On the “Art Strike” Movement

May 31, 2013


Various Art Strikes and Actions


The 1970 Art Strike

I’ve been researching the art strike movements and the recent occupy museums movement.  This month and last I’ve mainly just posted links to some of my web sources.  I’ll write more about this soon.  I hope to have a post on it here sometime in the next few months.  Meanwhile here’s this.

From the Art Strike Propaganda Workshop 1989

“Art Strike is a ceremonial mask of a movement away from competitive art making and toward a culture without curators.”  and too, a nod toward “the demolition of serious culture.”

No kidding?

How to protest by withholding something that few people care about or few people want?  If it’s not commercial, not tied to real $$$$, then why pay attention to it?  Yet many of our artists who sell their work for huge amounts of money create mediocre work, or worse.  It’s a paradox or a quandary.  Artists!  You have nothing to lose but your chains!

The 1990 to 1993 Art Strike Campaign/Movement

Stewart Home
Another Take
New York 1990's

New York 1990′s

Gustave Metzger
Art Strike Anyone?
Recent Art Strike activity
A critique

On the Occupy Museums Movement

April 29, 2013


I started to look into this about a year ago.  I agree that the relationship between the artist and the museum, between the artist and the gallery and between the artist and the collector should be investigated.

I’ll do more research into this before coming up with my own statement.  These links are a start.  Several clues are here, should one investigate.










Black Light Cave Art

March 23, 2013

my old wall 001I don’t think that I have a better photo of this.  If I find others, I’ll  add them.  I found one more so far, see below.

Back when I lived in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, my bedroom had a door to the upstairs back porch.  Sometimes I’d sleep outside in the Summer.

There was a bare brick wall.  I think that it was on the other side of the fireplace.  We painted it black and covered it with cartoons.  These done with black  light paint.  My brother Dennis and I did most of this.  He did quite a bit.

It’s some of my earliest painting, as an adult anyway.  Sometimes other siblings and friends would work on it a bit too.  It was an early attempt at having a series of visual jam sessions.

There are sayings such as “Do it!”   There’s a “peace sign” and shouts out to Jerry Rubin and to the Rolling Stones.

There’s also a sort of green clown holding a giant butterfly, a huge bug that’s lying on its back,  an airplane and an upside-down figure.   There are various shapes and forms.

When you saw it under the black light, it was really something.

Its companion piece was a window shade.  This was also painted with black light paint.  It depicted the earth with people on top and people down below, standing upside down.  In between, in the center of the Earth, there was hell, all full of devils and an “O.O.E. Welcome” sign.

The O.O.E was (or is?) an acronym for the Organization of Evil.  This was a sort of spoof that some of us were involved in.  We weren’t really that bad.  It was more mischief and pranks, like five people wearing masks to the grocery store or to the greasy spoon joint.  You can’t do that any more.  Those were different times.

This was all or mostly all painted by Dennis.  I might have helped a bit.  I still have it.  It’s hanging up in my back hallway.  It’s a bit battered yet it’s good to still have it.

A figure with Nixon mask and toy.  The wall and a danger sign are in the background.  I don't think that that's me.

A figure with Nixon mask and toy. The wall and a danger sign are in the background. I don’t think that that’s me.

Shake Up the World with Art!

February 27, 2013

For Destiny

There are many people who believe art to be powerless!

They’re assured that it has been declawed and defanged.  If art has venom, it’s been transformed into honey or nectar.

Yet wait!  Step back and look again.  Art is explosive and volatile.  Even when art is gentle, it can still sing the leaves off of the trees.

Lurking in shadowy corners and ready to pounce: ART!

Skulking on rooftops while brandishing binoculars and bags of pebbles: ART!

Singing in every language all at once, while occasionally stopping to dance: ART!

Searching after the deepest, most disturbing possible truths, in all their glory: ART!

Roaming around the world, dressed in strange clothes and wearing animal masks: ART!

Holding countless secret conferences deep in the heart of the forest or in abandoned houses: ART!

Finding hundreds of new ways in which life is the perfect disguise: ART!

Making contact with fellow creative people, creating a massive global movement: ART!

Creating new works which are amazing, astounding, beautiful, ugly and soul-shaking: ART!

Engaged in campaigns to wake up the victims of “death in life” and certain sleepers: ART!

Entering deep into the chambers of love itself: ART!

Wrapped in tangles of kisses approaching mad love or amour fou: ART!

Exploding in combinations of colors and shapes which bring new tastes into one’s mouths: ART!

Poetry is revealed, making the masses laugh, cry or jump up and down: ART!

