Alternative Histories is a history of New York City alternative art spaces and projects since the 1960s. Through audio interviews with founders and key staff, a reading room of magazines and publications, documentation, ephemera and narrative descriptions, the exhibition will tell the story of pioneering spaces – like P.S.1, Artists Space, Fashion Moda, Taller Boricua, ABC No Rio, The Kitchen, Franklin Furnace, Exit Art, 112 Greene Street, White Columns, Creative Time, Electronic Arts Intermix, Anthology Film Archives, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Just Above Midtown, and many more – as well as document a new generation of alternative projects such as Live With Animals, Fake Estate, Apartment Show, Pocket Utopia, Cleopatra’s, English Kills Art Gallery, Triple Candie, Esopus Space, and others.
Over 130 spaces are represented in the show, which elaborates on the significant contributions these organizations made to the cultural fabric of New York City. They gave visibility and inclusion to otherwise excluded artists and ideas. The idealism of the founders, the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in sustaining these histories, against all odds, illustrates the dynamic purposes that propel the artistic scene in New York. “Imagination is an alternative to reality, creating options that never end,” says Papo Colo.
The exhibition incorporates a broad definition of the term “alternative space,” and includes significant publications and artist collectives to cover a broad arc of this history – bridging neighborhoods, decades and themes. In the development and organization of this exhibition, the curatorial team viewed dozens of archives and personal collections – selecting critical materials from the histories of the spaces and projects – and interviewed founders and early staff members, when possible, to construct a narrative about the alternative space movement in New York and its continuing impact on the city’s cultural and artistic landscape.
SPACES / PROJECTS 106 Green 112 Greene Street / 112 Workshop 179 Canal 255 Canal 98 Greene Street A Gathering of the Tribes A.I.R. Gallery ABC No Rio Abrons Arts Center Ad Hoc Art Alternative Museum American Indian Community House Anthology Film Archives Apartment Show apexart Apple Art in General Artists Space Asian American Arts Centre Art Workers’ Coalition Avalanche Bidoun Black & White Gallery and Project Space BOMB BRIC Rotunda Gallery Bronx Blue Bedroom Project Bronx River Art Center Bullet Space Cabinet Camel Art Space Camel Collective Capricious Carriage Trade Cave Center for New Art Activities Cinders Gallery Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum Cleopatra’s Clocktower Gallery Colab Collapsable Hole Collective for Living Cinema CUE Art Foundation Creative Time Cuchifritos Daily Operation Dixon Place Dumbo Arts Center El Museo del Barrio Electronic Arts Intermix Elwa Productions English Kills Art Gallery Esopus Space Eventos: Space for Living Art Exit Art Eyebeam EyeLevel BQE Factory Fresh Fake Estate Famous Accountants Fashion Moda FiveMyles Flux Factory FOOD Forever & Today, Inc. Four Walls Franklin Furnace Franklin Street Arts Center GAle GAtes Gigantic Artspace Glowlab Gran Fury Group Material Harvestworks HKJB INTAR Latin American Gallery Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning Judson Memorial Church Just Above Midtown Kenkeleba House Kentler International Drawing Space Kunstverein La MaMa Light Industry Live With Animals Local Project Location One Longwood Arts Project Lower East Side Print Shop Millennium Film Workshop Minor Injury Momenta Art MUSEUM: A Project of Living Artists NACG / The Film-makers’ Cooperative New Museum of Contemporary Art Norte Maar Not An Alternative NURTUREart Nuyorican Poets Café Orchard Political Art Documentation / Distribution Paper P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center P.S.122 Parlour Parlour Projects PARTICIPANT INC Pocket Utopia Printed Matter Recess Activities Rhizome Rush Art Gallery + Resource Center SculptureCenter Secret Project Robot Sideshow Gallery Silver Shed Smack Mellon Socrates Sculpture Park Storefront for Art and Architecture Superfront Swiss Institute Taller Boricua The Dirty Dirty The Drawing Center The Kitchen The Studio Museum in Harlem Thread Waxing Space Triple Candie Triple Canopy White Box White Columns World War III X-Initiative
