This Saturday, I visited No Comment, an art exhibition in response to Occupy Wall Street at the historic JP Morgan Building. Sandwiched between the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, this exhibition was the closest the protesters have gotten to actually occupying a Wall Street building with their signs and messages of economic struggle.
No Comment was born from a collaboration between Occupy Wall Street and the artist collective Loft in the Red Zone that set up a tribute to September 11 in the JP Morgan building in early September. Caught in the middle of the protest and blocked by police barricades, the 9/11 show remained empty for weeks. But on Saturday night the first floor of the JP Morgan building was packed with people, including protesters, artists and OWS virgins who came to see what the movement is all about.
The show was huge. It filled with painting, photography, video, installations, performance pieces and even a t-shirt screen printing station. Some of the work was good, some was bad and some was downright ostentatious. At one point a flag made of hundreds of real one dollar bills with burn holes was strung to the ceiling. Several visitors, many of them I recognized as protesters, began lighting the flag on fire as pieces of the bills melted off and smoldered on the floor. Considering that both Occupy Wall Street and Loft in the Red Zone were hoping to raise $5,000 that night to keep the exhibition space open, it was disturbing to watch all that money go to waste.
Yet the general vibe of No Comment perfectly captured what has been growing in Zuccotti Park and is now spreading across the country. Even though most of the works were laden with the struggles of the 99%, there was also a strong sense of community and celebration among visitors. With so much to look at and so much to discuss it was hard not to stay at the exhibit for several hours. Performance pieces also popped-up in the center of the gallery space so that crowds would spontaneously gather and disperse, reflecting the spontaneity of the movement itself.
While works in the show were for sale, this was anything but a typical art exhibition. Co-curator Anna Harrah told me that the show was all about creating a conversation, which is something she feels rarely happens in the art world where only certain artists get a voice. “We are trying to get back to equality and challenge the hierarchical system in place,” she noted.
No Comment was open to the public at the JP Morgan Building (23 Wall Street, New York) on Saturday October 8 from 6 – 9 PM.