Mysteries create new mysteries which emerge fully fleshed out of old mysteries: ART!

Dance, poetry, writing, painting, visual art, cinema, theatre, photography convene and bond with each other.  All arts form a single art!  Artists of all stripes arise.  There are countless truces and coalitions.

Art will help change the world.  Art will play a key part in transforming life.

Calling all artists: arise!  Do the best work that you can and seek out kindred spirits.  Now’s the Time.  A true, new Renaissance lurks close by, ready to burst free.

Why I Don’t Apply for the Kresge Art Fellowships/ “take one”

January 30, 2013

Wash and Bamboo Pens

I’m convinced that the Kresge Arts Fellowships are a good thing.  A lot of deserving people have been assisted and rewarded.  A bird in the hand is better than a kick in the pants.

I was part of an application.  My performance art/ music/ poetry group the Spaceband, applied a few years ago.  I helped with that.  As I’m a writer, I did most of the writing.  Other members of the group did a lot of the work as well though.  I had help.

I’ve still never applied for the Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship on my own behalf.  This is despite my “triple threat” status.   I could apply for my writing, for my visual art or for my performances.  Thus, I’m not ruling it out entirely.  If this opportunity continues, maybe someday I’ll apply.  So far though, I’m not inclined to do so.

I talked about this first here, four years ago:


Now, I think that it’s time for an update.  I wonder how many other creative people don’t apply?  Why don’t they apply?  Why don’t I apply?

1.  I’m still just too busy.  I spend too much time living the life to be able to find time to complete a grant application.  It’s as if I’m working two full-time jobs.  This is because I’m serious enough about my creative work to allow it to use up a lot of my time.

Then too, I’m working an actual full-time job, at the library on the McNichols Campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.

I keep trying to figure out what I’d have to cut out in order to apply.  Let my house get messy?  I’ve done this before when I’m making art for a one person exhibit.  I just let almost everything go and make art.  It takes awhile to get things back to normal.

Should I refuse to do a few live performances?  Turn down an invitation to be part of an interesting art exhibit?  It’s hard to figure out what to sacrifice in order to free up the time to get an application together.  Breathing space and quiet time are precious.

2.  I’ve had good things happen to me in my art life.  I’ve shown my work in France.  I was part of the Zeitgeist arts collective for eleven years.  I’ve had my share of reviews and news articles.  I had a massive exhibit of over 400 works, at MOCAD aka the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.  Maybe I should try to help give some new people a better chance at something good?

Then too, there’s my lifelong impulse.  As a “white man” I try not to collect a lot of the treasures that are supposedly due me.  Affirmative action is still valid and it exists for a reason.  If I apply and win, am I reducing chances for women, African-Americans and other minorities?

Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of the winners seem to be academics, art professors and so on.  Some of the others, while not teachers, seem to be more seasoned in the sciences of writing grant proposals and working on specialized applications.  Some of those who are doing this for the first time still were selected.  Yet some seem to have an advantage.

This increases my impulse to include myself out, to give someone else a chance.

3.  I have a tendency to do things the hard way.  Why take the short cut when you can take the scenic route, with all its booby traps and brambles?  I get a sense that I haven’t quite finished paying my dues yet.  Maybe I’m biased against awards and prizes more than I should be.  I admire people who turn down awards, when they have solid reasons for doing so.  There’ve been cases of people turning down Academy Awards and Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes.

4. Money isn’t everything, but $25,000 is a lot of money.  Would such a windfall enable me to finish writing a few books and paint another hundred paintings and/or buy more musical instruments, props and costumes for the Spaceband and/or mount a traveling puppet vaudeville troupe?  It wouldn’t hurt.  If you don’t play, you can’t win.  Yet what is is.

5. Especially for visual artists, the whole system seems to be wrong in ways.  It’s set up to be exploitative and unfair.  There’s too much there to go into here.  Yet the dynamic between “popular” and “unpopular” arts seems to be bizarre.  I’ll explain more in a future post.  I have explained it some in past manifestos and statements.

I mention it here, because this situation, this dynamic, is another reason why I haven’t applied.  I realize that this is ironic in ways, as the Kresge Fellowships seem to attempt to address or offset some of this.

6. Lastly, I’m always searching for ways to unite the Detroit arts community.  I try to help find ways to make it stronger and more solid.   Sometimes I’ve noticed others doing this as well.

Yet the various segments could be aware of each other and support each other more than they are now.  The Kresge art grants don’t really seem to do much in this regard.  I think that I can do quite a bit here, with no money at all.

By making individuals and collaborative groups stronger, the grants do help the community.  Stronger segments do help.  How do we connect the dots?