INTERVIEWS Bill Aguado, Longwood Arts Project John Ahearn, Fashion Moda Jacki Apple, Apple Alyson Baker and Ivana Mestrovic, Socrates Sculpture Park Mike Ballou, Four Walls Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, Triple Candie Jackie Battenfield, BRIC Rotunda Gallery John Bauch, MUSEUM: A Project of Living Artists Bill Beckley, 98 Greene Street Steve Cannon, A Gathering of the Tribes Rhys Chatham, The Kitchen Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman, Exit Art Anita Contini, Creative Time Michael Counts, GAle GAtes Peter Cramer and Jack Waters, ABC No Rio Marcos Dimas, Taller Boricua Stefan Eins, Fashion Moda Elizabeth Ferrer, BRIC Rotunda Gallery Lia Gangitano, PARTICIPANT INC Kathleen Gilrain, Smack Mellon Tina Girouard, FOOD Caroline Goodden, FOOD Joseph Grima, Storefront for Art and Architecture Antoine Guerrero and Christopher Lew, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Alanna Heiss, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Matthew Higgs, White Columns Eric Heist, Momenta Art Arthur Hughes, MUSEUM: A Project of Living Artists Ken and Flo Jacobs, Millennium Film Workshop Bob Lee, Asian American Arts Centre Joe Lewis, Fashion Moda Tod Lippy, Esopus Space Inverna Lockpez, INTAR Latin American Gallery Alan Moore, Colab George Negroponte, The Drawing Center Tim Nye, Thread Waxing Space Dennis Oppenheim, 98 Greene Street Kyong Park, Storefront for Art and Architecture Carol Parkinson, Harvestworks Clayton Patterson, Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum Ann Philbin, The Drawing Center Anne Sherwood Pundyk and Karen Yama, Minor Injury Yvonne Rainer, Collective for Living Cinema Steven Rand, Apex Art Andrea Reynosa, Smack Mellon Geno Rodriguez, Alternative Museum Irving Sandler, Artists Space MM Serra, Film-makers’ Cooperative Peter Scott, Carriage Trade Allan Schwartzman, New Museum of Contemporary Art Duff Schweninger and Pamela Seymour Smith Sharp, Franklin Street Arts Center Adam Simon, Four Walls Debra Singer, The Kitchen Greg Tate, Just Above Midtown Jack Walsh, Collective for Living Cinema Teresa Liszka and Martin Weinstein, Art in General Martha Wilson, Franklin Furnace Lori Zippay, Electronic Arts Intermix
Conceived by Papo Colo and Jeanette Ingberman.
Curatorial Team includes Herb Tam, Lauren Rosati, Papo Colo, and Jeanette Ingberman.
This exhibition would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of the alternative spaces, and without the following curatorial interns who worked for over two years to research and collect material: Kanika Anand, Lindsay Aveilhe, Manon Binee, Helen Bradbury, Raquel Camara, Young In Chung, Lauren Cronk, Laure Dubois, Wilson Duggan, Jennifer Eun, Tyann Jackson, Jason Gasper, Lauren Graves, Alejandro Guzman, Jordan Hill, Jonathan Hussar, Thomas James, Karina Joseph, Cecilia Juan, Intiya Isaza-Figueroa, Rachel Katz, Ani Kington, Jordan Kirkham, Anna Komar, Bokyung Choi, Sinclaire Marber, Naomi Mishkin, Elizabeth Porfidio, Adrienne Rooney, Robert Samsel, Zan Schmidt, Vardui Sharapkhanyan, Vladimir Sheremet, Katherine Sliclin, Yael Stern, and Emi Tomaszewski.
What is Alternative?: Alternative Histories Symposia What is Alternative? is a symposia held in connection with the exhibition Alternative Histories that is intended to explain, expand, and expound on the history and future of alternative art spaces in New York City.
