Schizo-curation Amidst The Ruins

On opening night of The New Situationists the word was circulating among those gathered on whether it was appropriate to smash the windows of the newly inaugurated space. There was a sincere debate exploring the logic of issuing “a provocative gesture”. It is accepted practice in Situationist circles, especially among those old enough to have lived through its heyday, that the debasement of Situationist  ideals to a form that can be commodified needs to be fought at all turns. Holding an event in an art gallery runs the risk of misrepresenting the core theories of the movement and reducing them to “spectacle”. How can one possess the hubris to claim linkage to a movement as complex and wrought with the weight of history ? Holding such an exhibit is problematic on many fronts. But wait, it gets better. The very smashing of the windows itself could create spectacle, a smoke screen that could obscure Situationism even further.  It’s catch 22 in its purest form. Why even bother with an exhibit in the first place?

Simple answer: There is too much at risk not to. We need Situationism now more than ever. The benefits are worth braving the perils. From absorbing contemporary expressions of situationist inspired insurrection, one can reignite new interpretations, new expressions, a counter to the rising forms of corporate constipation in our midst.

Curators, Natalia Mount and Sarah Lockhart and their phalanx of contributors have transformed a “crack in the wall” to a “portal of subversion and joyful celebration”. The sheer force of the work, crammed into every corner of the gallery, presents the visitor with a raw piece of DNA, oozing with the aura of an insurgency, long dead but resurrected, by a wild and courageous group of instigators and artists who take their practice very seriously. It was hard not to be moved by the flyers, periodicals, video installations, photos of altered billboards, and thoughtfully arranged exhibits. You are overloaded with information. It is hard to take in all in in one sitting. One needs to return. The various live events staged over the period of a few weeks encourage you to do so. This isn’t a run-of-the-mill art exhibit. No self congratulatory nose upturning here. Instead, we experience a dedicated  commitment to spreading the virus of a counter culture current, one with linkage to past currents, yet unique in and of itself.

Embedded in the work of these modern enragés is the strains of thinking found in the works of Lefevre and Mauss, Debord and Vanegeim, Deleuze and Guatarri, and the many others dedicated to bringing humans back in touch with the present, with their desires, and a commitment to community building that is unfettered by fetishism and commodification. In some parts of the show, the expressions are simple, raw, and minimalist in their tone. Other exhibits are nuanced, and reveal a meta-layering of thought and action. There is wicked humor and an explosiveness found throughout. Is neo-situationism a possibility here? Can any of this, should any of this, be labelled: Situationist?

The message is more important than the labels. Pro Arts is sitting on top of tinderbox of incendiary lifework by participants who have cut their teeth working on the borders of consensus reality. The virus is in safe hands their hands and sure to spread with loving care.

Let’s take to the streets! Now! And Forever! Viva Pro Arts! Vivas the New Situationists!

-Peter Maravelis, City Lights Booksellers, April 2017