Dumbo Arts Center is pleased to present “New Pyramids For the Capitalist System,” an exhibition by Robby Herbst. “New Pyramids For The Capitalist System” explores acrobatics, class, bodies and interpersonal dynamics through a series of large-scale drawings, installations, and performances of human pyramids. The project was inspired by Herbst’s grandfather’s photos (a collection of beach and socialist acrobats) and a 1911 diagram produced by Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) called “Pyramid for the Capitalist System.”
At sites associated with Occupy LA Herbst and a group of amateur, costumed, acrobats enacted the IWW diagram by creating human pyramids. Acrobats dressed as workers, managers, law enforcement, clergy and capitalists. This exhibition focuses on social dynamics and the efforts to memorialize the actions highlighted in the pyramid performances. Drawings and sculpture will examine the spatial and political implications of what it means to bear the weight of this classed system.
“New Pyramids For The Capitalist System” reminds us that we are physical beings, inhabiting specific time and spaces. The acrobats hold and press against each other in the fleshy, intimate experience of supporting one another, a responsible community of interdependent relations.
Herbst’s grandfather was a talented acrobat involved who for decades did stunts with others at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. In the 1930s he associated with the Young Worker’s Athletic Club (YWAC) – a socialist acrobatic group. On display are many photographs of Herbst’s grandparents’ acrobatic performances in which banners with anti-fascist and pro-Communist slogans can be seen. Herbst’s grandfather, Martin, was generally at the bottom of pyramids and stunts. As a strong trusted man, he was able to bear the weight of others. By tying in their acrobatic activities to the Capitalist Pyramid, Herbst makes literal the need we have for mutual support.
Through a public re-visitation of a popular political text (the Pyramid) from the early 20th century, the project aims to investigate the resonance of such language today. Following from a tradition of ambiguity in participatory new genres public art, this project explores the possibility of the legacy of class ideology within public spaces. “New Pyramids” raises questions of how the built environment can influence political participation. It explores the potential for human interaction, as exemplified by the acrobatic pyramids, to change our understanding of spaces. The show will also question how the spaces we occupy are meant to bear the weight of our interactions within them. The performance of the human pyramids raises issues of the nature of cooperation and complicity by citizens in the maintenance (or overturning!) of societal divisions.
About Robby Herbst Robby Herbst is an interdisciplinarian, broadly interested in socio-political formations; behavioral architecture, languages of dissent and counter cultures. Explorations have lead him to visual art, writing, group work, independent media, public theory and organizing. He founded and is a former editor of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, an internationally recognized journal and “feral institution” whose aim is to explore creative and critical culture. Today he organizes and contributes to the Llano Del Rio Collective’s guides to Los Angeles.
He’s a recipient of a Warhol Writer’s Grant for a project examining the phenomena of “Possibility” within social art and activism. He’s contributed artwork to Alan Kaprow: Art As Life, Museum of Contemporary Art, LA; the 2008 California Biennial; Democracy in America: The National Campaign, Creative Time 2008; Fine Print: and Alternative Media, P.S.1, New York. Solo exhibitions of his work have appeared at David Patton Los Angeles and Monte Vista Projects (LA).
Read the artists essay about the project on Art21. More images from the show here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dacgallery/sets/72157629497059669/