Spirit Photograph

Spirit Photograph

In addition, I just went through their list of previous fellows:


All together, I count 21 literary fellows and 21 performing arts fellows.  There are 30 visual arts fellows.  These include 18 from 2009 and 12 from 2011.  This make 72 all together.

Of these, 30 of them, I know their work well.   Most of these are people who I’ve been friendly with.  Some are even friends.

Then there are 42 whom I’ve never heard of at all.  I had a chance to experience some of their work at the Art X Detroit event in 2011.  This was a good thing.  A lot of the live events were packed/ sold out.   The work I was able to experience was mostly good to excellent.  I didn’t see anything that I actively disliked or thought was mediocre.  Some of it left me cold though, not my cup of tea.

The eminent artist awards all seem to be good choices, especially the first two.

Despite my reservations, I thank the Kresge Foundation for trying to help art and artists in and around Detroit!  It’s a good thing.



In Solidarity with Black Culture

December 31, 2012

mask 001

Over the years, I’ve done some studies on African history and culture.  I listen to a lot of African music.

Then, too, I’ve always immersed myself in African-American culture.

I love the music from blues to jazz to soul. I’ve even gone back and listened to early 20th-century pre-jazz black music.  There are also other forms from various pop songs, dance music, and rap/hip hop.  I could easily name hundreds of names, including Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Robert Johnson, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy,  Herbie Nichols, Randy Weston, Billy Strayhorn, Sun Ra, Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell, Julius Hemphill, James Carter, Count Basie, Billie Holiday,  Fats Waller, Lonnie Johnson,  Howard Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, Bessie Smith, and Art Tatum.

In popular music I go from the Five Royales to James Brown to Motown Records to Prince to George Clinton to  Sly Stone.  I could (and have) just list piles and piles of names.   Each conjures its own world of sounds and a sustained oeuvre.

I love a lot of Black writers from the Harlem Renaissance to people like Ted Joans, Bob Kaufman, Richard Wright, Aime Cesaire, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Ellison, and more.

When I was doing my drawings on Detroit’s abandoned J.L. Hudson’s Building in the 1990’s, black visual art was a big influence.  I studied African and Egyptian art a lot, and it got into my work.  I appreciate more modern Black artists, too, from Bob Thompson to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

There are plenty of excellent Black artists around Detroit, including Aaron Ibn Pori Pitts, Charles McGee, Gilda Snowden, Tyree Guyton, Lester Johnson, and Allie McGhee.  I knew Tyree Guyton’s late Grandfather Sam Mackey.  He was an inspiration to a lot of us back then.

Then there’s the whole social protest/self-defense tradition from Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, and many more.

A lot of these people had Detroit connections, too.  It’s most obvious in music, yet it also goes to other places as well.

Surrealism has also given me a special perspective.  It, too, is in love with much of black culture and is inspired by its paths of understanding and of resistance.

I’m preparing work for an upcoming exhibit, Black Detroit 21, at the Work Detroit Gallery on Martin Luther King Boulevard and Woodward. It opens January 11, 2013 and goes through March 22.  I’m part of a group of eleven artists.

I hope that my work for this exhibit combines and plays off of these two themes.  My love and respect for the city of Detroit and my love and respect for Black thought and culture both inform all my work.  I’ll try to combine these directions.

Here, for this exhibit, this work is part assemblage and part riffing or improvising.   You’ll see what I came up with.

This post is in memory of the great poet Jayne Cortez 1934-2012

for Rivers and Hill 001

More information on this exhibit:


A World Run by Artists!

November 30, 2012

event (from May 2004, in oil paint

Things come to me in my dreams! A few nights ago, I dreamed of a dance floor where all the dancer’s footprints appeared on the floor.  When it was almost full of footprints, they’d vanish and the floor would be clear again.

Last night, this last day of November, I had a doozy.  The world was totally controlled by the artists!  The oddballs, the creatives, the hipsters were in charge and in power.  It’s the exact opposite of our present reality.  We artists are consistently misunderstood and undervalued.  Talent and hard work don’t always “win the day.”  We struggle and fight, love and love because we want to or because we have to.  It’s fun to think of our present miserabilist reality suddenly turned on its head.

I wrote it down, half awake: ” It’s a sort of hippie world, with all of Earth run by hipsters, beatniks and artists.  There are non-violent wars.  People are not so money crazy.  Yet it’s not perfect.  The good, the bad and the ugly continue.”

Life is full of life!  There are always the primary challenges.  Can the divisions between nations, and religions be eliminated or reduced?  Can men and women get along?  Can the enormous divide between the rich and the poor be reduced?  Maybe someday, the categories “rich” and “poor” will no longer exist, except in history books.

