creative work of an artist doesn't work that way. Creativity can take different forms (not just artistic, but also such forms as being a mother, a politician, a gambler, for example) but it is never a profession. Instead, it is an existential question for each individual.

The artist can be forced to fulfil their work as a 'job,' but it will only last if one can succeed in 'changing their identity' as well. It's evident that the result would be enormous resistance against the attempt. An atmosphere similar to general desperation would need to be created, only it is not in favour of the idea but against it. All energy would be turned against it. The prevailing mood would be characterised by uncooperative aggressiveness, caused by the fear of losing one's identity.

In an optimum state it can have a very useful effect. The Polish resistance after the declaration of the state of war in 1981 had the following interesting result: the artists produced more art than before but this art was explicitly samizdat art, an aggressive expression turned against the ruling elite. These artists would lose their identity only if they continued their earlier professional work in the style of 'fine art' (a highly interesting situation).

I visited some artist friends in Kracow and Wroclaw a year and a half after the takeover, and this underground activity had at that time just reached its peak. Some older 'constructivist' artists real 'museum' artists left behind their abstract style and made small graphics and text designs in the form of leaflets, sometimes in a brutal realistic style. It was not the expression of a culture but of a primary demand of vital interests. This was a very strange form for an agitative 'postmodernism' to take, considering it came after a very aesthetic abstract art period.

I think this feature of the human being and the nature of creativity wasn't taken into consideration in the present Art Strike. The ASAC in California treated it in a better way: it took up in its programme the idea that artists whose art was turned against serious culture and elite institutions should expand their activity. Also other publications emphasised that creativity should grow and not decrease during the strike. These concepts should function as a resistance and could ensure that the coherence of the network remains intact, no matter if the strike has any success or not.

But anyway this notion collapsed at the start. A different concept took its place, one which I attribute to the initiator of the strike, Stewart Home. He calls for the total refusal of all kinds of creativity during the strike. Some activists took this call so seriously that they decided to stop their political and review activities and all kinds of public interventions, as well.

One might talk about the possibility that this rigorousness was a manifestation of a strong radicalism in the spirit of class struggle. There is no reason to deny it. But we can also consider another, more personal motivation with a philosophical background.

It seems that for Stewart Home, the feasibility of a strike is of minor importance. He postulates the use of underground culture as a testing ground for his idea. This programme is the strategic negation of all creative forms, seen as the current strategy of the artistic individual and art activity.

The various forms for such a negation that Home proposes (Multiple Names, Plagiarism, Art Strike) are all excellently conceived and deserve appreciation. Following from these ideas, I can see an opposition to the monopolistic nature of art institutions, which was caused by making the underground reflect upon these issues. This philosophy had exerted a great influence on the underground and the alternative art scene long before the Art Strike became current. Of course, such concepts, built with such virtuosity, have little to do with a political programme. It is a rather ordinary cultural accomplishment.

To combine it with politics is dangerous. Since a few people have adopted the opinion that only active negation can be the strategy of true creativity, the import of this highly abstract philosophy into the arena of the strike resulted in the strike (which was hopeless anyway) losing its creative energy from the start.

Another question is: to what extent was Home aware of the fact that he himself with this conception had brought into being an instrument which could be suitable for buttressing authority? This authority would be able to discipline a part of the artistic subculture. (It is in fact much easier to control a negation than a production). Home was very narrow-minded concerning productive activity in general and the forms of independent art activity in the alternative scene in particular (see the recent issue of Smile magazine or his book, The Assault On Culture).

Home had the enormous gall to postulate a general validity for his own ideas. I don't know if he realised at all that in the case of the total participation of the underground in a strike which lasted three years, the whole network would decay. Or is there not much to regret? (Maybe this egomania is an element taken from Neoism. But Stewart Home had this mentality before his Neoist period began: his first known project was a band he was in called White Colours. His aim was to have all bands in England call themselves White Colours).

Even when I pay respect to the expression of Home's opinions, I must say: this is not an explicitly leftist mentality, and as political activity, it has nothing at all to do with the emancipation of humanity. It is much more an aristocratic phenomenon or in the microcosm of the alternative scene a standardising of all opinions according to the model of totalitarianism.

We can also say that we have to face the problem of difference between intellectual abstraction and practical though. We can thank Stewart Home that the second Art Strike was begun at all, but in reality the views and ambitions which initiated the strike were major causes for frustration,. as well. But, the first months of the strike demonstrated that a lot of problems could not be solved without this crisis. What these problems are beings to become clearer now, and this is a positive result. But good motives need better and more professional instruments. Maybe because of this lesson the Art Strike was worth the trouble. Geza Perneczky


1. How can one participate in the Art Strike (1990-1993)? Sure, such a distressing perspective is disorienting to some. As for the Art Strikers, their tactics vary.
Stewart Home in London (who though up the Art Strike), seems to have chosen a total strike of creativity, which includes all activity related to the Art Strike (1990- 1993). He is limiting his activity to dispatching only documents concerning the Art Strike that were produced before January 1, 1990, to whomever asks for them. He explains (in a letter dated November 8, 1989): '_Setting up an ASAC simply means providing the public with an address from which they can get information about the Art Strike and organising any other activities which you think might help spread the idea_' In Iowa, Lloyd Dunn has interrupted the publication of his magazine PhotoStatic for three years. Instead, he publishes the sporadic and quasi-anonymous newsletter YAWN, almost totally dedicated to the Art Strike (1990- 1993). I have found certain of the proposals advanced therein to be excessive, such as its characterisation of 'The Artist as a Victim of Tourette Syndrome,' which suggests that the artist is pathologically dependent on their need to create, like a nervous tic (issue 7, 31/12/89). On the other hand, I notice this declaration: 'There is no Art Strike dogma as such. Instead, it is essential that each Art Strike participant construct their own set of activities in support of the Art Strike.' (issue 6 24/11/89).

