Art Against Hierarchy, a one-night-only group show, opens tonight at the Arts Exchange from 7-11 p.m. Organizers made a call for submissions in any medium on the theme of "community." The night of installation, interaction, and live music will raise funds for a new Altanta Social Center, which organizers hope to open this summer, likely in Edgewood. Admission is free, and works will be for sale by auction, with minimum bids ranging from $5 to $1,200. Organizers Devin Alford, Hira Mahmood, and John Raubach sat down with Creative Loafing to talk art and politics.
Creative Loafing: You say Art Against Hierarchy is about breaking out of "gallery monotony." Tell me what that means.
Devin Alford: A lot of artists - especially young artists - are turned away by galleries or just turned off by the gallery system in general, because of the politics involved and the time and money it takes to get into a gallery, not to mention that galleries take a large percentage of your work if they do sell or show it. That's definitely not what we're about.
Hira Mahmood: Atlanta has a pretty decent established art scene already. ... There are particular artists' collectives and groups that kind of permeate the entire art scene, so to go outside of that is something that I would like to see, especially with this.
CL: What does art have to do with hierarchy?
John Raubach: The art world, as it exists now, and as it always has existed, has been hierarchical in terms of entryways, and in terms of the celebrity status that surrounds artists once they do achieve acclaim. The whole way you're supposed to act as artist is still very competitive and hierarchical. ... [Art Against Hierarchy] is directed toward people who do make art, but for whatever reason feel marginalized.
HM: If the long-lasting effect of this is to start a new artists' collective with a specific intention, I think that would be awesome. That would be the best thing to hope for, [along with] raising a lot of money for the social center to take off.
CL: Is there a gap in the services offered by community groups that already exist? Is that why the Atlanta Social Center needs to be created?
JR: The community center is going to serve as a space where a lot of political projects that we've been wanting to do can take place. ... Things like a child-care facility, a lending library, a political prisoners' collective.
HM: [And as] an entry point for people who want to get involved but don't necessarily know how to, or know where to go. That's the other major thing.
CL: Do you consider yourselves activists or artists?
DA: I definitely consider myself an artist. I just surround myself with activists.
HM: For me, one of the goals of this show was to break down that dichotomy between an artist and an activist, and why there's always this tension between political work and artistic work. So for the sake of making that goal successful, I'd say both.
CL: Does Friday's event take a political position?
DA: I really don't think so. ... We wanted the focus to be community. We didn't want to alienate people with the politics of the organizers or the artists involved. We just want first-time artists, first-time gallery-goers, people who aren't traditionally involved in the art scene, to be able to break down the wall of the mystique of the art world.
HM: I want to say yes, only because I think all other artists' collectives [in Atlanta] would flat-out say "no," and we're actually trying to make a point to reject that claim. Just in the fact that it's a DIY, grassroots initiative - that, in and of itself, demonstrates the politics of the art show.
CL: You call the show DIY, and you talk about the community helping itself. Are you drawing a parallel between how art is made and how community is made? Can you make that analogy?
DA: That's a good parallel to draw. ... For community, I would expect it to be more collaborative, because everybody should really have an equal say, whereas most artists work independently. In art we always talk about how the process is just as important as the final thing, and I think the same can be said for building a community.
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