An Artist Speaks Out About the MOCA Gala

This morning I decided to take down my post on the recent MOCA Gala. Basically, I concluded that commenting on Twitpics and gossip rag accounts was bullshit and a waste of space. I’ll never know how I would have felt if I had actually attended the gala – whether I would have been moved by Abramović’s actions, or thought they were stupid, or something in between – and that’s just the way it is.

I am happy, however, to see that Carrie McIlwain, one of the artists who participated in the gala, has stepped forward and provided a thoughtful, detailed account of her experiences, via Geoff Tuck’s Notes on Looking blog. This is a huge breath of fresh air after the deluge of shallow, celebrity-oriented coverage from the mainstream media. McIlwain is also brave enough to cut through a lot of the bullshit behind Yvonne Rainer’s protest.

Some highlights:

“Having experienced sexual harassment and emotional and physical abuse in more than one art studio work place, I took Rainer’s allegations very seriously, wondering if my history of abuse from employers made it impossible for me to recognize the conditions that foster abuse. Ultimately I concluded that a group of educated, willing performers do not need to be spoken for; we need to be spoken with.”

“Though I did not recognize any of the people dining at my table, I commend them now for the respectful and intelligent art patrons they revealed themselves to be. Callousness can come from any class, but I truly believe it is important to offer people the opportunity to reveal their nature.”

“If the aim of Rainer’s critique sought to discredit the museum system of funding it was sloppy and hollow. In the end it was an attack on the proposed work of a single artist.”

Although McIlwain had a positive experience at her table, she does not discount the fact that others did not have such a great time with their guests, and gives substantial air time to their stories as well. Throughout, her commentary is clear, well-reasoned, and most important, free of the hysteria and sometimes ungrounded rhetoric that was generated by the pre-gala “scandal.”

ADDENDUM: I’ve now been made aware of this very earnest tale from E.J.Hill, this deliciously bitchy account from Dorian Wood, and this full-blown Facebook pow-wow started by Macklin Kowal.

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