This N' That: Keep In The Know With Photography News
By Ashley Yu
Exposure vs. Exploitation: #MeToo Artwork Removes Image of Sexual Assault Victim
Just earlier this month, artist Andrea Bowers was praised high and low for her installation Open Secrets at Art Basel, presented by kaufmann repetto. A sprawling manifestation on the history of the #MeToo Movement, the Los Angeles-based artist, in collaboration with four other galleries, retold the stories of everyone involved in sexual harassment cases since 2017. It has since then backfired greatly when victims Helen Donahue and Abbey Carney were notified of her unwitting involvement in the installation via social media. While Carney was only mentioned in name, Bowers displayed an image of Donahue, beaten and bruised, after her assault.
Upon realizing Bowers use of her image without her consent, she tweeted, “DO YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING INSANE IT IS TO FIND OUT MY BEAT UP FACE AND BODY ARE ON DISPLAY AS ART [RIGHT NOW] FOR RICH [PEOPLE] TO GAWK AT.”
Surprisingly enough, Bowers has removed the image from the installation. The artist herself, along with the galleries in collaboration, have issued public apologies.These events have raised critical questions surrounding the increasing popularity (and perhaps necessity) of political art. In an article from New York Time, this has become a case study for future discourse on socially-conscious art, asking “what rules apply for appropriating images and stories previously posted on personal social media accounts, or allegations made in a journalistic context? As socially conscious art has become increasingly popular, and these works enter galleries and other commercial settings, should moral lines be drawn?”
The answers seem like it should be “yes”. And from what I can tell, those questions seems to deviate from the true issue at hand, which is one of exploitation for the sake of exposure in social justice movements. Sensationalizing trauma to shock people into agreement, while playing and recreating the system of violence that placed the victim there in the first place.
Hong Kong Pavilion at the Venice Biennial Closed in Support of Domestic Protests
With international outcry and historically violent domestic unrest on the Extradition Bill, the Hong Kong Pavilion shut down for one day on June 12. Christina Li, the curator of the exhibition, announced the strike on Facebook.
On Sunday, June 10, over one million protestors marched occupied the streets and marched towards the Legislative Council Building, decrying the Beijing-proposed Extradition Bill that would allow criminals to be extradited to the Mainland and tried under the infamously opaque Chinese legal system. Though Pro-China Chief Executive Carrie Lam has delayed the Bill, both Beijing and Lam have stated their desire to continue pushing for the amendment.
Though seemingly innocuous, the Bill is part of China’s long-standing efforts to dominate the autonomous city-state since its handover from the British in 1997. The Extradition Bill will be an attempt to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and separate legislative and judicial branches, in direct contradiction of the Basic Law. Peaceful protestors have been met with immense brutality from riot police, including tear gas and rubber bullets. Civilians have mass mobilized in the meantime, providing masks, water, soap, milk, and first-aid kits around the streets, despite lacking central leadership, as in the Yellow Umbrella Democracy Movement in 2012.
Around 100 Hong Kong-based art organizations joined the strike on June 12, including Pace Hong Kong and Ben Brown Fine Art. Publicly-funded cultural institutions are also encouraged to join the strike in solidarity.
Guggenheim Employees Call To Unionize
Last week, 80 workers, representing building maintenance workers and art installers, have issued a public letter of intent to affiliate with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30. In light of the recent requests for economic transparency amongst museum staff, employees at the Guggenheim have shed light on the exploitative nature of present work conditions.
Tensions came to its zenith when workers discovered that no employee received a raise, despite increased traffic of visitors and already low wages. Guggenheim employees strive to follow the footsteps towards unionization alongside the New Museum and MoMa PS1. Attempts to unionize and to go on strike have been retorted with threats of termination.
Organizers have requested for a ‘card check’ election to decide whether the museum should unionize, supervised by a neutral arbiter. However, museum management has instead opted to negotiate terms of the election via National Labour Relations Board, while also holding a series of “Employee Information Sessions.” This drawn-out process has further aggravated Guggenheim staffers.
“MFA Boston vs 7th Graders” Continue with Attorney General’s Involvement
The Massachusetts state attorney general has opened an investigation into the racial-profiling incident at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, in which a group of 30 students--all children of color-- were allegedly harassed and discriminated against on their school trip. Those students were continually reprimanded by museum staff while white students from other schools touched exhibits and sculptures with no consequence.
Allegations were first made by the group’s school teacher, Marvelyne Lamy, on Facebook. Of the many racist encounters at the museum, one included a visitor calling a dancing female student a stripper and a staff member declaring that “no food, no drink, and no watermelon” was allowed in the museum.
A representative of the state attorney general said in a public statement that “our educational and and cultural institutions must be welcoming to everyone--especially to our young people. We take allegations of discrimination very seriously and can confirm that our office is investigating the matter.”
MFA has issued a public apology letter and conducted its own internal investigations. The two visitors involved in these racist incidents have been identified and consequently, banned. It has also retained its own counsel to conduct an investigation.
#NoKidsInCages: Installations of Caged Immigrant Children Popped Up Across NYC
On June 12, a political pop-up installation project, titled #NoKidsInCages, depicted caged children and audio recordings of screaming children appeared in 24 locations, mostly outside of major media companies. Evidently commenting on the issue of detained and separated children along the U.S.-Mexico border, some of which have already died in custody. The installations went viral before the removal of the artworks by the NYPD.
The installation involved a realistic child-sized mannequin wrapped up in a foil blanket on a mat inside a chain link cage. It has been reported that The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit organization that provides free legal support for detained immigrants and their families, have claimed responsibility.
The installations were spotted outside major media corporations, including New York Times, NBC, CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, Vice, and Instagram. There were also seen in heavy-traffic areas, such as the Chelsea Market, Bedford Avenue, and the Brooklyn Bridge. NYPD has attempted to cover and dismantle these installations.