Brooklyn College: the assault of the philistines continues

outraged students try to retrieve their art from a truck bed before being stopped by NYC police: Is this how a real school treats its graduate students? Is this the role of a real city?

The show of Brooklyn College students' MFA thesis work was supposed to have continued for another few weeks, so there was obviously no scheduling urgency for the space inside the Parks Department building in downtown Brooklyn, but in a surprise, cynical and totally dishonorable move early this morning school authorities rushed over some open trucks and ordinary workers (not art handlers) to haul away the original art created by its own students. This was going on at the moment the students were supposed to be meeting with the school Provost, Roberta Matthews. Much of the artwork was damaged, some of it apparently beyond repair.

Plainclothes police officers were on hand for the operation, apparently to ensure that the use of force would remain the monopoly of the college and the city.

Meanwhile our mayor, who likes to consider himself a conoisseur of art but who plays the role of philistine as well as any Wall Street bonus boy, seem to believe that art is only for museums - or for billionaires looking for an expensive hobby. "Nobody's suggesting that anybody shouldn't be allowed to exhibit art," Mr. Bloomberg said, mimicing the nonsense disconnect of words uttered last Friday* by the College's own Provost. Bloomberg continued, "The issue here is this is not a museum." Is he being serious, or just cowardly?

The NYTimes has a story today, but the graduate art students themselves have added some pictures and another statement to their dedicated site.

Pictures supplied by the artists:

Statement issued by the artists:

As per the Press Release listed in a post below, yesterday Brooklyn College removed our work from the War Memorial without our consent.

We were set to meet with Provost Roberta Matthews at 9am. As we were about to go to the meeting, we got calls from fellow students who were guarding the space saying that Brooklyn College trucks were there and had begun dismantling and taking out the artwork. We had to turn around and rush down there.

When the professors who are supporting us got to the Provost's door they were told the meeting was cancelled.

The PR for Brooklyn College has spun this as if we agreed to this and as if it was a benevolent gesture. Unfortunately some of the press has picked up on this and is sending out inaccurate information. We never agreed for them to move this work and were never given a chance to discuss anything with the college. We have agreed to nothing regading [sic] this space they have proposed to us.

No one can describe how it feels to see the fruits of all of your labors taken down and dismantled in the span of hours.

I confess to an honest but naive sense of disbelief that this thing could have gone this far, but my fear now is that even in New York we have become so inured to the idea and practice of unresponsive government that no one [except Norman Siegel] cares enough to resist anything any more. Small-town moralist and Brooklyn parks commissioner Julius Spiegel should have been overruled immediately, Provost Roberta Matthews should have been removed days ago, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg should at least be ridiculed without mercy for the remainder of his days on earth.

Where at least are all the other arts institutions in a city which loves to bask in a golden aura of the illusion of culture? And where are all those bloggers who now are, who think they are, who are said to be, so important? How rich or how famous an artist do you have to be to deserve freedom, or at least the claim to freedom? Okay, at the very least, when can you begin to get some attention if the custodians of the institutions of higher education and of the government of great cities physically trash your art - your own property (to use the only word which some will understand)?

"Brooklyn College has a long tradition of educating fine artists. Throughout, the administration of the College has supported our students' rights to freedom of artistic expression." [excerpt from her statement announcing the removal of the exhibit]

[first image, Robert Stolarik from the NYTimes; others from PLAN C(ENSORED)]

I am trying to find a picture by robert stolarik (inside the evacuation) from hurricane katrina for time magazine. I am a captain on new orleans fire dept. The picture of the rescue is me. Thanks.

I believe I have located Robert Stolarik's email address, and I have forwarded Captain Seghers's message. I have also written the Captain that I have done so.

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Published on May 9, 2006 11:35 AM.

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