Occupation of Guggenheim Venice

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Global Ultra Luxury Faction/ Gulf Labor worked with S.a.L.E Docks to stage an occupation of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice following the May 1 action in New York.

I designed flags and other graphics.

Here is the Press Release for the Venice Action.

May 8, 2015, Venice. At the opening of the Venice Biennale, a premier art exposition run on underpaid and free local labor, members of G.U.L.F. (Global Ultra Luxury Faction) and Gulf Labor Coalition declare their solidarity with migrant workers in the U.A.E. by occupying the Venice Guggenheim museum. The Gulf Labor Coalition, an international group of artists and writers, and an official participant in this year’s Biennale, has been pressuring the museum for five years to ensure fair labor standards for the workers constructing its new Saadiyat Island branch in Abu Dhabi. Neither the museum nor its Emirati partner has responded with any adequate program of protections. After five years of inaction, G.U.L.F. decided to follow last week’s occupation of the Guggenheim New York by targeting the Venice museum.

 S.a.L.E.-Docks, the Venice arts collective, is also participating in the occupation. The joint action will draw attention to the exploitative use of unpaid workers to staff the expositions in Venice, Milan, and beyond.

 A series of field investigations has established a systematic pattern of human rights abuse among migrant workers in the Emirates. While Abu Dhabi has the roaring wealth to purchase the names of high-profile cultural institutions like the Guggenheim, Louvre, British Museum, and New York University, it will not afford dignity and fair wages to the migrants who make up 90% of its population. Compliance monitoring programs put in place by NYU were not adequately enforced, and hundreds of workers who stood up for their rights were beaten and deported.

 The Gulf Labor Coalition has asked for the Guggenheim to:

 1) pay a living wage to its museum workforce;

 2) reimburse workers for their crushing recruitment debts;

 3) respect their right to self-organize.

 The Foundation has responded that meeting these demands lies “outside the Guggenheim’s range of authority,” because “they are matters of federal law.” According to Andrew Ross, a New York University labor expert and Gulf Labor Coalition member, “nothing in UAE labor law prevents an employer from compensating workers for recruitment fees. In fact, the employment practices policy on Saadiyat Island specifically instructs them to do so.”More than two thousand artists around the world have signed on to the Gulf Labor’s boycott of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi over the lack of fair labor provisions. G.U.L.F. intends to target the museum until the Foundation takes the demands seriously, and agrees to a meeting between trustees and its own representatives. “We are stepping up the pressure,” explains Amin Husain, artists and G.U.L.F. organizer. “Rather than passing the buck on to Abu Dhabi authorities who have shown scant concern for migrants’ rights, the Foundation should face up to its responsibilities and clean the stain from the Guggenheim’s name.”

 The final phase of construction on the museum’s UAE branch will commence later this year on Saadiyat Island, a showpiece real estate venture off the coast of Abu Dhabi. “No artist should be asked to exhibit work in a museum built on the backs of abused workers,” observed Nitasha Dhillon, artist and G.U.L.F. member. “And the Guggenheim Foundation can ensure this will never happen by doing the right thing by workers now, before construction begins.”According to Marco Baravalle, member of the S.a.L.E.-Docks arts collective, “the Venice Biennale, like so much of the artworld, is the product of free, or cheap, labor. The more prestigious an art event is, the more likely that people are asked to work for nothing.”

 Members of G.U.L.F. , the Gulf Labor Coalition, and S.a.L.E.-Docks are available for interview.


Gulf Labor and Other Arts Groups Occupy Venice’s Guggenheim #GuggOccupied

The Guggenheim and Protesters Both Respond to #GuggOccupied in Venice


Gulf Labor Stages Protest at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice


Renaming of David Koch Plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art


As the world prepares to converge on NYC in a mass call for Climate Justice, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will honor David H. Koch, a 4-star general in the dirty energy industry’s war against planet earth. The public space and two grand fountains in front of the Met’s facade will be renamed as the David H. Koch Plaza, following an extensive renovation.

The people will be present at the dedication on Tuesday, September 9th to stand in resistance. The celebration of this philanthropic abuse of the commons cannot pass unchallenged. People are rallying to demand sustainable policies for our culture and the ecosystem.

