PAD/D [Political Art Documentation / Distribution] is an amazing group from the 80’s that was pretty short lived. Their whole archived collection of work is available to look at by appointment at the MoMA, Queens.
The PAD/D is an interesting group because it’s a huge group of artists that came together not to chat about art, and their own practices and self publicize themselves, but to act about how they can use their intelligence and their gifts as artists for the better. The better of the people, their communities and ultimately the world. An act in which becomes not just the art but a small piece of art history that is somehow never really talked about. For me, when I discovered this group, purely by coincidence and in an act of artist stalking, I felt revitalized, curious and somewhat proud of my fellow artist community of the 70-90’s.
You could look at the groups such as PAD/D, Collab, REPohistory and ABC Rio to name a few – a product of their time. Would this kind of self aware artist community exist now, with such bases as the internet (especially Facebook with its pretense of groups were you can be a member you’re not really doing anything). The individual is a primary consumer. We feed our own needs on our own through media simulations.
Revolution is considered by some academics as a historical element. It’s a past-tense. It has no relevance in todays society where the post-modern ‘revolutionary’ merely wears a tee shirt with Che on, and sparking a couple of Marx quotes up in conversation. The artist makes work of not what they want to make, but what the shit 1988 education Re-Form act makes people work to tick marketisation art school assessments and drive thru degree’s at an expensive £3,000 ($6,000) a year shot (£3,545 with inflation). What happened with that ontological yearning that the artist can change the world? It’s naive, indeed. But naivety, i feel, should not be looked down upon or frowned at. After all there is naive and then there is Naive.
I look to my fellow artist groups before me, and I think, how did it really come about. I know that there was a reading group, and they read Thoreau, and Marx and Debord and all those great literary, philosophical theorists and they thought, ” Yo hang on here, this shit is happening … and together… we could, we might be able to do something. Be change that WE WANT TO SEE”
Of course, not many projects worked. Not For Sale, one of a few projects by PAD/D is my personal favourite, but I am unsure of how it was received. The Collab Real Estate Show, was open for one night in New Years Eve. And The Times Square was your typical more curated shizzle, in a less conventional space and is said to have launched many a career.
You could argue that the groups view on poverty in the Lower East Side, NYC, was somewhat romanticized. But how does a bunch of middle class artist’s discover what real poverty is when they have had a somewhat steady economically life before the pursuit of an artistic career? (college Education in America says it all about money). And baring a life of poverty is completely different to a few months on the poverty line. The stress, the corruption of years and months in broken homes with no heating and no food. And no books. And childish playground torments, is all too Hollywood themed these days. It no longer feels real, it’s merely a fiction, so we shrugg and we stay inside and check our email and change our Facebook status’s to : “Sarah Smizz is feeling somewhat revolutionary.” but nothing really happens.
So for a group of artists, to meet up and put time and effort in helping their communities and poverty stricken kids, instead of saying, “fuck it! lets do some Neo-Formalism shizzle because that’s what sells right now!” they chose to at least try and understand a situation. Try and make a change.
Regardless of the fact that it was or wasn’t a success, the act of coming together suggests more than anything. much recent writing about artist group activities employs some of the most impractical academic theory shizzle and language, an approach that belies the cooperative tradition that many groups attempt to engage within their daily practice. there is a senstivity that emerges for those that learn to work and enjoy working in a group; and rely upon group work. It’s an action that shows a down 2 earth homage to groups before that reveals itself through the very act of choosing to work with others.
This hyper-individualism, upon which so much of the artworld relies, is part of a capitalistic strategy used to produce oney, sex, power and of course exclusivity with it’s middle class elitisms. I, and the groups of which I am apart of [ C.A.a.D.// streetform etc] we subscribe to an alternative that is more open, and non-exclusive , and strives to be honest about the human costs created as a result of the production of art, and about the existence of underlying power structures within all of our relationships. To be in a team i, a trio, a collective, a collection is a very special act. To be in a team that wants to better the world, to make a positive difference, to use their own talents to help others and not just as a career boosting object is a rare phenomenon and should be celebrated, and taught and re-lived and be an inspiration to not just artists but all people.
I will scan in some documents i photocopied from PAD/D from the MoMA when I get close to a scanner. Until then here is a list of all the amazing artists who were part of the Not For Sale Project: enjoy. You can research them all to see what they are up to. some names you will recognize. Others, not so much. This list isn’t comprehensive.
Gregory Shelotte; mike anderson; olivia beens; chris bratton; mark b; keith christensenl joel cohen; Michael Corris; Faith Day; Anton van Dalen; ed eisenberg; jodie fink; harriot feigenbaum; mary gavin; day gleason; Jerry Kearns; elizabeth kulas; janet koening; rae langston; susan lindeman; richard loyd; donna macAdams; beverly naidus; mariann nowack; herb perr; Carlo Pitore; Bil Rybak; vincent salas; cynthia schineider; julie spriggs; glen stevens ; nancy sulivan; seth tobocman; irving wexler; jody wright; denis thomas; paul geheres; amy berkov.