Was it a riot? An exercise in urban invasion? Nope. Only the Whitney Museum’s (once) prestigious Biennial Exhibit. Visitors to the New York landmark were unlikely to reach much art, should they try. First, they must brave hordes of raging leftists, interruptions, pontificating loudmouths and attempts to silence non-conformists.
Over a nine-week siege that just ended, a bevy of unrelated demands were forced on the museum by even less-related groups. Activist art collective “Decolonize This Place” was chief sponsor, an ad hoc assemblage of the culturally aggrieved. Gentrification, colonialism, Palestinians, queer erasure and immigration are some of its beefs. Visitors and staff were treated to chaos and threats (such as “We could close down this place” or “We will return if …”).
Principal target of the marauding protestors is Warren B. Kanders, who is vice chairman of the board at Whitney. They insist he will leave. Kanders is charged with manufacturing unpopular weapons, used by people even less popular with the protestors. His company produces the Triple-Chaser, a three-part tear gas canister, commonly used against riots and mobs. Much weeping is made over Triple-Chaser tear gas, but their real issue is who was sprayed with the stuff. Turns out it was the useful heroes of the left, rioting asylum seekers at the U.S. border. Also, no one is discussing the more deadly alternatives to teargas – bullets.
Malice for Kanders is even greater because he is also part owner of Sierra Bullets, a preferred vendor for Israeli military. In prior interviews, Kanders has said that a Sierra bullet killed Osama bin Laden. Kanders is a victim of the doxing and stalking techniques leftists relish. Occupiers of the Whitney just happened to have Kanders’ home address with them and organized a march to his home.
More poison is wrung out for the perennially unpopular Jews, but they won’t come out and say it. Using talking points from various anti-Semitics, a case is built against tear gas lobbed at terrorists. Exploiting the Palestinian situation is a brilliant jab, because Israel was forced to build fences to defend themselves, much like the U.S.
Much of the uproar was led by the collective “Forensic Architecture” ( FA), who claim to have solved murders or causes of manmade catastrophes. Forensic Architecture is also an invited exhibitor, with an installation against Triple-Chaser tear gas. While they were at it, FA mounted fierce protests (essentially against their own show). Several artists took collective umbrage and refused to exhibit as well.
It’s Husain’s ugly baby
But one man is the real force behind “Decolonize This Place.” Palestinian-born Amin Husain is an academic and attorney – but not an artist. He has learned to insert himself as a social justice warrior and an uninvited guest, claiming to represent vast numbers of people.
Husain’s work at NYU uses art as a political vehicle with heavy flourish on anti-Semitism. He proudly claims to have worked with Fatah, and promotes BDS, hijackers and terror groups such as Al Quds and Hamas. Husain is so enamored of war that he helped create a film to incite a third Intifada against Jews, because the second “was not violent enough.”
But Husain hates his fellow New Yorkers as well. He posted graphic instructions on Facebook in 2017 called “How to shut down the City” which called for boycotts, bashing and sabotage. Included was a helpful guide showing a victim being “head-butted, kicked in the groin, kicked in the face,” etc.
Along with Indian-born media expert, Natasha Dhillon, Husain created the collective MTL, which birthed many leftist movements. MTL supports Black Lives Matter, originated and managed the Occupy Movement, founded NYC Solidarity with Palestine, and others.
“Decolonize This Place” marshaled disruption of the Whitney and Brooklyn museums and is yet another spawn of the MTL. They are a motley collection of dissenters with little or no significance to art nor to each other (free Palestine, indigenous struggle, black liberation, global wage workers, reparations, dismantling patriarchy, workplace democracy, degentrification, climate justice and sanctuary from borders). MTL admits it is “action oriented” with no little or no attention given to purpose.
Husain bristles with hubris, as no one has questioned his right to judge art, queer Chinese women, remodeling, black lives or anything else. Speaking to ArtNews, he criticized “the condescension of white critics” who claimed the Biennial exhibit wasn’t radical enough. Then Amin adds this inanity: “White supremacy does not get to decide whether our work or actions are radical!”
Our work? Husain co-opted not only access and policies at the Whitney Biennial, but stole the voice of participating artists, speaking in their stead. Husain is a typical leftwing imperialist, posing as a victim while sucking various institutions into his ruse.
Obviously, the Whitney was warned and had plenty of time to mount counter-attacks (which would have been the only unexpected thing that could have happened at this Biennial). Beyond meek acquiescence, many of the staff appear to be in lock-step with the protesters. It’s been a long time coming. The Whitney Biennial is considered one of the leading exhibits in the world. Selection and sales from this show help set trends around the art world. But it is something else as well: a perfectly defenseless and soft target for political extremists and run-of-the-mill lunatics.
Objects of their hate are the only unifying aspect of “Decolonize This Place.” Patrons are treated like rats in a maze of political correctness with only one way out – capitulation. Thanks to the Amin Husain’s of the world, art museums are pushed to court controversy, sensationalism and random offense to the neglect of art. And critics of the Biennial were rather savage – not to the demonstrators, but to the surviving artists. A piece in the Guardian bemoans the “mostly safe front” of Whitney exhibits, comparing them (unfavorably) to increasingly “controversial resistance art” of past biennials. There are so many things wrong in this assessment, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Why should art be “increasingly resistant” to anything? Is it a rule? At this point, the only safe thing for The Whitney is art echoing the Daily Rage of the left. Not only are themes pre-ordained for them, but The Guardian’s criticism proves that artists are expected to ratchet-up political attacks or devise new means of sensationalizing the very short list of approved subjects.
Isn’t this how war is waged? Any art surviving protracted assaults of political correctness is a miracle. Some of the exhibits at The Whitney are thought provoking and a few even meet the classical concepts of art. But for the most part, this is class, race, religious and political warfare, taking place in museums.
- Alex Greenberger. Artnews.com. 05/17/19. “We Will Come Back’: Decolonize This Place Leads Protest at Whitney, Marches to Controversial Board Member’s House”
- CanaryMission.org. n.d. “Amin Husain”
- Dr Annabelle Boissier. Artscabinet.org. Dec 1, 2017. “Interview: Nitasha Dhillon and Amin Husain – MTL Collective”
- NYU University/Gallatin