The sound of handheld drills whirring and gallery workers talking echoed through the halls of SITE Sante Fe, earlier today, as I toured the what will be the Agitated Histories exhibition at the Railyard museum, dedicated to "innovative and provocative art."
Assistant curator Janet Dees, PR rep Anne Wrinkle and I barely made it about 15 minutes into our walk-and-talk before I thought about the significance of opening an exhibition that documents, interprets and creates the art of activism in the midst of the "Occupy" movement.
In his New Yorker piece on Occupy Wall Street to come out on Oct. 17, Henrik Hertzberg asks where the movement's going and whether it can succeed, and I wonder whether we might find some answers in Agitated Histories.
Though the point of the exhibition—a collection of more than 15 artists work—may not be to force viewers into thinking about individual conflicts, Dees says, it does hopefully get people thinking about the nature of conflict, about the distribution and wielding of power. In this sense, Agitated Histories and Occupy seem at least born of the same impulse to say to power-brokers, "We know what you're doing, and we won't take it any more."
In another coincidence, the film Cultures of Resistance, opening next week during the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, also examines how people use creativity and solidarity in place of violence to confront oppression.
I don't know what this all means, but I'm going to think about it more over the weekend for my visual arts column on the SITE exhibitiono to appear in next week's Santa Fe Reporter.