These fountains are boiling. The policies of The Patron contribute to the melting of the ice caps and the rising of the seas.

We invite you to join a ritual cleansing of the Place Formerly Known As David H. Koch Plaza. In a durational ceremony, we will call upon the energies of resistance, chanting and making offerings, and will collectively rename and rebrand the Plaza.

#RebrandKoch #PeoplesClimate

G.U.L.F Guggenheim Actions

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Spring 2014, I joined forces with Gulf Labor and Tidal on a series of actions (ongoing) to pressure the Guggenheim Museum to adopt fair labor practices building its new museum in Abu Dhabi. New editions of the Lourvre, NYU Campus, and Guggeheim Museum are being build on a luxury island called Saadiyat (“Island of Happiness” on the backs of indebted migrant laborers.  

Spring 2014, I joined forces with Gulf Labor and Tidal on a series of actions (ongoing) to pressure the Guggenheim Museum to adopt fair labor practices building its new museum in Abu Dhabi. New editions of the Lourvre, NYU Campus, and Guggeheim Museum are being build on a luxury island called Saadiyat (“Island of Happiness” on the backs of indebted migrant laborers.  

We also launched Global Guggenheim website and Design Competition. 


Statement from Global Ultral Luxury Faction:

Each time the Guggenheim speaks, its approach to migrant labour issues on Saadiyat Island sounds more like that of a global corporation than that of an educational or art institution. We would like to remind the Guggenheim that it’s a museum, with a mission to “explore ideas across cultures through dynamic curatorial and educational initiatives.” Museums should help the public come to a greater understanding of the global complexities we all face.

Each day the Guggenheim hides behind the excuse that “construction has not yet started on our building” is another day of evading decisions and actions which could prevent a future migrant worker’s servitude. Right now, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure is being constructed. That infrastructure includes roads, sewage, water, electric, net pipes, etc., leading to the museum. But other components of the work are also under way. We can only assume that money has been transferred to the Guggenheim here in New York in order to hire the curators and administrators of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. We know that events off-site have already been organized. Works of art have certainly been bought, insured, and stored. Last but not least, Saadiyat Island is being sold to investors on the basis of the Guggenheim’s name, along with those of the Louvre, the British Museum and others. How can the Guggenheim claim that construction has not begun?

Even if we were to take at face value the claim that construction of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has not begun, we would say the following: NOW thousands of workers who will build your museum are taking on the massive debt that will take them years to repay; NOW workers are being recruited with promises that will not be fulfilled, for jobs that will pay less than they expected; NOW workers are applying for the passports that may be confiscated as soon as they land in the UAE; and, surely, NOW is the time to do something about all of this.

It is unfortunate but not surprising that the Guggenheim refuses to open its doors to a serious public dialogue about the migrant labor issues in Abu Dhabi. A museum of its stature must foster public education about the conditions under which art is viewed. The Guggenheim is stepping back from this social responsibility as it focuses on expanding into new global markets.

As for the underpaid Guggenheim guards’ wages in New York, passing off culpability to a subcontractor is no longer an acceptable practice, even in the corporate world. The Guggenheim should pay all employees at least a living wage, even if they are on a contractor’s payroll.

Sadly, the Guggenheim’s latest response confirms our expectation. It has tried to hide behind technicalities and PR spin as it waits for news cycles to die down. We know the composition of their board and it does not surprise us. A 1% Global Museum with a 1% Board that cares very little about its lowest-paid employees and the example it is setting to the world.

We will be back.

“Action is Concrete” at Steirischer Herbst


During the Truth is Concrete Festival (Steirischer Herbst) a group of artist activist organized a group within the group called “Action is Concrete” in collaboration with local activists from Graz to experiment with mobilized  political vitality.

The press release from Sept 25, 22 p.m. announced:

“Tomorrow 26 September 2012, a jolly group of local and international artists and cultural workers will take to the streets of the capital of the Styria, Graz! They will visit local points of interest where global and local conflicts merge into one.

In a week where the people of Spain (Tuesday), Greece (Wednesday) and India (Saturday) raise their voice against the dominance of finance over every form of life, all citizens and non-citizens and tourists of all ages are invited to join this collective procession, which is also an assembly, a tour, an investigation and an inspiration!”


