POOR AND NEEDY

When, about two years ago, we were invited by Brad Killam and Michelle Grabner to “do something “ for the 2016 Great Poor Farm Experiment VIII in Manawa in rural Wisconsin, we eagerly accepted because we recognized the Poor Farm’s importance in the cultural landscape of the American Midwest. In 2017, at the invitation of Kurt Finsten, we brought the exhibition to Krabbesholm Højskole, another refuge for aspiring artists, writers, and thinkers, situated in the heart of what the Danes know as “The Dark Jutland.”

 

Mirroring the journey we had made ourselves in a symmetrical motion across the Atlantic – Yvette emigrated from the USA to Denmark in 1996, while Lise left Denmark in 1992 to arrive in America via the Netherlands in 2008 – we took our cue from the poem The New Colossus, in which the Statue of Liberty is hailed as the “the Mother of Exile,” to instigate a conversation about art, migration, and debt. We brought together a group of artists from Copenhagen and Chicago, who each in their own way had expanded their practice to contribute to maintaining an ecosystem of cultural production which we felt were under threat.

 

Little did we know that in the two years between the first invitation to do this show and the publication of the book you now hold in your hand, these already precarious systems would be increasingly threatened and artists further marginalized. Affluent economies in the Global North point to the recent economic crisis to explain why they can no longer afford to subsidize artists, whom they readily paint as “poor and needy” individuals, who are “addicted” to social security, and who are “afraid” to work. This trend has gone hand in hand with an increased xenophobia in both countries, where the same rhetoric is leveraged against immigrants by governments eager to build walls and close borders. Gradually and suddenly the Utopias of “the American Dream” as well as the “Scandinavian Welfare State” have come to look like gated communities.

 

The artists’ colony, because that is what both The Poor Farm and Krabbesholm are, is located somewhere between Utopia and the gated community; questions of exclusivity and inclusivity repeatedly come into play here. But at least these are open-ended conversations, not the law; the texts and works in this book are contributions from artists and writers toward the continued open-mindedness of our local and global communities.

 

Come one, come all: it doesn’t say RSVP on the statue of Liberty. It does not say so on the gates of the art world either!

 

Chicago/Copenhagen 2017

 

Yvette Brackman & Lise Haller Baggesen

Design: Kurt Finsten
Printed by: Naryana Press. Printed in Denmark. 120 pages.
ISBN: 978-0-578-00400-6
Distribution in the US: Poor Farm Press 753 S 5th Street, Milwaukee WI 53204
Brad Killam: killam@poorfarmexperiment.org �Michelle Grabner: michellegrabner@gmail.com