Listen carefully nearby certain storm drains in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood, and you might be able to hear the echo of Sumwalt Run, flowing 30 to 40 feet below. The creek disappeared from Baltimore’s landscape in the early 20th century when the city built a new sewer system. Sumwalt Run became a concrete culvert, moving springwater and storm runoff through Baltimore’s sewers into its harbor. It’s one of dozens of “ghost rivers,” as local artist Bruce Willen calls them, in the city: buried streams that still “haunt” the urban landscape and its residents by contributing to downstream water pollution and flooding.
London’s residents face the highest rents and have the lowest rate of homeownership in the U.K. today. One solution would be for local councils to expand public housing, known as “council housing.” However, the waitlist for these homes has jumped by 50,000 since 2020. This has happened partially because London councils have reduced their housing stock by 10 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, often due to privatization. Building complexes made up of only council housing, called council estates, are becoming increasingly rare sights in the capitol.
After seven months, the workers of Storm King Art Center, in New York’s Hudson Valley, have successfully organized. The institution voluntarily recognized the new union, following a lengthy negotiation process and two elections, one in-person at the museum on April 27, and an online vote for the visitor services department on May 23. A total of 68 workers at the popular New Windsor sculpture park, home to monumental works by the likes of Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, and Maya Lin, are now part of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 1000, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Thousands gathered on May 16, 1998 in Birmingham’s famous Bullring district, located in the city center. They were instructed to meet by the New Street Station subway stop and make their way towards the Bullring’s roundabout. The mood soon became nothing short of intoxicating as a roaring sound system hidden inside an ordinary car blasted techno to the masses. Fire eaters, drag queens, and clowns were normal amongst a crowd of lamppost climbers and stilt-tripod walkers filling up the streets, creating a gridlock of traffic that purged vehicles from the area and prevented drivers from coming in.
James Kennedy is a highly-regarded and accomplished Welsh singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer who is best known for his political activism through his music. With a career spanning more than two decades, he has made a name for himself as a powerful voice in the music industry, using his platform to raise awareness about important issues and to advocate for social justice. James joins “Behind The Headlines” host Lee Camp for a full, hour-long interview today. James takes us on a journey through his musical career, discussing the ways in which politics has influenced his music, the challenges of being a political musician in today’s world, and the reasons behind his decision to use music as a tool for change. His music career began with a strong focus on political issues, with songs that explored topics such as inequality, social justice, and human rights.
Many years ago I was intrigued to learn of an art institute in the Netherlands, that formally declares its mission to be "working for the commons." That's how the Casco Art Institute in Utrecht presents itself to the world. Their tagline immediately raises questions about how exactly arts and commoning are related, and how an art institute might enter into the world of commoning. I decided to learn more by inviting Binna Choi, Director at the Casco Art Institute, to join me in a podcast conversation for Frontiers of Commoning (Episode #35). Binna, a native of South Korea who has led Casco since 2008, curates artistic work for major exhibitions and was a faculty member of the Dutch Art Institute. She has been a curator or artistic director for the Singapore Biennale 2022, the Gwangju Biennale 2016, and the upcoming Hawai'i Triennial 2025. Choi has brought the ethic and practices of commoning to the creation of art and its exhibition.
Momentum for unions and unionization efforts in art museums, art institutions, and art schools continued in 2022, as workers bargained for better conditions, held strikes, and even ratified contracts. In the past decade, workers at large institutions like the New Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, have formed unions. They’ve often sought higher wages, better job security, and a voice in institutional policies like safety protocols, and have typically joined groups like the Local 2110 Union of Auto Workers (UAW) and local councils of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The continued unionization movement now includes non-tenure track arts faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
His mouth is frozen in anguish, an infinite scream. His eyes bulge upward, overcome by horror, hands clutching his head. I cannot look away. His face is too forlorn, his backdrop too wretched. I inch toward the banner, dated 2005, which spans the full gallery wall. With my phone’s translation app, I make out some Indonesian text: “Iapa yang peduli dengan kejadian damai dan perang” — “who cares about the events of peace and war.” Surrounding these words are a contented crowd of children swinging from trees, farmers working fields, and musicians serenading their community. As I make my way across the drawing, people’s eyes deaden and hands rise to shield their faces. Behind them hangs a poster of George W. Bush with the words “remember weapons of mass destruction” and a string of skulls. Military tanks roll alongside UN vehicles. Bodies litter the ground.
The poet Gerald Stern, who died last Friday at the age of 97, spent his life thundering against the mendacity and abuse of power; rebelling against all forms of authority, big and small; defying social conventions; and wielding his finely honed writing on behalf of the demonized, forgotten and oppressed. He was one of our great political poets. Poetry, he believed, had to speak to the grand and minute issues that define our lives. He was outrageous and profane, often in choice Yiddish, French and German. He was incredibly funny, but most of all brave. Rules were there, in his mind, to be broken. Power, no matter who held it, was an evil to be fought. Artists should be eternal heretics and rebels. He strung together obscenities to describe poets and artists who diluted their talent and sold out for status, grants, prizes, the blandness demanded by poetry journals and magazines like The New Yorker, and the death trap of tenured professorships.
In perhaps their most controversial protest yet, two Just Stop Oil activists poured tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” painting in London’s National Gallery. The gallery said the painting itself was not damaged because the canvass was protected by glass. The action comes as Just Stop Oil has been protesting in London for two weeks with a demand that the UK government stop all new oil and gas exploration. “What is worth more, art or life?” 21-year-old demonstrator Phoebe Plummer said as she glued her hand to the wall below the painting. “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?”
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Since Sept. 26, almost 200 workers have been on strike — not reporting for work in person or virtually — at one of the oldest and largest art museums in the U.S. with over 240,000 works of art from around the world. Members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 397, affiliated with AFSCME District Council 47, voted for union representation in a landslide, 89% “yes” vote in August 2020. Since then, the PMA Board of Trustees and executive management have refused to come to an agreement with the PMA Union. After over two years of fruitless talks, after filing a lengthy Unfair Labor Practice charge against museum management, after a strike authorization vote of 99% and after holding a one-day warning strike Sept. 16, workers finally walked off the job Sept. 26.
Roger Waters, the British rock legend and co-founder of Pink Floyd, is in the midst of his “This Is Not A Drill” tour. In his concerts he weds his musical genius to the most pressing social issues of our day, including permanent war, police violence, the crimes of Israeli occupation against the Palestinians, the killing of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and the imprisonment of Julian Assange. Waters has been an outspoken opponent of the NATO-fueled war in Ukraine, and a vocal supporter of contemporary social movements such as the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and global protests against police violence from the United States to Brazil and Britain. He joins The Chris Hedges Report for a wide-ranging conversation: from his youth and musical career to the political worldview that undergirds his provocative ‘This Is Not A Drill‘ tour.
Here's a fanciful but almost-real scenario: the bees, squirrels, geese, bugs, trees, and other species of your local park have decided that they've had enough of human aggression and abuse. They're not going to take it anymore, and rise up and demand equal rights with humans. Through a series of interspecies assemblies, a treaty is negotiated to ensure that every living being in the local ecosystem can flourish. This scenario is a "live action role-playing" (LARP) game devised by Furtherfield, a London-based arts collective as part of its stewardship of part of the Victorian-era Finsbury Park. Over the next three years, Furtherfield is inviting humans to don masks and play the roles of each of seven species in negotiating "The Treaty of Finsbury Park 2025" -- the name of the project.