Articulating Artwashing, Gentrification, and Responsibility:
What is the Place of the Curator?
CP Projects Space
132 W 21st St, 10th floor, New York, New York 10011
We've entered an era of smokescreen that positions creativity as a saving grace for derelict and divested spaces. In the short term, the superficial sheen of artwashing, in which art, artist, and the larger creative economy are complicit in an insidious commodification of community and culture. Inner-city cultural landscapes often fall victim to the artwashing presents itself as a panacea to neglect, as the "art" in "artwash" provides a momentary jouissance, washing things anew. However, the long-term cultural erasure that results from this supposed revitalization of space is a cause for concern, especially the way in which curators figure into this artwashing paradox. Under this guise of art as cultural currency, communities—working class and creative—are eventually left on the margins, with developers, architects, and entrepreneurs intent on packaging and privatizing these spaces for the privileged. This semi-privatization process is not without the involvement of curators. The claim can be made that artwashing can be located within curatorial approaches that have ushered in a new turn of public, site-specific art. However, public opinion is drawn on whether the real estate ends or ramifications are sensitive to the existing community, in which nostalgia and the specter of neglect are both at play. With artwashing as a discursive framework, what role do the curator and artist play in this "revitalization" process? Are curators complicit with developers? And how can the curatorial process care for the communities that are home to these site-specific installations beyond just situating art there that are meant to increase property values alongside cultural enhancement?
IkechukwuCasmir Onyewuenyi, moderator, Curatorial Fellow, SVA MACP
Alicia Grullón, visual artist
Imani Henry, activist, writer, diversity trainer, Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network
Duron Jackson, visual artist
Sara Reisman, artistic director, Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
Manon Slome, founder and chief curator, No Longer Empty
Photo: "Detail of props for An Autoethnographic Study: The Bronx- performance and interventions", 2008. Photo credits are Alicia Grullon