MoMADivest says Reclaim Art

In reaction to #MoMADivest‘s campaign against war and prison profiteering, some artists decided to protest a show at PS1/MoMA on the devastating American-led Gulf War. In conversation with the coalition, they agreed to show their work at a series of planned events in communities affected by displacement (including gentrification), dispossession, war, and imprisonment. In this way, the coalition modestly modelled its call for divestment and reinvestment by taking the art divested from PS1/MoMA and reinvesting it in community-based meetings and organizing platforms.

The first MoMADivest Reclaim Arts teach-in and community discussion took place on Saturday December 14 in the Bronx, co-hosted by Red de Pueblos Trasnacionales. Works shown were by Michael Rakowitz, Phil Collins and Jananne Al Ani, who did not remove her work from the PS1/MoMA show but donated a work in solidarity.

MoMA and PS1 benefit from deep links to profits made from war, prisons, fossil fuel extraction and other forms of dispossession, displacement, detention and destruction. For example, we find it unacceptable and cynical that Larry Fink, a MoMA board member, makes money from, amongst other things, war and prison companies. #MoMADivest denounces these links, and makes specific demands for divestment, starting with defunding the country’s two largest prison companies, Geo Group and Core Civic.

The discussion, M/C’d by Sophia Garcia and Arianna Reyes, of Sin Fronteras, and Marco Castillo, of Red de Pueblos Trasnacionales, connected the dots between massive inequality, the extractivist US wars in the Middle East, the global security regime, the carceral state and the art/non-profit world

We believe that a political discussion in affected communities goes much farther than quiescent panel conversations within the walls of art institutions where artists, curators, staff and even visitors are often afraid to stand up, despite their own political beliefs. Contrary to statements issued by directors of such institutions, we believe that museums are unsafe spaces full of safe ideas.

By contrast in the community setting, numerous contentious issues were brought up –the formation of DHS and ICE as part of the war on terror, the involvement of Israeli companies and advisors on the US-Mexico border, the growth of policing, the military, prison budgets and security regimes in general in order to keep the oligarchy secure and protect the massive accumulation of wealth, successfully closing down jails such as the Atlanta City detention center (a Close the Jail ATL campaign led by formerly incarcerated women), the cycles of extractivism, dispossession and displacement that are part of climate change and climate change migration, the cultural and language needs of indigenous migrant populations and the valuation of indigenous knowledge and art production, artwashing and the possibility of reimaginig art institutions as a way of reimagining redistribution of wealth and value.

Marco Castillo, Red de Pueblos Trasnacionales

Participants in the discussions included: Abou Farman (Art Space Sanctuary), Edson and Keydy Arzu (Garifuna Community Services), Vanessa F (criminal justice community organizer), Leonardo Figueroa Helland (Indigenous rights activist, Assistant Professor, The New School), Isela Herrera (Hands, St Jerome), Yoloxochitl Cano (Titoro Miko), Antonio Pizapa (father of one of 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa), Javaid Tariq (New York Taxi Workers Alliance), Marco Saavedra (La Morada)

We reiterate the MoMADivest Demands:

We demand that as a civic institution Moma issue a clear public statement regarding their position on prisons and mass incarceration, migration and detention, war and weapons manufacturing, fossil fuel companies, extractivism and climate change…  

We demand that MoMA issue a public statement regarding their position on proceeds and donations that come as a result of violence from these issues, and start a transparent public investigation into any and all funds linked to these issues, including in the various pension funds used by the institution

We demand that MoMA ask its board member Larry Fink and his company BlackRock to begin a divestment process or leave the board. The process would start with divestment from the prison companies, Core Civic and Geo Group

Modified Wall label for Jananne Al Ani, Sounds of War

All photos ShelbyWorks – except those indicated by (*) from Sophia Garcia