Arlen Austin: "Manicures for the Insurrectional Surge"
Opening: Sunday September 9, 6-8 pm
Exhibition Dates: September 9 - November 4, 2012
"While no accurate figures are available, we can conservatively estimate that approximately 40% of all childcare in the United States takes place in churches."
-Eileen W. Linder, Director, Child Advocacy Office, National Council of Churches
"An Insurrectional surge may be nothing more than a multiplication of communes."
-The Invisible Committee
Scaramouche is pleased to present the first New York solo show of Arlen Austin. Known for his performative installations as well as collaborative projects, Manicures for the Insurrectional Surge explores valences of insurrection within twentieth century art and contemporary social unrest. In Austin's work, insurrection is posited as the provision and sustenance of modes of being which are fostered and sustained through communization; specifically, the subjects and collectivities produced by those communes dedicated to manicures and leftist daycare.
Insurrectionary daycare must be established against the precipitous slide into the reign of police violence of our nominal democracy. Walter Benjamin's description of police violence remains among the most redolent and prescient: a "spectral mixture" of the violence that establishes law and the violence that perpetuates the law. A year in New York seeing kids slammed to the pavement by police during mass acts of civil disobedience, has taught it's self perpetuating sustainability to many with little or no prior experience. Benjamin remarks that the terror of police violence is greater in the democracies than under systems of sovereignty because it attaches to no coherent driving will, becoming an, "all-pervasive ghostly presence in the lives of the state." How much more diffuse, potent and terrifying is this violence as it is unmoored from the state and the police become subcontractors for the state-corporate nexus of globalized capitalism?
In opposition to the police violence bred by the wedding of unbridled capitalism and nominal democracy, we must establish sites of resilience where life is invested in new meanings and given new polish. Bemoaning the failure of the left is a tired task, however, we can acknowledge that the left in this country has largely forfeited the practice of communism to social conservatives. As the social safety net crumbles, churches increasingly provide daycare, elder care, counseling and food support. Gun clubs, cookie swaps and church socials reign as preeminent relational platforms-sites for the propagation of subjectivities of care which exceed the market system.
Alternately, the left has erected barriers to entry in all its primary social realms which stand outside the drive of economic maximization and sovereign individualism: years of unpaid internship labor and escalating costs of higher education bar entry to the arts, humanities and social services. The left is quickly and effectively purging itself of the working class. There will be no left social movement without a culture of communism-a flourishing of available subject positions engaged in mutual caring. There will be no revolution without the giving and removal of manicures and the proliferation of new left daycare; whoever controls story-time, nap-time, playtime and polish controls political possibility.
The series Manicure the Police and The Red Dawn Comes are relational manicure platforms where subjects apply and remove acrylic nails and polish to themselves, each other and effigies of the state-finance capital-police nexus. The Amorous Contestations Of The Precarious Workers Will Be The Weapon Of Victory proposes a game in which subjects create insignia for their identifications as waged and unwaged workers. These insignia are placed in amorous conflict with each other, building the confidence, self-esteem and negotiating skills necessary for a lifetime of solidarity strikes. Sketches for the World-Historical Sock Puppet Labor Drama helps build critical thinking skills by communally drafting sock puppet plays that explore conflicts in contending strains of leftist theory. Galleries that implement the left daycare program will commission their own team of artists to create visualizations for these scripts. Build Bearicades provides a safe, nurturing space for the little Marxist geographer in all of us.
The gradual withering of the gallery system and its replacement by a network of communes offering manicure contestation, left daycare and fabulous opening parties is only the first step in the coming insurrection. Rigorous outreach must be conducted to police benevolent associations where anyone struggling with childcare and those in need of story-time will be recruited. This manicuring of the police is essential to any revolutionary practice that aims to counter the degradation of violence with insurrection.
For a full listing of the artwork and it's captions click here.
Arlen Austin (1981, Maine) received his MFA from Columbia University in 2008. He was a founding member of the Die Störung Collective, and is the author of the Hanns Eisler Nail Salon (H.E.N.S.) - a gallery, nail salon and worker center amalgam with Jason Boughton. As Fabrications Director and Ingenue for H.E.N.S., Austin has produced culture for the Hessel Museum, Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, Ludlow 38, Exit Art, and Scaramouche amongst others. He is the recipient of a Public Art Fund development grant and has precariously labored at Columbia University, Pratt Institute and Bard College. Austin and his collective work have recently been reviewed in The New York Times and Artforum.com, and are featured in this September's issue of Modern Painters.