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NO!art AND THE AESTHETICS OF DOOM SHOW

Kuratorin: ESTERA MILMAN

UIMA University of Iowa Museum of Art
150 North Riverside Drive | Iowa City | April 27 to June 23, 2002

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INFORMATION:

Arts Center Relations
300 Plaza Centre One
Writer: Trish Loggins | Contact: Peter Alexander
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
e-mail: peter-alexander@uiowa.edu
Release: April 19, 2002

NO!art exhibition at UI Museum of Art April 27 - June 23

IOWA CITY, Iowa - "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom," the first North American retrospective exhibition devoted to the NO!art collective, will be on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art April 27 - June 23.

Admission to the museum and to the exhibition will be free.

The NO!art collective was active in the late 1950's and early 1960's in New Yorks Tenth Street Galleries and the Galley Gertrude Stein. The artists responded to the Holocaust, the atomic crisis, and conformist, commercially-driven culture.

Curated by Estera Milman, director of alternative traditions in the contemporary arts at the University of Iowa, "NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom," and its accompanying catalogue, features some of the collectives most important works relating to these events and includes a cross-section of collages, assemblages, and installations.

Members of the NO!art collective, originally the March Gallery, supported street art, graffiti, Beat poetry, and what they described as “violent expressionism.” Their works draw on commercial images, pin-up nudes, and photographs of war atrocities, and were created in direct response to the contradiction between postwar consumer culture and the horror of the resent past.

The exhibition is known for its confrontational works in which political and social protest are critically linked to the development of assemblage art and Happenings. By reasserting the key influence of the collective's political, activist artists, the exhibition challenges traditional views of the New York art world in the early 1960's as apolitical.

While NO!art artists were described as the new “Social Realists” by some contemporary critics, the collective has been largely ignored by the North American art-historical canon.

The exhibition includes works by the NO!art collective founders, Boris Lurie, a Buchenwald survivor, Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher, and also from travellers in the movement, Allan D'Arcangelo, Herb Brown, Dorothy Gillespie, Allan Kaprow, Yayoi Kusama, Suzan Long, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Lil Picard, and Wolf Vostell.
In addition to a brief catalogue, an anthology of scholarly papers on NO!art will be published by the Northwestern University Press. Milman will serve as a contributing author and guest editor.

"NO! art and the Aesthetics of Doom" is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Friends of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art, Inc. of Iowa City is the corporate sponsor for public events at the UI Museum of Art during the 2001-02 season, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

The University of Iowa Museum of Art is located on the North Riverside Drive in Iowa City. Museum hours are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday noon-5 p.m, and Thursday and Friday noon-10 p.m. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in the UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north of the museum.

For more information in the UI Museum of Art visit https://stanleymuseum.uiowa.edu/

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Rezension von Dennis Raverty: REPULSIVE ART MAKES ELOQUENT STATEMENT

Published in: Des Moines Register, June 2, 2002

Sam Goodman: Bomb and CrossThe first thing that strikes you upon entering “’NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom," at the University of lowa Art Museum is the extreme ugliness of most of the pieces.

We expect art to be beautiful, graceful, uplifting. This stuff is hard to look at. It is shocking; shabbily constructed. Some works are disgusting or obscene. The works probably are not appropriate viewing for children.

The show is repulsive, yet it is artwork driven by high ideals and a deep sense of moral outrage.

The exhibition brings together work by an obscure group of artists who exhibited together in New York City between 1959 and 1964. These years bring to mind images of a more innocent time, but beneath the period's veneer of normality was an undercurrent of insecurity, dread and impending doom. It was an era of racial unrest, of anti-Communist hysteria, under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

“NO!art” brought glaringly into the light this dark underside of the era, throwing it into relief and challenging its audience to question the morality of business as usual.

The group was founded by Boris Lurie, a survivor of Buchenwald, a Nazi slave labor and extermination camp.

At first glance, his “NOSuitcase" of 1963 is a shabby valise covered with the kinds of stickers travelers gather. On careful examination, the souvenirs are unusual and disturbing: a Jewish Star of David, a swastika, a picture of a porno queen and a pile of skeletal remains from the death camps. The suitcase suggests years of use, perpetual exile and the uneasy feeling of being forever an unwelcome stranger.

The lurid and utterly tasteless porno shots - gathered, I imagine, from cheap magazines - are particularly offensive but play an important role in what are, paradoxically, the most moving pieces in the show. In “Saturation Painting” a photograph of a inmates from Buchenwald concentration camp lined up at the barbed wire, is juxtaposed with "girlie" snap shots. Even though the porno is tame compared with today's fare, the message is clear: Pornography is the “holocaust” of women - as obscene as the death camps.

In “The Cross (The Bomb)” by Sam Goodman, a bomb and pieces of a model airplane with a partially melted and blackened plastic doll make up a grotesque crucifix. The intent is not to offend Christians, but to show how offensive the nuclear arms race wars. It was if Christ were about to be crucified as anew as the world seemed headed for an nuclear Armageddon. It calls forth a sense of righteous moral indignation.

The work rings with new reverberation in the wake of the attack of Sept. 11 as we are once again threatened by the obscenity of terror and with feelings of helplessness and doom.

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GUESTBOOK ENTRIES:
Transcription by Nicole Becker, Berlin
Words in italics are possible interpretations of illegible writings.

