The Commonist Gallery was asked to give a talk about our activities and show the Commonist films as part of ‘If Not, Then What?’ run by Chelsea Programme. But we were unable to do this because we disagree:
1. With structure where some artists are paid and others are not
2. With the inoculation of real political action (such as recent demonstrations etc) through it being turned into a tool for marketing an exhibition which fails to address the contradictions of hosting such an event in a venue that seems to show little concern for the active promotion of social justice and widening the participation in art in a society increasingly divided by wealth, but actively promotes a culture of competition and marketing. Not only is it dubious whether an exhibition such as this achieves anything real in terms of the politics it latches on to, but by failing to examine its own internal politics, as exemplified in the unequal pay structures, it reinforces the hierarchies of art (artist class system, division of the paid and unpaid, the prestige economy of ‘names’ measured in terms of recognition and therefore publicity for the show) and is therefore not radical but reactionary.
The Commonist Gallery offered one response to the notion of a ‘radical structure’ being located within the grounds of Chelsea Art College Parade Ground. However, we were not allowed even to paste/place a few A 4 and A3 posters offering this response because it might ‘damage’ the surface of the ply wood of the temporary structure.
We want to move towards the creation of a new culture which allows artists to function in the current climate. We want to support each other and not compromise what we are doing within organisations and institutions that offer cultural capital, whether for building careers or providing radical recorded veneer, thus becoming complicit in the process of inoculation.
The Communist gallery was set up last summer in a disused shop in Brixton Market with the intention of providing a space where artists could work together, it was set up with a frustration, pain and anger about the way things are within current art ‘set up’ and the coming massacre of public services that we and many people perceived as looming on the horizon. We had a desire to hew out a different space, allowing a certain optimism to grow as different people became involved. Unless there is a will to work towards creating such common spaces for art which doesn’t bow to market, including careerist forces, there is little hope for art as a real means of discourse.
Commonist Gallery 6.03.2010