Friday, December 03, 2010

Take action: tell the Smithsonian that censorship offends you!

Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough's willingness to cave in to right-wing extremists and censor the work of David Wojnarowicz should not go unpunished. Email Clough and NPG director Sullivan to let them know that the majority can be just as vocal as the minority! Send your message to and

Here is what I wrote:

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to express my grave concern at your recent decision to remove David Wojnarowicz's important work, "A Fire in My Belly" from the National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibition.

As an arts educator, I am both disturbed and offended by the Smithsonian's haste to acquiesce to the bigoted wishes of a small but vocal group of extremists seeking to once again silence those who would speak out against the Catholic church's ongoing characterization of basic AIDS prevention as sinful. I am even more distressed that this censorship appears to be motivated either by a gross misreading of Wojnarowicz's artistic intent, or the more craven possibility that this move is prompted entirely by budgetary self-preservation. It is widely known that this exhibition was largely funded by private donors; moreover, as a taxpayer, I am less inclined to support government investment in the Smithsonian as a result of your evident willingness to abandon your scholarly responsibilities at the first sign of political fallout. I fear this action sets a precedent that will lead to censorship of other scholarly research at the Smithsonian that runs counter to conservative political interests, such as evolutionary science.

The National Portrait Gallery has in recent years developed a well-deserved reputation for excellence and progressive institutional programming - one which you have compromised in an instant with this regrettable decision. I stand in solidarity with the curators of "Hide/Seek", the formidable scholars of the Portrait Gallery's curatorial staff, the Wojnarowicz estate and the whole of the international contemporary art community in condemning your decision to censor "A Fire in My Belly".

Lastly, I regret that when I visit my family in DC this holiday season, I will be unable to share with them this important work of art. For many Americans, this time of year is about opening our own minds and hearts, and those of the people we love, to have compassion for those who suffer while we celebrate.

I will be showing "A Fire in My Belly" to my students for years to come, and hope that your shameful censorship will likewise prompt my colleagues to reconsider and represent this work.

Yours truly,
Anuradha Vikram
UC Berkeley Department of Art Practice

More info about this controversy can be found at the website of Wojnarowicz's gallery, PPOW.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Add Art Exhibition Feb 12-26

Merchandise (You Are Not What You Own)

An Online Exhibition Presented by Add Art

February 12-26, 2010 in your Firefox browser

The everyday onslaught of advertising images in our media-saturated world serves one purpose – that is, to destabilize our sense of self just enough that we become convinced that the thing being advertised is just what is needed to restore order. From every angle, our popular culture sells us fairy tales of who we are and who we are supposed to be. These are ideals which few can ever attain without a rare combination of genes, wealth and luck. The market gambles with our personalities, creating a bubble of trendiness and glamour, while the long-term value of identity and memory is compromised.

The artists in this show appropriate and subvert the language of marketing, using its tools of photography, costuming and set dressing, digital manipulation, and data tagging. By copying these strategies, they create transparency where obfuscation is usually found. By bringing the sublimated messages of consumer culture into question, these artists offer the possibility of a more critical engagement with the image. The gap between the self and others’ perception is made clearer by their redirections.

Curator: Anuradha Vikram ( is a curator, critic and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is Curator at the Worth Ryder Gallery, University of California, Berkeley, Lecturer at College of Marin, Kentfield, and Curator-at-Large at Swarm Gallery, Oakland, CA.

Bayeté Ross-Smith ( is an artist, photographer and arts educator. Included in this exhibition are selections from three series: Our Kind Of People examines how clothing, ethnicity and gender affect our ideas about identity, personality and character. The subjects in this work are dressed in clothing from their own wardrobes. The outfits are worn in a style and fashion similar to how that person would wear them in daily life. Devoid of any context for assessing the personality of the individual in the photograph, the viewer projects her or his own preconceived notions on each photograph. Passing examines how nationality affects the perception of identity. It also examines the power of identity documents and the role they play in giving people access to the various resources of our global society. Taking AIM explores that fine line that exists between acceptable, condoned and recreational violence, and deplorable criminalized violence.