Likewise, can we stop using religion as a basis or excuse for murder and mayhem?  You’d think that if one was truly religious, you’d be able to accept and get along with people from other religions.  If every religion was more “broad-minded” and accepting, it would lead to less trouble.  When Woody Guthrie would fill out forms and they asked for your religion, he would write in all.

Likewise, if nations, states and countries can’t get along, maybe we can reduce the importance of these imaginary boundaries.  Patriotism can lead to trouble.  Away with false barriers!  Maybe someday, more people will wise up. The problems connected with money and with violence are also foremost.  The earth itself needs to be respected and loved.

I dreamt of art itself, coming to the fore and taking charge.  This was very vivid and intense, beautiful yet with a troubling sort of aftertaste.


As a postscript, this whole idea brought to mind the ideas of French Utopian theorist Charles Fourier, of whom I’ve written:


It also brought to mind the 1968 Firesign Theatre bit where the cops arrested people and brought them in for “re-grooving” in a sort of fascist hipness.  You can’t really force people to be “with it” or to be hep.  Yet it could become contagious.




In the Places and Lands Gone Past

October 31, 2012

Apple Tree and a Bat in Flight

This is a copy of a drawing that I did as a child.  All my writings and drawings are clues as regards my past.  I’ve done quite a lot of work.  I have a large box full of notes on scraps of paper and index cards.  The box is labeled “The Pleasures of the Text” and its sides are illustrated with cartoons.  I have 40 or 50 hardcover blank books full of notes, quotes, poetry and drawings.

Then, there’s a plethora of visual art: bundles, piles, stacks, boxes, cascades.  There are sketch books, loose drawings, collages, sculptures and canvases.  My writing and drawing can overflow.  They tend toward being unavoidable and often excessive.  They keep me going in the right direction.  It’s as if I’m guided by true north on the compass.  I look up and follow the stars.

Blow winds, blow!  The rains desist and the sun blazes down.  The water on the leaves and in the grasses slowly dries up.  I’m up to my ankles in mud.  Eventually the mud turns to dirt or to dust.

These clues serve as one possible map toward making sense of my past, present and future.

Another map is the great culture all above, below and around me.  Since the first “stone-age” cave art, we’ve created many things.  Some is of the moment.  Dance, theatre and music can be recorded.  Yet the original experience itself was a “onetime only” affair.  It vanished in a puff of smoke.  Its shade is glued in place, like a wasp in amber.

These simulacrum of the original experience can be danced to (or with).  They can be listened to, as records or recordings.  This can be background music.  It can also be a whole new way of life.

Photographs are like this too.  We catch the ghost of the moment within the moment itself.  Art photos, family photos and old movies can be magical.  They’re like time machines or ghostly windows into the past.  Sometimes they shimmer and glow.  Old photos of your own life burst with energy and set off chains of memories.  Some are stronger than others.  It’s always interesting to look at them, when you can, now and then.

The other plastic arts are often forms unto themselves.  They’re usually not created as snapshots or souvenirs.  Paintings, drawings, sculptures and other forms are outside of “everyday life.”   They end up on walls or pedestals.  They reside in homes, galleries and museums.  Often, they exist in storage.  Some live their lives out hidden away, seen only by the artist and a few lucky friends.

It’s a similar cases for books, especially poetry, novels and “creative writing.”  These are often more available than unique artworks are.  Yet many of the best spend years hiding in plain sight or end up as “once read, but now forgotten.”

The streets you live and the streets that you visit also form into maps.  They’re often alive with clues.  The older you get, the more places you remember.  I did this here.  I did that there.  Also, certain aromas set forth spiraling memories.  Scents make sense.

In places and lands gone past, strange mysteries arose, flew and fell.  Sometimes they’d rise again, in similar or different forms.  Thus it is in our lives, as artists, as poets, as magicians, as dreamers, as revolutionaries and so on.  Nostalgia for the future can make you dizzy.

Everything swirls around within us.  We attempt to make sense of ourselves and the world.

42nd Street, New York, N.Y. 2010


September 12, 1998 on Belle Isle in Detroit

October 19, 2012

This picture loses a lot by being smaller. It’s best that you click on it to enlarge it, thus getting better detail and clarity.


I took this photo with a disposable camera.  The horizon format was on the market then.  You had a wider, or taller view.

We marched across the bridge, singing and chanting.  Others made noise and music.    Then there was a rally.  The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News Newspaper strike was  one of the important focuses.

