Painting/Printmaking ART 596, Alternative Nation2018 marked the ten-year anniversary of the closing of Orchard, an artist-run space made up of visual artists, filmmakers, writers, art historians, and curators situated in New York’s Lower East Side for a three-year period. Members of Orchard joined forces in response to the presidency of George W. Bush and the early years of the Iraq War. An investment in institutional critique—an artistic strategy aimed at exposing and dismantling dynamics of power at play in art museums, universities, and markets—was central to Orchard’s programming. It sought to present an alternative to extant programming and the dominance of commercial galleries in NYC. Orchard serves as a point of departure for this term-long seminar that more broadly considers what might constitute an “alternative space” in our current moment. Affordability crises have made it difficult for artist-run spaces, small to mid-sized commercial spaces, and artists for that matter, to afford rents in New York and other major North American cities. Together, we consider whether and when the goal of a fixed physical space remains relevant in light of more accessible and even distributable models. Working as a group, we brainstorm exhibition/programmatic/publication-based possibilities that are accessible domestically and abroad while clearly articulating an intended audience. Class time is divided between discussions of the readings, presentations by members of the seminar, in-class guest speakers, and a collaborative final assignment.
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