2. It consists of a paradox...
Sure, the proposition of an Art Strike (1990-1993) is paradoxical, incredible, illogical, bizarre, incoherent, extremist, masochistic, unrealistic and pretentious, but it is a social action that has as its primary goal the deliberate provocation of annoyance.

3. Isn't this pious Art Strike (1990-1993) doomed to failure by lack of impact?
Sure, this is a possibility. In YAWN it says, 'the Art Strike (1990-1993) can only affect those people who choose to be affected by it...' (issue 11, 1/3/90). But in Cicero it says: '...Even if the goodness (that we seek) were not recognised, it would still be good; for whatever we can say in all truth is commended by its own good nature, even if not approved by any man living.' (On Moral Obligation, I.4.14).

4. Art is already a strike.
Sure, there is something to this. On this subject, Lloyd Dunn proposed in the 40th and last issue of PhotoStatic (December 1989): '_the Art Strike is not so much a call for doing nothing as it is a call for doing something else. Now, it is quite plausible, according to my interpretation of the intent of the Art Strike, for a person (whether they think they are doing 'art' or not) to participate in the Art Strike and yet continue to do what they were doing before! As far as I can tell, the Art Strike lashes out at a set of attitudes about art; not 'art' as such. To clarify my position on this, it is perhaps necessary for us to have two definitions for the word 'art,' 1. art: virtually any creative activity, definable by the user of the term themself; and 2) Art: a class and gender-specific activity devoted to the creation of marketable objects_ The Art Strike simultaneously calls for a rejection of Art, and a re- evaluation of art. To be effective, the Art Strike must demoralise Artists, and encourage artists.

Reprinted from Lettre Documentaire No. 9, 25/4/90


The 1990-1993 Art Strike, which is currently being proposed by an international consortium of petty egomaniacs, needs to be shot dead, summarily executed without delay. The reasons for this conclusion are perfectly clear, as Richard Nixon would say, and I shall outline them in this brief paper.

The theoretical Marxist gobbyallygooke (Middle English spelling) that is the fountain from which this proposal ejaculates is logically unsound, although fascinating in its dire lack of intelligence. This is clearly evident when one examines the main Art Strike argument, which is that somehow Art is a tool, a 'commodity' used by an elite to 'repress' the masses. I hereby challenge the organisers of this mess to find ten seriously impoverished people willing to sign an affidavit to the effect that their condition is due to the business practices of Art galleries. Imagine Geraldo Rivera crawling through the streets of East Oakland, asking street philosophers to recount personal episodes of terror at the hands of Piedmontian curators! Of course the outcome would be that of an empty televisional well, with a greasily handsome Geraldo wringing his hands. He would be lucky to even find a downtrodden person who gives an Albanian hoot about Art, or Artists, or their picayune opinions. Art simply doesn't matter to the vast majority of individuals. But to this, the smug Marxist would retort: 'But the masses have yet to be enlightened as to the cause of their condition!' What sanctimonious, pig-headed borscht! The man pushing a shopping cart down the street would much rather have a T-bone steak marinated with Narsai's Special Sauce than a thousand tickets to performances at Artist's Television Access (a San Francisco establishment that sponsored an Art Strike event)! And rightly so, for his survival is, and should be, paramount. Whether or not there are Art geniuses has bugger all to do with the immediacy of his condition. If the self-satisfied organisers of this bird-brainish strike were really interested in helping the masses, they'd be proposing a TV-dinner round-up for the homeless! They'd be putting their money where their fat mouths are, so to speak.

It is also clear that the instigators of this foolishness are bent on being famous, and that they are insanely jealous of financially successful artists. This is a case of sour Bulgarian grapes, under the guise of proletarian revolt. It is usually the case that when revolutionaries seize power, they become just as repressive as their former masters; if the organisers of this effort were actually to stop Art production, they would be in the best position in terms of financial gain. Fortunately, I feel confident that this little temper tantrum by a collective of spoiled artistic brats can be nipped in the bud, castrated from the consciousness of creativity. But only if you follow my instructions, and act now. If you agree with this analysis, you'll do the following:

1. Mail the letter (below) to: Artists' Television Access 922 Valencia Street San Francisco CA 94103 (Text of letter.) "Dear ATA: I refuse to participate in the 1990-1993 Artists' Strike. As a matter of fact, I pledge to do everything in my power to encourage more Art production. I also think that the organisers of this effort are just a bunch of cry-babies trying to feather their nests and make a mess on the floor." (Signed.).

2. Refuse to participate in the strike, if it ever really materialises.

3. Encourage others to create works of Art. Creativity is good for people.

Anatoly Zyyxx

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