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Artist Leads Failed Occupation of Art Space

10.24.11 Bucky Turco

It what has to be one of the strangest actions to date, a splinter group fed up with the Occupy Wall Street movement, tried to “occupy” Artists Space, a non-profit entity in Soho that has been showcasing evocative work since 1972. However, about 28 hours after they officially announced that the space had been “occupied” by way of a Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube video, they were evicted from the loft-like location at 38 Greene Street.

Georgia Sagri
According to a statement on Artists Space’s website, the group was asked to leave for threatening staff, (lightly) vandalizing the walls with anti-art messages, and stealing a laptop. The attempted squat was led by Greek-born performance artist Georgia Sagri (pictured), who is no stranger to the art world or the space itself. “Yes she has shown work with us in 2009 and we helped her to produce the work,” said Artist Space curator Stefan Kalmár when we inquired about her history with the location. But unlike previous exhibits she was involved with, this is “not an art project,” proclaimed the group on their Tumblr.


It all began on Saturday, when Sagri reportedly interrupted a lecture and handed out a “Take Artists Space” poem. Although she appears to be one of the early founders of OWS, Sagri was trying to recruit people for a new occupation that would NOT operate like the one at Zuccotti Park. There would be no mic checks for instance. According to a list of rules posted on the wall, there would also be “no police,” “no informants,” and “no press or photos.” Or cold weather, as this indoor space has heat and is much more comfortable than a park in the Financial District.

And so, around 5pm the “occupation” began. Hours later an #Occupy38 hasthag was born, but almost as soon as it officially started, people on Twitter began to ask why a “radical” artist would lead a coup against a radical art space and quickly drew both the wrath and confusion of those familiar with Artists Space:

@JoshuaSmith1983:

“@occupywallst Please don’t blindly endorse @occupy38. They have taken over a friendly leftist non-profit. It doesn’t make sense. OWS FRIENDS”

@nuzdotcom:

“You don’t “occupy” your friends, you idiots. You RESPECT THEM, and ASK them for things! #occupy38 #Occupy38 @Occupy38″

@melaco:

“Sounds like Artists Space is being “occupied.” Come on @Occupy38, really? This is out of hand.”

@hrrs:

“i am going to join the crowd saying: #occupy38 mostly confuses me so far.”

@Clare_OC

“Pls can someone involved in #OWS explain this new #Occupy38 situ? Not sure I see how occupying an art space has anything to do w/ Wall St?”

@XtendedForecast:

“Bold move hijacking tags to put out reinforcement call. Particularly after doing something dumb w/o bothering to organize support. #occupy38”

@amywilson:

“um @Occupy38 says they’re being “evicted” now. i truly have no idea what to believe any more. bet they regret not allowing cameras now, tho.”

Below is Occupy38’s statement that is so rife with irony and misinformation it should be titled: We are so full of shit, we don’t even know where to start!

The occupation at 38 Greene Street ended at 8PM on Sunday October 23rd, 28 hours after it began.

The administrators of the Artists Space, under the influence of their board of directors, brought in a paid private security force of five to affirm the sanctity of their non-profit private property.

Earlier, the Executive Director and his minions (apparently ignorant of their own exploitation and unwilling to join in the occupation) had been rudely shoved aside by a fraction of the movement which attempts, in sometimes distorted ways, to develop a critique of the existent. Clinging to the veneer of legitimacy still provided, in some minds, by the non-profit industrial complex, he took advantage of the occupiers’ patience and tolerance to hinder, as best he could, any real flourishing of rebellion in the space he had formerly controlled.

Threatening and reminding us of the illegal nature of the occupation and his power to bring down the NYPD on our heads, he belligerently intimidated while farcically insisting on his sympathy with the movement. If he did not immediately use police violence to evict the occupation, this was of course only because of his cowardly attachment to his so-called “radical” credentials, status and image.

But this was expected and predicted. We wasted enough words on the importance of the history of the space, so enclosed in its own past political work, that it is prevented from seriously engaging with the present. We were asked many times why we chose this space. We exposed all sides of the misunderstandings of the so-called New York radical scene. If we had had support we would have simply influenced the course of events, but that to us would have appeared as a false success. What for our enemies is weakness and naivety, for us are the tools to open up spaces that do not give any account of how and what action means, and what is its credibility.

We battle with saboteurs, camouflaged socialists, intellectual skepticism; and we say: Let’s occupy something else. Now we know who we can invite. The ones that don’t wish only for progress to our movement, but the efforts of our bodies to expose and threaten, to break structures and clichés which are not bound only in the arena of a bureaucratic village.

In this process we are educated about tactics of friend and enemy.

This was just a beginning. How can the rest of New York City remain unoccupied? It can’t. We will occupy everything.

Perhaps Georgia Sangri and her merry band of self-described anarchists should start anew by occupying the Anthony Reynolds Gallery, a posh art space in London that still sells her work.