Monday, October 30, 2017

The Reckoning Is Here: Sexual Harassment and The Art World’s Complicity

Jenny Holzer, Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise (1982)
 
Only if you have been at a silent retreat under a rock somewhere do you not know what’s currently happening in the art world and the allegations against ArtForum’s Knight Landesman and a slew of other actions and activities in response to this and the general exposing and denouncements post Harvey Weinstein et, al. in regards to sexual harassment and abuse of power specifically against women.

This has been a long time coming. Too long. And although it might feel like a nadir of social conveniences, and there is something to be said that it took ‘celebrity’ to bring this to the front pages and to an en masse meme-scape, but nonetheless it is happening and it’s about time.

Every woman, everywhere, has been a victim of sexual harassment. It becomes so familiar, so everyday and so subtle that we have not only learned to ‘deal’ with it, we have accepted it, and have even negotiated excuses for the perpetrators to lessen internal and social conflict. The constancy of daily subjugation in both private and public settings has resulted in women experiencing collective trauma.

We, Us, All Women are traumatized. This trauma is in our bodiesthe way we talk, stand, and move our bodies. This trauma is on our mindshow we think about ourselves, others and the perception of self. This trauma is in our heartswho we can trust, who we can become, and who we must submit to or manipulate for self protection. We are collectively reeling while also stoically trying to stand still, tall and proud. But it doesn’t work because it is in terms that they (men/society) grant. We are permitted to feel empowered, but only to a degree. We are permitted to feel secure, but only to a degree. There is always a lack. There is always a compromise and this is a feeling all women experience, no matter how ‘far’ we have come and how much we have achieved.

The art world is the worst place for women because it espouses and appears to be ‘liberal’, ‘politically correct’ and ‘open’ but it isn’t. It never was and it never has been. I have for years ranted and raged about the ‘art world’ and its utter hypocrisy and failings and those feelings, that anger and frustration, has been because of this hypocrisy. The art world thrives/survives on the oppression, subjugation and preservation of authority and hierarchies from the few against the many. That’s reality. That’s the truth.

Every gallery, museum, institution, non-profit, school, the bulk of the art word’s workforce, is women. But who is in power? We all know it’s not the women.

We trade ourselves, our bodies, our labor, our intellect, our energy and dreams to be a part of something larger, to make impact and be a part of the ‘Art World.’ We barter ourselves for access, privilege, and the next step on the ladder to get to a top and all along the way we are pitted against each other. We do this to ourselves because those are the rules of the game. We have been taught and trained to believe that this is the only way. And it is, it has been the only way and everyonemen, women, all of themalong the way who have allowed this to continue need to face what that means, what that has done and to understand there is a choice.

Power. The art world is all about power. We see power as this force that can be used for good or evil. Is benevolent power acceptable because it is used to help others? As much as I wish the whole system of authorities and power would burn to the ground and turn to ash, it exists. It has and will always exist but it’s not set in stone.

Power is energy, it is malleable. It only has agency if it is given. What everyone can do and should do is think about what power means. What it means to have it, lack it, give it, receive it. What is exchanged? What is lost or gained in these transactions. How can we all shift the dynamics of power so that it serves not ourselves but bigger things like art and humanity.

Art world, wake up.

The actions being taken, the words begin said, the signatures, the law suites, and the naming of names is just the start.

This moment feels like a reckoning and it’s about time. Revel in it if you have been waiting for this to come but remember, for this to really, really change everyoneeach and every single one of ushas to take a good hard look of what we have done and what we can do to make sure that we do not gain in our self value by the domination of another.

P.S. Easy tip for galleries on how to take action: PAY YOUR FUCKING INTERNS!


P.P.S. Articles, site to visit to be more informed/take action