Freakish “Occupy Artists Space” Action Ends In Eviction

In a bizarro action that appears inspired by, but not really connected to Occupy Wall Street, a small group of artists — including Georgia Sagribest known for helping get a queer cabaret at PS1 shut down when she got into a fight with performance-art provocateur Ann Liv Young last year — seized the space of venerable New York non-profit Artists Space yesterday. After an overnight stay, the group has now been ejected.

After the takeover, a statement from the group on its Tumblr explained the motives of the unauthorized occupation (bolding ours):

Occupation 38 Greene Street

The newly acquired occupied space in Lower Manhattan, which, unlike Zuccotti Park, provides luxurious bathroom and central heating, has just conducted its first official general assembly. Like all contested spaces that call into question its institutional usages, the space did not come without struggle. Ironically enough, this struggle was not with the police, but with the supposedly politicized character of art world industry in New York.

Amidst accusations of moral deficiency and political immaturity, the same accusations wielded by the owners of Zuccotti Park at the start of its occupation, the former administrators of the space have fortunately vacated from the premises. To desperately claim profit or non-profit obscures the fact that both assertions of public and private stay within the categorization of the limits of capitalist thought; something which should never be forgotten when engaged with struggles that call into question the ahistorical and eternal value of property.

Refusing to allow the growing global occupation movement to be reduced to mere symbolic exhibitionism or panel-talk, the participants of this new space are not hosted by paternalistic aesthetic discourse.

What this space needs now is bodies with voices. Those interested in expanding the undeniably diverse movement should direct themselves to 38 Greene Street in Soho, 3rd floor, yet another void-neighborhood that needs to be filled.

This baffling occupation produced a torrent of online criticism, with one commenter on the “Take Artists Space” Tumblr saying: “This is nauseating. And as far as I can tell has nothing to do with OWS.” Another simply (and expressively) commented: “Lame!!!???”

The occupiers had been planning a screening of several films about the squatting movement in Europe tonight — but instead were, it seems, forcefully removed from the space before the film night could happen. The full statement from Artists Space, posted on its Web site, is pasted below (again, we bold what we think are the most interesting parts):

Since Saturday, October 22 at 5pm Artists Space has been occupied by a group of initially ten individuals under the collective title “Take Artists Space”.

Artists Space has for nearly 40 years worked at the forefront of critical discourse addressing the socio-economic context that artists work in. The organization has continuously acted with conviction and integrity.

The group currently occupying Artists Space have done so without our consent. So far it has not been clear to Artists Space staff or its board what purpose or cause this occupation serves.

As a self-critical organization we constantly discuss the purpose of our organization, and the need to assume a critical position in relation to the current economic situation and dominant value systems. We reflect this position in our programs, be it last year’s Charlotte Posenenske exhibition, the recent exhibition on the work of Christopher D’Arcangelo or the forthcoming “Identity” exhibition. We believe that our shared ideas, ideals and values and organizational structure are well equipped to critically address and challenge the complexity of today’s economy within and beyond the art world.

After participation of all staff members in now 24 hours of discussion with the occupiers and enduring physical threats and theft of property, and more so as a result of this being an agendaless occupation, we jointly concluded as per this evening to ask the occupiers to leave the Artists Space property, so that at least we can get on with our work.

Finally, here is a video promo for the Take Artists Space action put out by the occupiers: