Eric Zimmerman

Dear Claire-

I appreciate your questions and comments regarding the sustainability of Austin's artist run spaces in this past issue of ...mbg [From the Editor, Issue #103]. As a participant in the blogosphere dialogue you mentioned I think these are important things to be asking at this particular juncture. In response to your open questions I would venture to say that Austin will always have these "grass-roots" types of spaces. These are what this city's art community is best at organizing and supporting. Any transformation of this scene into a more professional and established art center does not have to come at the expense of the D.I.Y. If I can be idealistic, we should strive towards a diverse mix of exhibition spaces and practices with the hope that they can all coexist beneficially with one another. Of course this is easier said than done, but what we have to gain by doing so numbs any pain of potential sacrifices. I do have a sense that this sort of transformation, if it were to occur, would only push these artist run spaces to grow, take themselves more seriously when appropriate and maybe attain some of that institutional memory that could be so beneficial on a number of levels.

Recently, and more frequently, I have bemoaned the lack of "dialogue" here in Austin. This dialogue can be organized around many subjects and take numerous forms. For me, dialogue is about having conversation about art and ideas in an open and productive way, whether in a small group at a bar, on a blog, through criticism, etc. We should temper the cheerleading, be skeptical, and talk critically about our artists, exhibition spaces and the overall health of our scene. But just as importantly, we should also be talking about the bigger ideas and issues that surround art as a whole. Both are critical for the scenes growth.

However you happen to define the "dialogue" I see a part of it happening right here and now and ...mbg certainly has something to do with that. For me, the question seems to have shifted away from defining the dialogue as a single monumental entity and to whether or not one wants to participate in the dialogues that are currently happening. Why this shift? I was recently read a quote from Andrea Fraser that stated, "Every time we speak of the 'institution' as other than 'us', we disavow our role in the creation and perpetuation of its conditions." This had particular resonance with me and made me realize the importance of taking responsibility–and maybe to a certain degree, ownership–for my place in the art community. Whether or not to participate is an important question as it represents an acknowledgment of that responsibility and place within the scene. The consistent willingness to ask difficult questions of Austin's art institutions and "scene" is invaluable to the growth of this cities visual art community—a willingness that I appreciate tremendously. It seems to me that Austin is at a point where thoughtful criticism and questioning still has value and even the potential to effect positive change. Sadly, the number of those outlets is few and the will to engage these questions is perhaps better in theory than practice. I for one prefer the latter.


Eric Zimmerman

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