Bayeté Ross-Smith’s work has been exhibited in galleries, museums and in public, both nationally and internationally, including the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the Goethe Institute in Accra, Ghana, the Zacheta National Gallery of Art, in Warsaw, Poland, the Leica Gallery and Rush Arts Gallery in New York City, as well as the San Francisco Arts Commission’s “ Art at City Hall” program, SF, CA and the Oakland Museum of California. He is represented by Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Michele Pred ( creates interventions in real and virtual public space. Barcodes are now embedded into many aspects of our lives. They code and track objects in our life from basic needs like food and clothing, to transportation and travel. They even code and track us. We have become products. To Pred, barcodes epitomize our consumer culture. Consumerism implicitly defines our modes of communication and interaction. It has the ability to engender collective stupor; the daily repetition of images, phrases, and messages lull us into unconscious interaction or dialogue. We have constructed our lives around products and codes without thought. The project is meant to invite a new consciousness and awareness to the encoding of our lives.

To scan and read this piece with your mobile phone you will need to download the software into your phone. You can access the decoding program by going to in your handsets web browser and following the directions, or by downloading the UpCode App in your iPhone.

Michele Pred is a conceptual artist who works with found/confiscated objects and technology imbued with cultural and political meaning. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries, art fairs and museums in London, Stockholm, New York, Bologna, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Her work is part of the permanent collection at the 21st Century Museum, The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Di Rosa Preserve in Napa, CA and is held in numerous corporate and private collections. Michele is the founder of the San Francisco Bay Area based art collective Quorum. She is represented by the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York and the Robert Berman Gallery in Los Angeles.

Robin Lasser ( & Adrienne Pao ( have collaborated on their ongoing Dress Tents project since 2004. Dress Tents investigate notions of tourism in real and simulated fantasy landscapes, and involve a combination of performative and staged scenarios. Internationally, an exhibition of the Dress Tents has been touring South America beginning with a solo exhibition at the Recoleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2006 and traveling through Patagonia and São Paulo, Brazil in 2007. The Dress Tents were featured in the 2007 International Photography Festival in Pingyao, China.

Robin Lasser is a Professor of Art at San Jose State University, and has exhibited nationally and internationally at museums such as: Municipal Museum of Neuquen, Argentina; Recoleta Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Caixa Cultural Center in Rio De Janeiro; Aronson Galleries – Parsons School of Design in New York City; Wave Hill Glyndor Gallery in the Bronx, New York City; L.A. County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California; Osaka World Trade Center Museum in Osaka, Japan; and Academy of Film in Prague, Czech Republic. She also participates in International Biennials such as ZERO1: Global Art on the Edge, San Jose, California and Nuit Blanche, Toronto, Canada.

Adrienne Pao is Visiting Faculty in the Photography Department at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Academy of Art in San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured in the Portfolio issue 77 of Shots (2004), Exposure (2006), Flaunt (2006), Top (Brazil, 2006), Playboy (South America, 2006), Marie Claire (Italy, Greece 2007). It is also featured in writer and art critic Rebecca Solnit’s book Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (2007). She has shown her work nationally at the Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka, California and also at Wave Hill Glyndor gallery in the Bronx, New York.

Stephan Vladimir Bugaj ( uses found photography from the mid-20th century as the basis for exploring the construction of identity. Images from the “Good War” (World War II), a conflict that sent the artist’s family into permanent exile, are manipulated to emphasize the deterioration of cultural memory in an age of superficial access to information. The more data we have, the less we know or remember. Reduced to symbols, the people in these images have lost their voice to the forward march of history.

Stephan Vladimir Bugaj is a writer, filmmaker, feature animation technical director, artificial intelligence researcher, visual artist, noiseician, philosopher, futurist, Web pioneer, and all around curmudgeonly polymath. By day, he is a Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA. As a screenwriter, he has been a Finalist at the Austin Film Festival, a Quarterfinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a Participant in the 2010 CineStory Writer’s Retreat. Recent exhibitions include Ersatz at SF Camerawork, San Francisco, CA.