Main Gallery

Vagaries of The Commons

Curator: Sarah Fritchey

July 25—September 13, 2014


Brad Armstrong, Ricardo Miranda and Brooke Singer, Lani Asuncion and Gary Aronsen, Mengyu Chen, The Elm City Dance Collective, Jason Friedes, Focus Lessness (Michael Romano and Milton Laüfer), Occupy New Haven, Phil Lique, Project Storefronts, Scott Shuldt, Under 91 Project

Artists and contributors include: Brad Armstrong, Ricardo Miranda and Brooke Singer; Lani Asuncion and Gary Aronsen; Mengyu Chen; The Elm City Dance Collective;Jason Friedes; Focus Lessness (Michael Romano and Milton Laüfer), Occupy New Haven; Phil Lique; Project Storefronts; Scott Shuldt; and Under 91 Project. 

The concept of “the commons” predates the feudal era in early Germanic and Roman settlements, where communal land ownership prevailed.  Originally, the concept referred to the public’s interest and right to access essential natural resources that are held in common and not owned privately, including land, water, animals and fish.  Gradually, as royalty and then a central government gained power, the notion of communal land ownership disappeared and the concept of “the commons” evolved.

In 2014, this concept is increasingly complex.  Legislation pertaining to the regulation and privatization of common space responds to changes in government, the economy, the sciences and our natural surroundings.  Also, the concept of the commons extends far into the charted and uncharted vacuums of the digital realm.

This exhibition presents a group of artists, based in and around greater New Haven, who make works that operate within the penumbras and cracks of the legal systems that oversee its “commons”.  These grey zones are the flexible and the often vague environments from which the show’s title takes its inspiration

The show identifies four specific sectors and human rights questions addressed by artists practicing in and around New Haven.  These include: the material commons (who has the right to order the build and name structures, homes, cities, maps?), the knowledge commons (who has access higher education, public libraries, the internet?), the aesthetic commons (who has the right to define and control image production?) and the affective commons (how are emotions policed and kept public/private?).  The essential question that each work asks is: who has the right to have a voice?

Projects that are a part of the exhibition include:

  • “I’m Open Come On In” by focuslessness, a daily take over of the Artspace sandwich board. View images from the project.
  • Artist Phil Lique took over the Artspace homepage each day
  • The Excess Project presented a series of posters about excuses people give about not composting (designed by Jerome Harris)

The exhibition is organized to mindfully accompany Laureline Kruse’s Mobile Museum Student Apprenticeship Program project, which will share an exhibition space with the show.