February 4th, 2010

I invite anyone who would like to enter their comments to do so, especially comments that pertain to the Gatekeepers project, gatekeepers in general, exclusion in the artworld.

I would like to offer my sincere apologies to all those who have sent their submission the the Gatekeepers project as  I know it’s a lot of work.

Although I very much disagree with the methods and accusations that came from Chromium Lemonade, I acknowledge that the discussion is a very  important one, and I am happy to participate in it.

I encourage anyone to participate in this site  and/or Chromium Lemonade- www.dianapoulsen@wordpress.com –  also feel free to post images.

Below is my letter of resignation from: Gatekeepers – The Fine Art of Exclusion (book project)

*Though I have posted my letter to provide the history below – I think that the discussion has moved away from the personal and has become about wider issues.

The letter is divided by headings:
Open Letter
Gatekeepers Project
Cultural Rights
Gatekeeper of Gatekeepers
Diana Poulsen’s “scam” accusations
Resignation

* In order to keep all discussion transparent I provide a link to Diana Poulsen’s website Chromium Lemonade – www.dianapoulsen@wordpress.com where, to the best of my knowledge, the original postings began.

Gatekeepers – The Fine Art of Exclusion

February 3rd, 2010

Regarding: Gatekeepers – The Fine Art of Exclusion. Curated by Angela Grossmann

Open Letter
Open letter to: Diana Poulsen, and all of her friends who have used the internet to verbally attack, vilify, insult, denigrate undermine and call into question my character, ethics and reputation as artist.

I reply, now, not because you or your gang deserve it, not because I have anything to answer to or, as you so crudely frame it, to be “called out” on, but because you are the illustration, par excellence, of  ‘gatekeeper’. You are the mother of all gatekeepers and have achieved exactly what my project was designed to bring to light: the myriad (and often occult) ways that artists get ‘shut up’, closed down, and eradicated by those in positions of institutional power.

But let me describe the subject of this project: the subject that has provoked your wrath; that has been the match to your fire; the red flag to your bull; that you have blasted at me in a scatter attack lasting five days.

Gatekeepers Project

In 2009 I was asked by the two women editors of Vantage Art Projects to curate an exhibition in print. I said what I had always wanted to do was to give a voice to the voiceless in the art world and I would do it if I could find a way of ‘making the artist the curator’. We agreed to this and I chose a provocative theme, ‘The Art of Gatekeeping’. This theme I had conceived of as a broad umbrella under which artists could congregate and express individually the diverse meanings of exclusion within the art world that they experience; or how and in which ways the art world, or the structures of 21st century power, denies independent creative expression.

I suppose, although I don’t want to use the ‘D’ word, what I wanted in essence was to find a way that artists could not only democratise access to expression themselves, but also define the meaning of that process. I was interested in the challenge of opening up, or collapsing, the  gate keeping role of “curator”. As an artist this was my intent.

I don’t have a fetishistic attachment to the idea of art or the structures of the art world. Maybe what distinguishes art from simple communication is the commitment to the process of creation; the commitment to the need to express or explore meaning through getting involved in creating it.

Cultural Rights

Artists have creative needs and economic ones, but the economic ones, while essential, don’t dictate the purpose and intent of their work. By focussing on the issue of ‘artists rights’ as the predominant issue, Diana Poulsen has deformed the meaning of the project as I conceived it. Unable to think beyond ‘art products’, she focuses on the individual ‘interests’ of the artist as predominant, as though the first and only interest of an artist is to get into an art market. This vulgar economism of Poulsen is  breathtakingly narrow in its vision and highly deformative of the original project intent.

Poulsen’s energetic defence of artist’s rights invite a type of indulgence, (she is, after all, singing the right aria, even if in the wrong opera) because the artistic world needs solidarity. We have a real interest in looking after each other. She could have been indulged, if her public display of heroics weren’t so insufferably arrogant: we as artists are tired of being spoken for and, as a female artist, I know this doubly well.

Gatekeeper of Gateskeepers

Diana Poulsen is a gatekeeper. Gatekeeping is not a choice of the art world, it is built into it. The act of gatekeeping unconsciously configures the roles of most people in the art world who are not directly engaged in artistic creation.

