Friday, June 9, 2023

SF MoMA Plays Co-Author

Tyler Green, of Modern Art Notes, reports that SF MoMA is exhibiting their recently acquired art project by the recent Hugo Boss Prize winner, Emily Jacir, although with an odd disclaimer.

SFMOMA is committed to exhibiting and acquiring works by local, national and international artists that represent a diversity of viewpoints and positions. Works of art can engender valuable discussion about a range of topics including those that are difficult and contested, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additional information about Emily Jacir’s Where We Come From, including a list of frequently asked questions, is available at the information desk in the Haas Atrium.

Green notes that Jacir’s project, Where We Come From (2001-2003), involves her “using her U.S. passport to gain entrance to Palestinian lands normally difficult or impossible to reach with a Palestinian passport. Once in Palestine, she fulfilled the wishes of Palestinians who had sent her requests, acting as a kind of DJ of geopolitical wanderlust. Jacir then photo-documented her performance of achingly simple requests[.]”

It is an extremely powerful project. SF MoMA’s decision to post a disclaimer to Jacir’s project violently intercedes in the creation of its meaning. We won’t deny the (obvious) political implications of this project, and certainly not at this specific historical moment. However, that is a reading that should be left to the viewing audience alone. The institution’s narrow interpretation of Jacir’s work does a grave injustice not only to the artist, but to the general viewing audience. It is bad enough that the politically correct corners of academia have perpetuated and generated a lame and impotent generation of art historians, but by creating its own editorial addendum to Jacir’s work it also perversely speculates that the majority of its viewing audience is too stupid or uninformed, or worse, that its paying audience lacks any aesthetic and poetic sensibilities to make up its own mind as to the meaning, if any, to Jacir’s work. SF MoMA’s chicken-shit and unconsented editorial of Jacir’s work indicates a growing trend in institutional and museum practice: a vulgar display of power nourished in large part by donor support, and synonymous only with its own ignorance.

We’ve seen other institutional editorial gestures (MASS MoCA and Cooper Union come to mind). The question–the ethical question–one must ask, is to what extent, and for how long, will artists allow institutions to curtail their speech for the sake of institutional and market support.


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Comments: 2

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  • míchel


    Internationally acclaimed, the 2007 Leone d’Oro, prolific and consistently interesting. Still, MoMA insists on mediating her work and message(s), insists on confining her and the ideas she seeks to communicate.

    It’s like she never left Gaza.

  • John

    True, we can lambaste SF MoMa for not having faith in allowing viewers to address such a work themselves without some form of guiding editorial, yet we also do not exhibit such trust if we don’t feel that the audience can, even after viewing such a disclaimer, still approach the work from an open and exploratory perspective.

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