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The Interventionists

Mass MoCA, North Adams

Art that critiques, lampoons, interrupts, and co-opts - art that acts subtlety or with riotous fanfare - art that agitates for social change with magic jackets, lawn mowers, bus tours, and fictional archives - art that trespasses into the everyday world. Works of 29 artists and collectives, including 8 newly commissioned works.

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Art in the Social Sphere Explores the New Face of Art for Social Change

(North Adams, Massachusetts) Art that critiques, lampoons, interrupts, and co-opts - art that acts subtlety or with riotous fanfare - art that agitates for social change with magic jackets, lawn mowers, bus tours, and fictional archives - art that trespasses into the everyday world: This is the art of the Interventionists. In this selective gathering of political art of our time, MASS MoCA's summer exhibition The Interventionists, opening May 29, 2004, showcases the work of 29 artists and collectives, including 8 newly commissioned works.

Beginning in the 1990s, many politically engaged artists used the term "intervention" to describe their interdisciplinary approach. In contrast to the often heavy-handed political art of the 1980s, this work embraces the anarchist Emma Goldman's dictum that revolutions and dancing belong together. The projects in The Interventionists - whether they are discussions of urban geography or tents for homeless people - are seasoned with honey rather than vinegar. Interventionist practitioners have begun to carve out compelling new paths for artistic practice, coupling hard-headed politics with a light-handed approach.

The Interventionists, as an exhibition and as a catalogue, is divided into four subcategories.

Nomads: Artists who produce tools for a mobile society - tents or vehicles which in many cases are made for a homeless population, or works that are mobile and literally bring art to the people. Artists include: e-Xplo, William Pope L., Michael Rakowitz , Rubén Ortiz Torres, Dré Wapenaar, and Krzysztof Wodiczko. From this group e-Xplo and William Pope.L will create new works for the exhibition. Pope.L's piece features his Black Factory, a touring factory truck with machinery to pulverize objects associated with blackness and create new objects (and meanings) from the resulting powder, while e-Xplo's contribution is Roundabout - Love at Leisure : Help me Stranger - a 25-minute aural bus tour investigating the history of North Adams and Williamstown. The bus will provide daily transport from the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown to MASS MoCA in North Adams.

Reclaim the Streets: Artists who produce actions that occur within the public sphere - on sidewalks, in parks and malls ­ tailored to a specific community. Artists include: Biotic Baking Brigade, God Bless Graffiti Coalition, HaHa, Institute for Applied Autonomy, William Pope.L, Oliver Ressler, Mejor Vida Corp., Reverend Billy, Street Rec, Surveillance Camera Players, Valerie Tevere, and Alex Villar. New work in this category will come from the artist collective HaHa and their Taxi Sign Project. Digital signs triggered by Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites will be mounted on top of taxis and provide messages targeted to specific locations in and around North Adams -- changing as the cab moves around. Originally designed to advertise for specific neighborhood markets, this technology is being used by HaHa to (visually) broadcast messages with topical interest submitted by residents.

Ready to Wear. Artists who produce tools and clothing designed like a suit of armor or gear for a specific sport but created, in this case, for specific political uses. Artists include: Lucy Orta, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Krzysztof Wodiczko, The Yes Men, and Yomango. Included in Ready to Wear is The Ultimate Jacket from the Center for Tactical Magic. Designed to hold a vast array of useful items for everyday interdiction, the jacket is made from an abrasive-resistant, non-reflective, breathable, waterproof material. Fully reversible with removable sleeves, The Ultimate Jacket is the perfect outfit for any tactical operation, emergency situation, or social occasion.

The Experimental University: Artists who use anthropology, biology, geography and other scientific disciplines for artistic or political purposes rather than for scientific goals. By taking experiments out of the laboratory and putting them in the museum or on the sidewalk, people are empowered to have an opinion about the work and reach their own conclusions about the experiment. Artists include: 16 Beaver St. Collective, Coco Fusco, Tana Hargest, Spurse, subRosa, Critical Art Ensemble, and The Atlas Group. The Atlas Group is an imaginary, non-profit research foundation, founded by media artist Walid Ra'ad in 1999 in Beirut to explore the contemporary history of Lebanon and, in particular, some of the unexamined dimensions of the Lebanese wars (1975-1991). His work, The Truth Will be Known when the Last Witness is Dead, displays the documents of the fictional Dr. Fadl Fakhouri -- 2 notebooks, 2 film/videotapes, and photographs. A new commission will come from Spurse. The still-to-be-titled work will use found sound based on random wanderings through the North Adams community. The sounds will be played on small tape recorders juxtaposed with North Adams archival material as well as recorded interviews with local residents.

The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere will be accompanied by a catalog which will serve as an introductory guide to ­ and survey of ­ interventionist strategies. This user's manual of interventionist practices will include essays by Gregory Sholette, founding member of the New York art collective REPOhistory (1989-2000) and PAD/D or Political Art Documentation and Distribution (1980-1986) and Nicolas Mirzoef, Associate Professor, Art History at SUNY Stony Brook since 1998. and MASS MoCA assistant curator Nato Thompson. The catalog will be distributed by MIT Press.

The Interventionists exhibition, outreach programs and educational activities and materials have been funded in part by a MetLife Foundation Museum Connections Program grant, along with generous support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, LEF New England, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Artists' Resource Trust (a Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation), Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Holly Angell Hardman.

In addition to the exhibition at MASS MoCA, as part of The Interventionists the museum will partner with the neighboring Contemporary Artists Center (CAC) to present a series of lectures and symposia. Talks at the CAC which will run throughout the summer before and after the exhibition opens include: Nato Thompson, curator of The Interventionists, introducing the exhibition and its contents; Ondine Chavoya in conversation with Ruben Ortiz Torres; Patricia Phillips, a professor at SUNY New Paltz offering a history of Public Art; Wendy Jacob, member of the collaborative group HaHa, discussing their Taxi Project; and the collective subRosa discussing their part of the Interventionists exhibition. The lectures and symposium are supported in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

MASS MoCA is the country's largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts and is located in North Adams, Massachusetts, on a restored 19th-century factory campus. September 1 through June 30, MASS MoCA's galleries are open 11 - 5 every day except Tuesdays. In July and August the galleries are open from 10-6 every day. Gallery admission is $9 for adults, $3 for children 6 - 16, and free for children under 6. Members admitted free year-round. For additional information, call 413 662 2111.

A packet of information including individual fact sheets about the artists and works in the exhibition are available. High-resolution digital scans of selected works are also available by calling Katherine Myers at 413.664.4481 x8113.

Lenora Farrington
Marketing Coordinator

1040 MASS MoCA Way
North Adams, MA 01247

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