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The Arts

Performance artist will speak at Kopkind

Alex Melamid explores the mechanics of power

The Kopkind Colony presents a free talk by Alex Melamid on Sunday, July 31, at the Organ Barn at the Kopkind Colony, located at 158 Kopkind Rd., Guilford. The events begin with a potluck supper at 5:30 p.m., which participants are invited to attend (and bring a covered dish). All are welcome. For more information or directions, contact 802-254-4859, stonewal@sover.net or jwyp@earthlink.net.

GUILFORD—Alex Melamid, the New York City–based conceptual and performance artist, will visit the Kopkind Colony’s Organ Barn on July 31 for a free talk, “Against Fear!”

Melamid’s presentation kicks off the colony’s 18th annual session for journalists and activists.

The Kopkind Colony is an educational summer residency program for independent journalists and community organizers. The organization describes itself as representing a “living memorial” to nationally renowned journalist Andrew Kopkind, who died in 1994.

According to a news release, “The theme of this year’s session for journalists and activists, coming amid widespread attention to inequality and political brutishness, is Bread and Roses,” noting that human beings need art and beauty along with basic tools for survival.

Alex Melamid has long been “interested in the mechanics of power — who orders, who obeys and at what cost — including the power of the art world,” says the news release.

The artist’s curriculum vitae ranges from co-founding a school in Thailand for elephants who paint, to producing music and paintings based on surveys, to becoming a founding editor of “Artenol,” an art magazine for spectators by spectators.

In one of the early issues of the magazine, Melamid wrote an essay, “Why Is Today’s Art So Meaningless?” where he noted, “We are paying for the sins of the 20th century’s ideological movements — from capitalism’s icy laissez-faire to North Korea’s quasi-religious juche [political ideology, roughly ‘self-reliance’]. All of these promised freedom and happiness.

“What we have instead, following the destruction of moral and ethical conventions and the rejection of traditional skills, is nothing less than enslavement.”

In the early 1970s, Melamid, with his long-time artistic partner Vitaly Komar, founded the Soviet Realist Pop art movement, Sots Art. The movement “satirized Soviet Socialist Realism and expressed a dark sense of the absurd,” said the news release.

When the duo came to the United States in the late 1970s, they “resisted Western pop art’s love affair with market capitalism, as represented by their nearest contemporary, Andy Warhol,” according to the news release.

Poking at contempt of official art world

Kopkind’s board president and program director JoAnn Wypijewski said, “Years ago, when Alex and I collaborated on a project that resulted in Komar and Melamid’s Peoples Choice [paintings and musical compositions]... we talked a lot about how contemptuous the official art world is to what people want.”

“Even to ask the question, ‘If you could have anything in a painting, what would it be?’ was considered sacrilegious,” she said.

Wypijewski noted that when she and Komar and Melamid “did focus groups and town hall meetings, people were a little afraid to talk, afraid to be wrong.”

“When majorities of one third of the world’s population [...] said they wanted blue landscapes, the realm of curators and art reviewers [of the project] mostly said the people were stupid,” she added.

Wypijewski noted, “so many years later, Alex continues to incite and entertain and make us all think — a perfect match for Kopkind!”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #367 (Wednesday, July 27, 2016). This story appeared on page B1.

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