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Home / Articles / Arts / Art Features /  But What Is It?
Wolfgang Laib
CCA was exhibiting Wolfgang Laib before SITE Santa Fe was even a twinkle in its mommy’s eye: Take that, bitches.

But What Is It?

It's the future (and past) of art

April 14, 2009, 12:00 am

War Pimped My Ride
“Thank you, Mr. president for my holiday, sir,” drones the Love and Rockets track “Holiday on the Moon.”

Here, in the United States, it often seems as though we are on a perpetual holiday, especially from the grim realities of the long-term wars in which we are engaged across the world. Even in the “stabilized” Iraq, people are still fighting and dying with terrifying regularity, and the level of violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is poised to increase. But unlike the people in those regions, our lives are not affected on a daily basis by such horrors—instead, we worry about recycling, about traffic, about whether to get an iPhone or a Blackberry.

Artist and provocateur Jeremy Deller has taken the classic symbol of the American vacation—the RV—and embarked on a road trip around the US with the burnt husk of a car destroyed in an attack on an Iraqi market in 2007 on a flatbed. Traveling with Deller is a small crew that includes active duty US Army Platoon Sgt. Jonathan Harvey and Iraqi journalist, artist and translator Esam Pasha.

The crew stops at public locations in various cities—they spent Monday, April 13 on the Santa Fe Plaza—and initiates an informal dialogue with whoever is interested. Deller’s group already has a huge span of ideologies and opinions, so there’s no particular political slant being pushed by the project: The only goal is to encourage conversation.

“We only see these media images of Iraq,” Deller says, “there is never an opportunity to touch something real, but when people see and touch the wreckage of this car, it tends to open them up. Their thoughts and feelings just come out.”

A project of New York’s New Museum and the public art non-profit Creative Time, Deller’s project was hosted locally by SITE Santa Fe. The project’s title, It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, comes across as bland and dismissive, but it’s a phrase Deller heard repeated frequently when he interviewed US soldiers. Part denial, part Zen wisdom, part art manifesto, “it is what it is” also defines the project: More than art or politics or political art, it’s people.

Celebrate (Mostly) Good Times
The Center for Contemporary Arts, at 30, is all grown-up. Of course, like a lot of kids who came of age during the same period, it has occasionally shirked its responsibilities, struggled to pay the bills and cathartically reinvented itself more than a few times.

A recent lecture by Houston architect David Guthrie, presented by the Santa Fe chapter of the American Institute of Architects, proved less than energizing but served as a reminder that CCA is an integral community hub. While I was in the theater, being bored out of my skull by a glorified interior decorator, dudes in animal hats were busy hanging the annual Collect 8 show, in which all members of the community are invited to participate. That’s the way it goes in the business of presenting culture: Some events are extraordinary, memorable successes while others are duds, but CCA keeps on bringing it.

CCA itself was originally “brought” by founders Bob Gaylor and Linda Klosky, who will be honored at a 30th anniversary bash/auction/hoedown.

Some of you might think, like I do, 30 years ought to be celebrated with a big free party for everyone, but you wouldn’t want the stress of running the place just in order to be able to call that shot (disclosure: I am a former executive director of CCA). Even though ticket prices are steep, CCA could use a boost in these lean times and it’s a small price to pay in homage to Gaylor and Klosky, whose vision continues to be a gift to the community.

After all these years we know one thing about CCA for certain: It is what it is.

 

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