I always complain that the same twenty writers cover the same forty artists, and when I started this blog, I was determined to break away from the usual suspects and find some new talent. Overall, the blog hasn't been too successful in that goal, but if there is one person I feel like I've found by going off the beaten path, someone who wasn't on the radar, then it's Faheem Majeed.
His artwork is--ok, keep up with me here--his title is the Curator and Acting Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC), so he is technically an administrator. BUT he's an artist by trade, a recent graduate of UIC. Non-art-practice jobs can get suffocating, and like most artists, he needed to break free. So he combined the job of art administrator with his art practice (reminiscent of Theaster Gates combining his Urban Planning background with his artwork). So what does that mean? What is Art Administrator Art? Well, it's pretty bold; it seems to entail putting your job at risk and involve seeing the complexities of running a community art center as an artistic experience.
So as Lee Ann Norman pointed out in her review of "The Demise of the South Side Art Center,"
"[Majeed] gathered a group of artists with
significant experiences relating to the SSCAC in order to think about how to approach an exhibition that could 'take an honest yet loving look at these organizations' and provide some critical insights...Majeed's 'Self Portrait' consists of a photo of featured Center artists through the years (including Majeed), a suit, and an email from a SSCAC board member chastising him for not wearing a suit to the opening of an exhibition, reminding him 'clothes make the man.' Through this piece, questions about the legitimacy of outmoded and traditional institutional practices that are sometimes in conflict with the needs of artists are raised."
Now that's some cojones. I challenge any of the MCA or Art Institute curators to do a show along those lines, as radical an approach as they claim to take.
The reason I'm rehashing Norman's review as a way to spotlight Majeed is that after meeting him at Barbara Jones-Hoju's talk, I had additional impressions about the show. I asked about the email piece described above and said, "It's great that you could do a piece like that about the board and have them be cool about it." Majeed quickly shook his head, and said, "No! They were NOT cool about it; they were upset. But it allowed us to have a great discussion and ask why these pieces were so upsetting. We had images of the SSCAC burning that upset people as well, and we were able to talk about the history of the center and why they were so disturbing."
To explain why I have such respect for work of this nature, first of all, I love personal art. I always enjoy art that tears down the wall that separates the artist from his subject, especially in social art. And to explain it in my own personal view, I am quick to compartmentalize my personal life from my art life (to the extent of living with two different names), because I'm comfortable making art that ruffles the feathers of people I barely know but hesitant to stir trouble with neighbors and family. I try my best to remove them from my personal art mix.
But not Faheem Majeed; he goes there. Fearlessly.
Copyedited by Jane McAdams
Beaumont Hardy Editing