And here’s the rub. Diana Poulsen’s real issue could not have been that I, as an artist, was involved in exploitative acts.  Knowing something about me, she knew that to be impossible. What she sensed, as someone vitally ensconced in gatekeeping (present art historian, potential future curator), was that I was somehow trespassing in the world she and the institutional power elite, consider as theirs. I was assuming to cross-frontiers in the quest to open up a new kind of public space for artistic debate.

So what was this ferocious assault by Chromium Lemonade really about?   Before Chromium Lemonade began its unrestrained and highly personal attack deforming both the shape and substance of my project, I believe it is safe to say, most people in the art world had never heard of Chromium Lemonade – Diana Poulsen. I was asked to create the gatekeeping project because I have a 25-year history in the art community. Diana Poulsen, I call you out, and accuse you of the underhanded game of riding off artists backs in the pursuit of one of the worst forms of gain: political or personal capital.

Diana Poulsen’s “scam accusations”

Five days ago I woke to find a Google alert on my computer. It brought me to: Chromium Lemonade – Diana Poulsen’s website. This post came without warning and without prior contact.  I have never met or heard of Diana Poulsen. I had never heard of the Chromium Lemonade website.

Diana Poulsen is an art history grad student from McMaster University in Ontario.  It states on her site that Diana is an art historian and video game reviewer. Her website read:

“Gatekeepers/Vantage Art Projects-SCAM!”  Followed by:

“Yes Scam! I am calling you out Angela Grossmann curator of the Gatekeepers project and co-produced by Vantage Art Projects. You both smell of scam, and you should be ashamed. Akimbo should also be ashamed of this scam”.

The essential issue, which I admit, and did openly admit to, was the clumsy omission of the inclusion of standard intellectual property rights language in the website hosting the gamekeepers project. This I could have been alerted to by a friendly email. The other issue, which has caused problems, is the charge of a 45 dollars submission fee. I am not sure how the administrative and other work for such a project would get done without a fee of some kind, but this is open to discussion.

Poulsen goes on to accuse me of  “Gouging money from the backs of artists”; conspiring to steal money artists money by collaborating in “highly suspect scam tactics; having no social conscience or real interest in art; being” a snake oil salesman; plotting with unscrupulous business partners to rob the art world and pocket the profits; pretending that the deep problems of artists could be solved or alleviated by this project.

All of the posts that were made over a period of five days are available on the Chromium Lemonade website. The original site was up for five days. By day five, when I Googled my own name, ” Scam artist – Chromium Lemon” came up as the second posting under my name.

You don’t have to be an artist to anticipate the implications of such an attack. It was a real shock to realise that this gatekeeper was capable of attempting to ruin my reputation in order to develop her own.

Resignation

After much soul searching I have decided to resign as curator from the Gatekeepers project. I am resigning for the following reasons.

I have no appetite for the kind of fight I have been embroiled in. You cannot, in fact, “ungate” the keepers, at least not alone.  My vision of curating is more collective than individual. Chromium Lemonade bangs on about intellectual property. We have many lawyers who create mechanism to protect the individual rights of artists and this is valid. What I was exploring, however, was the broader cultural rights that come from being included in the definition of the meaning of an artistic space.

Chromium Lemonade accuses me of being naïve. Maybe so. But I have a predilection for optimism and I feel this project could have been cobbled together to become something quite meaningful. I believe this, even if it were done in an amateurish sort of way. There was no top-down funding, but because artists like to communicate, in whatever way they can, it could have grown from an inner dynamic. As with all bottom up affairs it’s always up to the artist whether to participate or not. The important question is always why someone would engage in a project like this. My deep belief is that they would have done so because the project is authentic.

Future of Gatekeepers: The Art of Exclusion Project

I resign, but not wholly. I stand ready to engage at a future date in a future project, which has greater human collateral to carry it forward.

I would only participate in a similar project in the future if:
There is no submission fee.
There are Carfac fees.
All matters pertaining to artist’s rights are outlined and addressed clearly.
All artists involved in the project will share in the benefits of the project.
The project has a strong, open and ongoing web-based component.

For now, I apologize to all who have submitted to “Gatekeepers”. And I apologize to all those who were planning to.

Angela Grossmann