Friday, October 15 / 7–9pm What is Alternative? / What is the Future of the Alternative?
Moderator: Robert Storr, Dean of Yale School of Art and former Curator in Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, NY (1990 – 2002)
Participants: Papo Colo, Artistic Director / Co-Founder, Exit Art; Martha Wilson, Founder / Director, Franklin Furnace; Peter Cramer and Jack Waters, Former Directors of ABC No Rio, Founders / Director of Le Petit Versailles
This opening conversation amongst founders / directors of early and emerging alternative art spaces looks at the various definitions of an “alternative” space. Is alternative an accurate and appropriate word to describe its activities? What alternatives do these spaces provide, and for whom are they intended?
Friday, October 29 / 7-9pm Activism and the Rise of Alternative Art Spaces
Moderator: Mary Anne Staniszewski, Associate Professor and Acting Head of the Arts Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY
Participants: Robert Lee, Director, Asian American Arts Center; Beka Economopoulos, Co-Founder / Director, Not An Alternative; Alanna Heiss, Founder, P.S.1, Director, AIR and Clocktower Gallery; Avram Finkelstein, Gran Fury
Investigating the early history of New York alternative spaces, this panel looks at the genesis, culture and legacy of this movement in the context of activism and political agency.
Tuesday, November 9 / 7-9pm Screening of performance event Soup & Tart, 1974-75
Soup & Tart is an extraordinary document of a marathon performance soirée organized by multimedia artist Jean Dupuy at The Kitchen on November 30, 1974. Dupuy invited over 30 downtown artists, musicians, and filmmakers to each give a two-minute performance. Participants included Hannah Wilke, Gordon Matta-Clark, Charlemagne Palestine, Arthur Russel and Richard Serra.
Wednesday, November 10 / 7-9pm New Media Alternatives, Past and Future
Moderator: Ed Halter, critic, curator and director of Light Industry, NY
Participants: Rebecca Cleman, Distribution Director, Electronic Arts Intermix; Lauren Cornell, Executive Director, Rhizome, and Adjunct Curator, the New Museum of Contemporary Art; Carol Parkinson, Director, Harvestworks
The participants in this panel are engaged with alternative spaces whose activities span more than 40 years. Covering topics as diverse as audio, film, video, the Internet and video games, this discussion will include unique perspectives on the ways in which new media has affected and altered the alternative space movement.
Tuesday, November 16 and Wednesday, November 17 / 7-10pm Counter Cultures, Counter Cinema Curated by MM Serra, Executive Director of the NACG / The Film-Maker’s Cooperative
Tuesday, November 16, 7-10pm PROGRAM 1: Underground Classics Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963, 16mm, black and white, sound) 45 minutes Lupe (Jose Rodriguez-Soltero, 1966, 16mm, color, sound) 49.5 minutes Fuses (Carolee Schneemann, 1964, 16mm, color, silent) 30 minutes
Wednesday, November 17, 7-10pm Films TBA
Each evening of films will be introduced by a filmmaker, TBA, and will be followed by a panel discussion.
MM Serra is an experimental filmmaker, curator and author. She is the Executive Director of the Film-Maker’s Cooperative, the world’s largest archive of indepdendent media. Her film work was included in the program of “New York Experimental,” a four part historical overview of experimental film from 1946-2007. Her new film, Chop Off, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight Series in 2009. Her chapter on the work of Carolee Schneemann was published in Anthology of Experimental Filmmakers by Duke University Press (2007).
Related Panel Discussion: Friday, October 22 / 6-8pm Alternative Curatorial Strategies Today Organized and hosted by ArtTable at Exit Art
Moderator: Erin Donnelly, LMCC
Participants: Ingrid Chu and Savannah Gorton, Forever & Today, Inc.; Allison Weisberg, Recess Activities; Michael Connor, Marian Spore; Regine Basha, Basha Projects/Grackleworld; Virginija Januškeviciute, CEC Artslink Fellow from Lithuania hosted by Independent Curators International; Radhika Subramaniam, Director/Chief Curator, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Alter the Native
Imagination is an alternative to reality, creating options that never end.
