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5 Intriguing Projects From Dalton and Powhida’s #Rank in Miami

by Kyle Chayka on November 22, 2010

If you, like so many art-worlders, are heading to the Miami art fairs next week, chances are you may be feeling a little grimy. Why? Not because of the humidity, but maybe because of the exploitative economic interactions and hierarchies on display at US’s biggest art shopping mall. The antidote to all this is #Rank, an event organized by artists William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton in collaboration with the Edward Winkleman Gallery, which will be park at the Seven art fair. A sequel to the crew’s critical #Class projects and exhibition, #Rank will critique the blatant displays of wealth and status and the stratification of the art world through panels, artist projects, and lectures. The details of #Rank were until recently unclear aside from a call for proposals, but now Powhida and Dalton have started announcing their artist projects, and they sound great.

The #Rank folks begin by staking their position in relation to the art fair culture: appreciative and not overly idealistic, they still can’t get with the paradoxes of artists participating in Art Basel Miami. In their introductory statement, they write:

While we appreciate the bluntness of art fair culture (and especially appreciate the fact that we are sometimes able to sell work there), we can’t help but feel queasy with our complicity in this disgusting scheme, all of which takes place within the city of Miami, whose own class, race, and geographical hierarchies are abundantly obvious and pretty much entirely ignored.

To the end of investigating these conflicts, the artist projects that #Rank has selected are largely lo-fi, requiring little in the way of resources but instead relying on conceptual and institutional critique, a sense of humor, and an ability to not take themselves too seriously.

Here are some of the projects that intrigue me:

MTAA’s “Freeing Lunch”

Art collective MTAA will have a large pizza delivered at lunch time to managing artists William Powhida and Jen Dalton every day from December 1st through 4th. The artists are free to share the pizza among their audience and collaborators, in a snarky takeoff on Rirkrit Tiravanija gallery-cooked pad thai and relational aesthetics. The trick is that after the pizza is consumed, the pizza box becomes its own sculpture, on display with MTAA’s artist statement posted inside and mounted in the Miami gallery space. Just hope those pizza fumes don’t negatively impact anyone’s art-analyzing abilities.

Paul Steen’s Art Assault

Paul Steen's “Art Assault” (image from gamescenes.org)

Paul Steen takes a somewhat more direct approach to attacking the art world power structure: he lets the hierarchy destroy itself. In a hacked first-person shooter PC game, Steen creates a death match battle royale in which all of the game’s players are named after “the 100 most successful artists according to artfacts.net.” Controlled by computers, the bot-fighters relentlessly hunt each other down until only one remains standing. I like how graphic and bloody this is, and how funny. I would love to see a Jeff Koons bot snipe a Takashi Murakami, or maybe Richard Prince chuck a grenade.

@Platea’s Sorry I Couldn’t Be There

An Xiao's “Telepresent” (2010) (image from Hyperallergic.com)

In the most poignant #Rank entry, @Platea, a new media artist collective directed by An Xiao, will collect videos from artists all around the world explaining why they couldn’t personally make it to Miami for Art Basel. Provoking questions of access, the inequality of globalization, and the decentralization of the art world. The project undermines the stratification of Art Basel with personal stories instead of cynicism. It’s the human dimension that makes this project so fascinating. I can’t make it to Miami either, and in that I know I’m not alone.

Alan Lupiani’s Art Road Show

Still from Antiques Roadshow (image from queenkelley.com)

Playing off the popular Antiques Road Show in which amateur collectors bring in their finds to be appraised by the professionals, Alan Lupiani’s #Rank project “Art Road Show” will similarly “provide an access point by connecting … artists with an ‘art insider’ who does have a role.” Art professionals, including artists, gallerists, and curators, will spend 5 minutes critiquing visiting artists’ work. A democratizing event that recalls photography portfolio reviews, Lupiani’s project lends an air of accessibility and openness to the process of surviving in the art world. It’s about being honest and open, and who can’t get behind that?

Greg Allen’s Relational Aesthetics For The Rich

Dakis' yacht, designed by Jeff Koons and redolent of art, power and wealth (image from highsnobiety.com)

Finally, a project that’s more art historical than art. In its full title “Relational Aesthetics For The Rich, or A Brief History Of The Gala As Art,” Greg Allen (of Greg.org) will present an exploration of how the party has turned into art. Allen writes,

From Lorenzo’s Tomb to Dakkis’s yacht, the artist’s rarified social milieu exert a powerful influence on the form of his artistic production. Art that was intended or once thought to be uncommodifiable — Land Art, Conceptual Art, installation, performance, even relational aesthetics — has been voraciously commissioned, collected,  and consumed.

In essence, absolutely everything has become commidifiable, down to artists’ participation in high society-driven events. But as Allen points out, is this phenomenon really all that new? Art has always been close to money and power, and it makes sense to pay attention to how patronage and art have connected in the past through the medium of the happening. Not quite as the 1960s counter-culture envisioned it, but more in terms of the spectacle: how art collides with wealth to portray power, a collaboration that’s been going on … forever.

#Rank takes place in Miami next week. Stay tuned to their website for more details, plus we will be providing first-hand reports on many of the events through our Miami bureau.

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