The Chelsea Art Museum’s Dialectics of Terror Catalog Raises More Questions

by Art Fag City on September 28, 2008 · 8 comments Breaking! + Newswire

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Earlier this week I reported the cancellation of the Chelsea Art Museum’s exhibition, Dialectics of Terror, (formerly named The Aesthetics of Terror),  and thanks to an anonymous tipster I now have the much disputed exhibition catalog in the form of a PDF.    While it’s impossible to know where the points of contention were in the catalog itself, there does seem to be some discrepancy between Museum president, Dorothea Keeser’s statements and the organization of the exhibition.  For one thing, Keeser told me Friday she wrote the introductory text, though her name appears only in the credits.

Further breaking down the problems, 819studio writes,

As an artist involved with this situation, I find this situation to be rather frustrating.

First and foremost, the artists in this exhibition have yet to receive any communication from the museum. The only information regarding the situation we have gotten has been via Manon’s email, the same one you have reproduced in part on this site. One would think the museum would have some type of direct communication with the artists involved as soon as possible.

As for Ms. Keeser’s comments they only raise more questions and further muddy the waters. Her statement below is quiet confounding:

“I do not think that an artist should show children and women which are torn apart by bombs. That is not the question for the artist. An artist has to go one step beyond, … and not just show very banal photos which we see every day in the television. That's not art.”

I find it confounding because I have a copy of what is purportedly the final draft of the exhibition catalog. Being the final draft, and assuming that it contains all of the work in the exhibition, I find no work that fits Ms. Keeser’s description of what she considers “banal photos which we see every day in the television” and “not art”.

Furthermore, if Ms. Keeser has been “very integrated” in this exhibition, why is the content of some work in question roughly 40 days from the scheduled opening? One has to conclude that after two years of preparation, she had seen the work scheduled to be shown previously.

There simply needs to be more forthrightness from the institution about this situation

Indeed, we’re still working with murky details on what lead to the abrupt end to this exhibition.  I’m making the PDF available so that the community has a chance to evaluate Ms. Keeser’s comments for themselves, but if anyone can shed some light on precisely why this show was canceled, please email me at tips@artfagcity.com

UPDATE:  Comment from Dorothea Keeser

I think that those who criticize me, did not read the full comments: If I accepted the catalogue in its present form and the exhibition, it is more than strange to hold me responsible for the cancellation of the exhibition. My comments where discussions during the preparation. I am and was always ready to show the exhibition and so was the complete board of the museum. The texts and reproductions were chosen in a professional collaboration in a good atmosphere. If my text did not find its way into the catalogue I accept this and this is part of what I call an open discussion which the participating partners accepted. And those artists who attack me having not written to them??? Why should I communicate a decision which was not mine? I am in the museum daily, those who want to talk to me should come personally instead of firing at me like this. I am sure the exhibition being complete will be easily shown now elsewhere, perhaps my hurt feelings count for something also. But those artists who still want to work with us are welcome.

  • Dorothea Keeser

    I think that those who criticize me, did not read the full comments: If I accepted the catalogue in its present form and the exhibition, it is more than strange to hold me responsible for the cancellation of the exhibition. My comments where discussions during the preparation. I am and was always ready to show the exhibition and so was the complete board of the museum. The texts and reproductions were chosen in a professional collaboration in a good atmosphere. If my text did not find its way into the catalogue I accept this and this is part of what I call an open discussion which the participating partners accepted. And those artists who attack me having not written to them??? Why should I communicate a decision which was not mine? I am in the museum daily, those who want to talk to me should come personnally instead of firing at me like this. I am sure the exhibition being complete will be easily shown now elsewhere, perhaps my hurt feelings count for something also. But those artists who still want to work with us are welcome.

  • Dorothea Keeser

    I think that those who criticize me, did not read the full comments: If I accepted the catalogue in its present form and the exhibition, it is more than strange to hold me responsible for the cancellation of the exhibition. My comments where discussions during the preparation. I am and was always ready to show the exhibition and so was the complete board of the museum. The texts and reproductions were chosen in a professional collaboration in a good atmosphere. If my text did not find its way into the catalogue I accept this and this is part of what I call an open discussion which the participating partners accepted. And those artists who attack me having not written to them??? Why should I communicate a decision which was not mine? I am in the museum daily, those who want to talk to me should come personnally instead of firing at me like this. I am sure the exhibition being complete will be easily shown now elsewhere, perhaps my hurt feelings count for something also. But those artists who still want to work with us are welcome.

  • http://www.myartspace.com/blog Brian Sherwin @ Myartspace Blo

    Dorothea said, “And those artists who attack me having not written to them??? Why should I communicate a decision which was not mine? I am in the museum daily, those who want to talk to me should come personally instead of firing at me like this.”

    Welcome to the internet. Now more than ever it is important for museums and galleries to be up front with their artists or else a backlash online can be expected. The safeguards of only fearing the observations and words of physical publications have been forever broken. Those days are gone. Welcome to the new age and the strength of blogging. Paddy, I salute you.

  • http://www.myartspace.com/blog Brian Sherwin @ Myartspace Blog

    Dorothea said, “And those artists who attack me having not written to them??? Why should I communicate a decision which was not mine? I am in the museum daily, those who want to talk to me should come personally instead of firing at me like this.”

    Welcome to the internet. Now more than ever it is important for museums and galleries to be up front with their artists or else a backlash online can be expected. The safeguards of only fearing the observations and words of physical publications have been forever broken. Those days are gone. Welcome to the new age and the strength of blogging. Paddy, I salute you.

  • Art Fag City

    To be fair to Dorothea, I’m not sure I would use this as an example of the strength of online blogging. A number of missteps seem to have occurred in the way this show cancellation was announced, but since the details of this sort were initially reported in error, I think that added to the confusion rather than helped. Ultimately we still only know two things for certain:

    Dorothea Keeser is unhappy the show was canceled. Although she hasn’t said so explicitly, I think what she’s trying to say is that she believes there was no reason for the cancellation because her comments were only comments (not demands). “Professional collaboration in a good atmosphere”.

    Her comments however, in particular, “that’s not art” are very damaging. This in and of itself isn’t enough to cancel a show, but it does make people unsympathetic to her position because it becomes very difficult to imagine the good atmosphere she describes.

  • Art Fag City

    To be fair to Dorothea, I’m not sure I would use this as an example of the strength of online blogging. A number of missteps seem to have occurred in the way this show cancellation was announced, but since the details of this sort were initially reported in error, I think that added to the confusion rather than helped. Ultimately we still only know two things for certain:

    Dorothea Keeser is unhappy the show was canceled. Although she hasn’t said so explicitly, I think what she’s trying to say is that she believes there was no reason for the cancellation because her comments were only comments (not demands). “Professional collaboration in a good atmosphere”.

    Her comments however, in particular, “that’s not art” are very damaging. This in and of itself isn’t enough to cancel a show, but it does make people unsympathetic to her position because it becomes very difficult to imagine the good atmosphere she describes.

  • http://www.myartspace.com/blog Brian Sherwin @ Myartspace Blo

    “that’s not art”

    That is the main issue I have. Still, I think it great that you have opened up communication about this issue.

  • http://www.myartspace.com/blog Brian Sherwin @ Myartspace Blog

    “that’s not art”

    That is the main issue I have. Still, I think it great that you have opened up communication about this issue.

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