I first did a blog post on this a few years ago.  You can click onto it below.  It includes other information, more photos and stories.  Does anyone have anymore information about this?  were you there?


Possible Detroit “Street Art”

September 12, 2012

Body Parts of Great Detroiters

What I would do to the downtown?  What would I do with the downtown?  What’s happening downtown?  What happened to downtown?  Here are a few ideas:

1. Save a small pile of rubble from the torn down “Motown Building.”    Build a colorful and well designed “artistic” stage right next to it or on top of it.  Then hire a group of Motown musicians and singers to play music.  This could be a mixture of the famous and the more obscure acts.  Show the concert on a giant T.V. screen projected above the vehicles parked in the new parking lot.

2. Have a special “bulk trash” delivery.  People can deliver their large trash objects to a vacant area.  Monitors could broadcast live footage of these objects being delivered to the landfill or trash heap.  Flyers could be passed out explaining just where these larger things go after they’ve been discarded.

Flyers could also be passed out somewhere along these lines: “Citizens of Detroitnow that your bulk pick-up times have been reduced or eliminated please don’t go dumping your larger refuse anywhere you please.  You can’t dump an old refrigerator off in the nearest vacant lot.  You shouldn’t dump that torn up golf bag in the middle of the street.  You really ought not leave that old sofa seat by the curb four blocks away from where you live.  This creates more work for the police, makes the city uglier and will cost taxpayers more money instead of saving it.  Thank you.”

This art event should make people think about the city’s trash realities and be fun too.  The incinerator and its workings should also be given its proper do.

3. United Artists: in memory of the late great art project on the “United Artists” building, artists could come together and redo some of the windows in another prime abandoned building.  If the windows have been smashed out, you can just make new ones out of cardboard or wood and paint on those.  Let the crowds of spectators have a little taste of what they’ve missed (since downtown’s loveliest art project was done away with).

4. Robert Graham’s sculpture of Joe Louis’s fist could lead to a new Detroit tradition.  Throughout the downtown area we could install a series of large paintings and sculptures:  “Body parts of great Detroiters.”

As Joe Louis was known for his fist, others were known for their mouths.  Some are known for other parts.

No private parts will be permitted.  This display will be safe for the whole family. Likewise, bones and internal organs should not be displayed here, even though this would be educational in its way.

Not every body part displayed need to be tied to a specific Detroiter in a memorable way.  Some could be completely arbitrary.  This would add to see surreal “disconnect” of running into a giant foot, elbow, finger, knee, toe, nose, eye, belly, chest, neck, back, armpit, chin, cheek or head of hair. Yet if someone was a good listener, you could have a big ear.  If someone never or rarely shaved you could show their beard and so on.

5. Install a “temporary aquarium” to delight passing spectators.  Have a huge “heated tent.  Inside of that heated tent, have another smaller heated tent and inside of that, an aquarium.  I would like to install this myself in collaboration with my father, Maurice Greenia.  In his retirement, he’s designed and built a great many aquariums.  Some have tunnels going from one “fishbowl” to another.  He’s also designed pumps, and filters etc.  We’d find some good fish.  He could show off the fish in his fabulous inventions.

I could work with other artists to help take care of the art part.  This could create a unique environment.  We could have costumes of people dressed up as fish and sea creatures.  We could have paintings, sculptures and watch what goes on in the water.

6.  Recreate the “graveyard” of Americans killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  This was done once before,  in the east side of Grand Circus Park.  It was during a protest.  There were respectful markers for each one killed.

One could use the same area and do something similar.  I would extend it by having an “information booth” with has flyers, posters etc. detailing Iraqi and Afghan casualties and deaths.  Some would celebrate their lives while others would protest the way they died.  Some would do both.

Then I would extend it again to respect and to question all those who seem to have died before their time.  Then I would extend it still further to question the meaning of life as opposed to death and acceptance of death as part of life, and whether it can be both at once.

7.  Do a project with fifty artists.  25 would be younger artists and 25 would be veterans.  Find a strong piece from each.  Make them into posters.  Place these on empty buildings downtown.  We could use special glue to make them more easily removable, if the city government insisted on it.

At the bottom of each poster have a map and message.  This will indicate a temporary gallery nearby.  There, one could purchase the original art  or a poster of the same.  Here one could see all fifty works.  They’d be in one spot instead of scattered around downtown.

Maurice Greenia,  Jr.    January 21 to 24, 2006

PS: As of September 2012, the Belle Isle aquarium is reopening.  The hours and days open have been reduced.  Only some of the tanks contain live fish.  It’s a start though.  Something is far better than nothing, in this case.



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