[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 31] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

Action for A Day Without Art without Absence

On the morning of December 1, 1991, at approximately 2:00 AM, the Aggressive School of Cultural Workers, Iowa Chapter, forced a temporary delay in opening the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Using a length of strong chain and a steel padlock, the front doors to the museum were chained, and then locked shut. A text explaining the action was posted above and to either side of the chained door handles.

The gesture was symbolic, as well as practical.

As a symbolic act, it commented on the hypocrisy of AIDS commemorations that used art on a day the museum was supposedly observing as "A Day Without Art." In response, the ASCW-IA declared December 1 to be "A Day Without Museums."

As a practical act, it created a situation whereby anyone wishing to enter the museum to contemplate art on this day would have to forcibly enter by first cutting the chain. At the very least, those people entering the museum immediately after the cutting of the chain would be robbed momentarily of their complacency.

In addition to our action at the museum, the ASCW-IA also leafletted an exhibit in the neighboring Art Building entitled, "A Day Without Art Art Show." Such an absurdity could not go unchallenged; our grievance was tersely stated and published as YAWN nno.30, which was profusely distributed. In it, we declared December 1 to be "A Day Without Artists."

All responses to this action by the ASCW-IA were in hearsay form; none of the perpetrators remained at the scene after the lock and posters were in place. Apparently, the museum guards were perplexed and mildly panicked; a museum employee remarked that we had given them something to actually do. The chain and lock were removed without difficulty, and one report had Campus Security driving off with the objects as if they were suspects.

Attempts were made to turn the tables on both actions.

Members of the ASCW-IA were approached a few weeks later by an employee of the Museum of Art, asking for a photograph documenting our action, "for the collection." Apparently our gesture only made sense to them as a work of art rather than a protest. This employee went on to offer the museum's services in helping to plan next year's ASCW-IA "Day Without Art" action. We listened politely but our patience was wearing thin at this attempt at recuperating our gesture.

Handwritten text (reproduced at left) disparaging our "hypocrisy" and comparing the value of artists to basketball players, was added to a copy of YAWN nno.30 and then copies of it were further distributed. Apparently it was "hypocritical" of us to point out the hypocrisy of those who would plan "A Day Without Art Art Show." This was difficult for us to understand.

In general, the "Day Without Art" action by the ASCW-IA was a limited success, in that it failed to attract a meaningful amount of attention from the public. We fell considerably short of our goal of having local press coverage of the un-chaining of the museum; and the only existing documentation (that we know of) is in our hands. We will use what we've learned from this situation and move forward.