On September 27th, 2012 “Actions is Concrete” a series of political and artistic interventions in the city of Graz, born out of “Truth is Concrete” made up of a collective of international and local cultural workers. At 4pm we invited the public to protest a creative tour of Graz which included more than 100 people gathered at “Truth is Concrete” terrace Thalia. The first action was “Smash-Town, a patriarchal die-in” in which women and men performed a collective suicide, then able to be “born again”, no longer being suppressed by male domination.

After the rebirth, the participants were led by Mr. Alley to the contemporary art museum theKunsthaus Graz which is supported by Raiffeisen Bank, their biggest sponsor and investor in the oil industry. During the march participants sung together to drive away evil spirits of the Kunsthaus. This action was in response to the complicity between business enterprises and public cultural institutions.

The group then moved onto the main bridge, Erzherzog-Johann-Brücke, where a black strip of cloth was hung in the river Mur, to protest against the plans for a new Murkraftwerk.

The last interventions took place in the Hauptplatz the main square in Graz, a collective begging action against the discriminatory ban on begging in Styria and public drinking action in response to the alcohol prohibition at the Hauptplatz.

Video from a participant of “Action is Concrete.”


Truth is Concrete

A 24/7 marathon camp on artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. 21/09 – 28/09/2012, Graz


The Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Great Britain, Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Japan… A list in progress of countries as synonyms for crises, hopes and disasters that are changing the world so fast that we can’t keep track: the rise of the populist right, financial devastations threatening the whole European project, fundamental destruction of economical, educational and cultural structures, democratic uprisings, Islamic fundamentalism, threats of technological and ecological catastrophes – where to start, where to end?

What is the role of art in this race of events that we can barely follow, let alone properly understand? At a time when theory and practice are constantly lagging behind reality? When art is seen rather as a mere leftist hobby than a foundation of humanity?

We have learned that there are no easy answers any more. We don’t trust ideologies, even though we follow the ideology of capitalism. We know everything is contingent and relative. We replace critique with criticality, the political with the post-political, modernity with post-modernity, and capitalism with added value. But where the answers get too complicated, the desire for simple solutions is growing. And we – perhaps indeed leftist hobbyists – seem to have lost touch with a larger base. The constant awareness of the complexity of the notions of truth, reality or politics seems to have manoeuvred us into a dead-end road: either we are too simple, or we are too complex, too populist or too stuck in hermetic eremitism. Either we include too much or we exclude too many.

So what is to be done? Should art help in solving problems that politics and society themselves have ignored for so long? Should art be a social or political tool, can it be useful? And why should it know what to do when nobody else does?

“Truth is concrete” is what was written in big letters over Bertolt Brecht’s working desk in his Danish exile – quoting Lenin quoting Hegel quoting Augustine. We take the possibility of concrete truth as a working hypothesis and look for direct action, for concrete change and knowledge. Large or small scale, loud and aggressive, or intimate and careful. Obscure or obvious. An art that not only presents and documents but that engages in specific political and social situations – and an activism that not only acts for the sake of acting but searches for intelligent, creative means of self-empowerment: artistic strategies and tactics in politics, political strategies and tactics in art.

“Truth is concrete” is a 24-hour, 7-day marathon camp: 200 artists, activists and theorists lecture, perform, play, produce, discuss, collect artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. All day long, all night long. It is a platform, a toolbox as well as a performative statement, an extreme effort at a time that seems to need some extreme efforts. The marathon is a machine, running in the centre, inspiring and frustrating. Surrounded by a camp-like living and working environment as a social space, that defines its own needs and demands. Having to miss out is part of having to make choices.

“Truth is concrete” creates a one-week community, mixing day and night, developing its own jet lag towards the surrounding world – at the same time being confronted non-stop with an outside audience passing by, joining in, leaving and returning. Lectures, discussion, performances, films and concerts will be accompanied by one-day workshops, open spaces and an exhibition. A full grant program additionally invites 100 students and young professionals from all over the world. In an attempt to create not just another event about politics, but a political event itself, the festival also investigates its own format and its own everyday decision-making.