Occupy museum. 99% Komikazen


It has been a year since then and now I can say it: the 2013 edition of Komikazen has been the best one. You’d better not take this catalogue because it will not be able to instil the energy of that collective action. It was not an exhibition, not even a project. It was a collective performative event carried out by 99 illustrators. 

 

None of them knew what was going to be exhibited, except for their own table. Those who responded to our call knew a few simple things: they would neither have been refunded nor paid. They had to come to Ravenna – possibly stay there paying it all – and make a table based on the theme “99%”. Once at the MAR (Museum of Art of Ravenna), they had to install the table on their own following the instruction that you can read at page one. Of course, they had to draw.



Till the last second we did not know if all the respondents would have come, if it would have worked. What would have been the result of it? In this case, let me say, each creation – all 99 listed in here – is a small grain of sand in the eyes of those who do not want to see. They will not blind them; they will not change the mind of those who carelessly look at the increasing social, economic and even cultural gap between social classes. But a grain of sand in the eye is annoying for sure.

 

Many people reacted, also on a local political level. They have been touched personally or institutionally. This is what they call a guilty conscience. Some artists declined our invitation at the last minute, because “you never know”. Whether you point the finger and speak up or resist the silence maintained by most of the contemporary artist, you will neither be arrested nor tortured. You will not be the new Ai Wei Wei. Because we are human. But you will not take part to the feasts that count and let you pay the bills. You will receive fewer invitations; you will not be a welcome guest. Somebody may gabble: “It was nothing special”. That gabble can make you lose a mediocre contact. Sometimes it may happen. It happens. If the worker loses her/his job, which had a name – contract (at least most of times) – what if an illustrator, a singer, an actor or a writer loses her/his job? They do not even have a contract. They would not know how to make a living. That gabble, that finger, that being unwelcome do not lead anywhere.  


It has been a year since then and now I can say it: the 2013 edition of Kamikazen has been the best one. You’d better not take this catalogue because it will not be able to instil the energy of that collective action. It was not an exhibition, not even a project. It was a collective performative event carried out by 99 illustrators. 


None of them knew what was going to be exhibited, except for their own table. Those who responded to our call knew a few simple things: they would neither have been refunded nor paid. They had to come to Ravenna – possibly stay there paying it all – and make a table based on the theme “99%”. Once at the MAR (Museum of Art of Ravenna), they had to install the table on their own following the instruction that you can read at page one. Of course, they had to draw.


Till the last second we did not know if all the respondents would have come, if it would have worked. What would have been the result of it? In this case, let me say, each creation – all 99 listed in here – is a small grain of sand in the eyes of those who do not want to see. They will not blind them; they will not change the mind of those who carelessly look at the increasing social, economic and even cultural gap between social classes. But a grain of sand in the eye is annoying for sure.


Many people reacted, also on a local political level. They have been touched personally or institutionally. This is what they call a guilty conscience. Some artists declined our invitation at the last minute, because “you never know”. Whether you point the finger and speak up or resist the silence maintained by most of the contemporary artist, you will neither be arrested nor tortured. You will not be the new Ai Wei Wei. Because we are human. But you will not take part to the feasts that count and let you pay the bills. You will receive fewer invitations; you will not be a welcome guest. Somebody may gabble: “It was nothing special”. That gabble can make you lose a mediocre contact. Sometimes it may happen. It happens. If the worker loses her/his job, which had a name – contract (at least most of times) – what if an illustrator, a singer, an actor or a writer loses her/his job? They do not even have a contract. They would not know how to make a living. That gabble, that finger, that being unwelcome do not lead anywhere.  


If you want art, buy it. It does not cost that much. The supporters of arts who do not have at least an artwork made by one of their friends are strange people. They are like the supporters of books who do not have a single book on their shelves, or like those who want to be playgoers without attending a play. Art is trade and none should be scared by that. Drawings can be bought.

Well, I am wasting time. I did not analyse, I did not summarize, I did not recall the right names. In fact, I did not want to, because this is a self-explanatory action, it does not need any annotation. You can see it in the video enclosed to the catalogue and recorded because – to be sincere – that is the artwork.

Each table is the interpretation of the same leitmotiv. You think you can make a fool of us, but we can see you. You’d better be afraid. The wave is coming. 


“Banks robbed us and politicians drove the car to run away. Read Griftopia. Watch Inside Job1: this is what they said in Zuccotti Park during one of the most important civil demonstration after the civil right march in the USA. Precisely there, right in the middle of the empire. If it was in Tunis, Cairo and Beirut, there would have been no problem. Even in Madrid or Athens – at the end of the day they are almost Africans. But they were American citizens in the Big Apple.

 

“Another art world is possible, one that’s more principled and ethical, and that looks out for the human and labour rights of all. Artists should not be asked to exhibit in museums that have been built on the back of abused workers … that’s what it boils down to. When you’re acquired by a museum that does that, that’s unfair. Your complicity is being bought along with the artwork.” That is what Gulf, one of the organizations that take part to the actions of occupymuseum.org, said. For example, consider one of the actions of occupymuseum.org: the projection of utterances such as “1% Museums means 1% Art”, “Art built on Oppression Loses Meaning”, “There are other possible Futures of Art” on the façade of the Guggenheim Museum. The actions of these groups of American artists aim to reveal the horrible work condition of those who are building the new Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi. We should be concerned about it, because also in Italy those who work to produce and preserve the art world have become occasional workers.

 

Our intent was easier: we wanted to show the unsustainable work conditions of those who work in the fields of culture and art. It is no more about occasional work, but work for free. Even the Ministry offers free traineeships as if they were real jobs. Even if one makes it for passion, it does not mean that one should not make a living out of it. You can be a doctor, a luthier, a lawyer for passion, but no one can even think of not paying you for your work. 

 

The social welfare system and the political mediation that was born from the social conflict in 60s-70s did not led to equality, but it caused a substantial redistribution of wealth that granted our parents the well-being that has not been recorded in any other age on such a large scale. Those who should act in our stead to claim more rights, to protect our lives and be our mediator is driving the car to run away, in fact. As a result, we can just move on, take out pens, pencils and microphones, and start again claiming more social equality and more chances for everybody.

 

(Oh! The thing that surprised me the most was that, at the end, all the artworks were multifaceted, rich, and different. There was no repetition, no standardized thinking. This means that – yes -- we are the 99%, but we all have different minds).


1 R. Staglianò, Occupy Wall Street, Milan 2012.