History is a complex set of events that we organize at our convenience. Alternative is the choosing of options that redefine the traditional.
Alternative spaces are another way to interpret reality, an unconventional product of the mainstream. They are the explorers of possibilities. That was how this movement began. But as the systems of power absorb our ways, the alternative becomes mainstream and we again have to conceive new options.
Culture is always changing and the alternative task is to interpret that transformation. Dissatisfaction with the ordinary art world is the motive, to create another dimension in which different cultural trends are produced, understanding the same bending in the culture but with unique ways to express it. Art is how populations use knowledge. A new approach to an old method, seeing the extraordinary before the ordinary arrives
The great idea of democracy is that it is run by alternatives. The thirteen colonies were the original alternative space.
Art is the expression of everything we envision. History has different stories depending on the narrator. European colonization was the alternative to the native Americas. Africans were the alternative to the hard work Europeans avoided. Extermination and slavery were the apparatus to alter the native of the Americas. Alternative is destruction and creation. In art, science and life to alter the status quo is to build something new. Evolution is the mixture of things, transforming us into unknown forms. Alternative, then, is the different selections that history makes. These can be positive or negative, but always biased depending on which side of the facts you are.
Times change and stay the same.
Since the 1960s, where this exhibition begins, art production has developed multiple currents, cultural bureaucrats, the overpopulation of dealers, and the “critic” commentator with invisible and visible connections to institutions and individuals. “The art world” has multiplied its ability for commerce and propaganda, hyping the importance of artists to increase their value. We are all in this circus of lies and truths, surrogates in a vortex of what is new or of what wants to be new, a mirage of self-interest of countries and ethnic chauvinism. Art has become city fiestas of cultural tourism. Museums will not survive without this, national cultures are chain stores of diplomacy, the competition of influences are the real objective of art production. Museums are hungry creatures that with their influence, compete and swallow small places like the alternatives spaces. Control is supremacy, monopoly an imperative, art and artist the medium in which to express their importance.
The alternative space is supposed to denounce these manipulations and work the ethical side of the cultural production. The alternative space is the most autonomous method of reinventing intervention. Without alternatives culture has no break from its actions, no perspective, no mirror to see its shortsightedness, no future. Alternative spaces are alternative societies, constructing parallel histories. Alternative has been associated with the young, new or unusual, but as the concept has grown older they have become also wise and prophetic.
Art is the action of consuming the self and the supreme manifestation of humans. Agitate the arts and powers shake. Alter your life and the world will change.
Papo Colo New York City and El Yunque Rainforest, PR 2010
ABOUT EXIT ART? Exit Art is an independent vision of contemporary culture. We are prepared to react immediately to important issues that affect our lives. We do experimental, historical and unique presentations of aesthetic, social, political and environmental issues. We absorb cultural differences that become prototype exhibitions. We are a center for multiple disciplines. Exit Art is a 28-year-old cultural center in New York City founded by Directors Jeanette Ingberman and artist Papo Colo, that has grown from a pioneering alternative art space, into a model artistic center for the 21st century committed to supporting artists whose quality of work reflects the transformations of our culture. Exit Art is internationally recognized for its unmatched spirit of inventiveness and consistent ability to anticipate the newest trends in the culture. With a substantial reputation for curatorial innovation and depth of programming in diverse media, Exit Art is always changing.
EXHIBITION SUPPORT This exhibition was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. This exhibition is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. General exhibition support provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Bloomberg LP; Jerome Foundation; Foundation for Contemporary Arts; Lambent Foundation; Pollock-Krasner Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn; Exit Art’s Board of Directors and our members. Special thanks to the Fales Library and Special Collection.