Disgusting and disappointing. (it´s supposed to be!)
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Allowing and gratifying!
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extremely wonderful show-very important-maybe the best since the fluxus shows you had. I think in light of the times we are presently living in-it is a wake-up/a reminder... of the world we live in-right now. (Sandy Dyas)
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A bit more thought provoking the dressed up dogs.
A display of ignorance.
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I hope someone is collecting the posters and artifacts of the 2002 Jean Marie Le Pen first voting victory in France - There is an art show to create with them- CH
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Revolutionary Art is nolonger for the talented, but is now for anyone by a can of spray paint and a glue stick.
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one thing is certain: there is no art here. (< that´s the idea silly!)
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I touched the paintings. (good!)
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Beautiful collages!
Their surfaces and rebellious nature held my attention for a long time.
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This show took me by surprise-I wasn´t expecting such radical art from the Univ of Iowa Museum. A very timely show, during the idiotic war on terror. I love this work but am pertumbed + fascinated by the contradictions brought to bear by seeing it in this context. NO!art´s anti-establishment (including the ART establishment ie: this museum tomb of art) message is complicated by the space. Has it been sanitized, or has ist radicalized the establishment a bit? Gazing at the work, imaging its original exhibition in coop galleries, raw and spontaneous + interactiv, I was struck (amused + saddened) by now little things have changed in 40 years when the bored museum guard told me I hat bo put my sweater away, I wasn´t allowed to "carry anything" evan a little sweater over my arm, he told me it was "just rules". Ok. This is similar to my being told in NY, not to stand too close to the art! The irony is beautiful. Foolishness. Oh well
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I´m glad we´re past it, but it was exciting when it was happening.
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Great!
The corpses on the railroad flat car attributed to "Adolf Hitler, 1945" remind me of the irreverent T-shirts "Adolf Hitler World Tour, 1933-45". Hitler was an evil twisted genius who failed as a painter + moved on to sculpt whole societies. -cwa 5/5/2002
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Obviously, this art represents the breakdown of society and, also reflects a society without morals and standards. The display (of poop) is really not "art"! It´s a shame that people make poop head a living doing stuff like that. TK 5/5/02
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The artist that depicts the savage ways of war and the lasting affects of literal and profound disfigurement, (Table w/soldiers), struck me. It is my humble opinion however that all that stirs distaste or remarks is not necessarily art. YK 5.5.02
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I´m surprised we have stuff like that here at the U5, but this is history and this is important. 5-5-02
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Please don´t display your ignorance in education + art there should be no censorship! Why not just eliminate thinking!
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Very good to have this show, a foresummer of so much (must lately, the "sensation" show at the Jewish Museum in N.Y.?) -Jules Chavietzky + Anne Halley, Anekent, Ma 5/9/02
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Thank you for bringing this display to I.C. It is important to me to see this installation in a "HighArt" setting also because it shows that even uncouth displays/statements such as this are Art and that more traditional artists can value it as such. *Angela*
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Perfect example of truth!
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Nonsense. Not worthy of taking up space in an educational institution. No more $ ´til this is gone.
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Because provokatal art is not educational?
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Another College Art Gallery. Like many others, trying to strike some nerve! Bad nervs!
This show is not for children! (you should hide them from the truth)
What about children? Where can we force them to see Art. Not Fads! Art? Not Here For Sure!
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Also weary of the holocaust display I thought was temporary. This is not art either - just history! Also not for children - why should they be made afraid to come here? Sick
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Take them to the children´s museum, this is a university museum for college aged people who don´t want to look at William Wegman.
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Early Wegman maybe...
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This is good. Lots of maysayers should keep their mouths shut. 5/12/02
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Great work... hopefully it will help more people to open up their minds and see things from a different perspective instead of from their normally high class "highart" viewpoint!
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"NO!art is intentionally offensive" I admire this museum for having the guts to have a show like this. It challenges those who see art as existing merely to be something pretty to look at. And encourages us to use art to make a unique and true statement about the world in which we live. It is also helping to open the clouds for those who choose to use art as our voice in society, when we would normally be silenced.
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Remember what G.W.´s press see. Ari Fleischer said about Bill Maher´s statements on politically incorrect.
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I think when viewing this show, it is important to remember that these images were made in the 50s. While they may have seemed shocking at the time, today they look plain sexist. Boris Lurie can say that his images are anti-war, anti-art establishment, etc., but to me, he should´ve been more aware of his violence against women. Cutting up naked female pictures is a violent act. Right on!!
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Not timeless... But that´s the point.
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Thank you for having the courage to display this work. I live in Cincinnati, and sadly, we will never see the likes of this exhibit there (especially after the Mapplethorpe fiasco in 1990).
I hope that some of the viewers who are enclined to dismess this art as garbage will come to see that NO!art isn´t intended to shock simply for farely shock value. Rather, it aims to strip away the fa(ade of aesthetic sensibility that hoodwinks us into self-deception about our capacity for violence and destruction. It´s easy to cushion ourselves with beauty and assume that all violence stems from the other (the 9/11 terrorists or whatnot ). It´s much harder to own up to the violence within ourselves and within our own sonetal values (such as, for instance, consumerism). To expose these bad-faith cushions for what they are, as the NO! artist did, isn´t just a political act-it´s an aesthetic one as well, because it shows us that our aesthetic choices have ethical ramefications.
Felicia E. Kruse, Cincinnati, Ohio
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READ THIS
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Great stuff, but perhaps the biggest irony is that these images are not really allthat shocking anymore.
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We´ve all seen many of these pictures, scenes, juxtapositions, etc. before. The shock value wears off quickly-or perhaps my eye is too quick to see what´s here and think, "Oh yeah, I´ve seen something like this before." I hope people stilldo get upset at seeing this exhibit. It´s my view, however, that unfortunately these days we´re all too information-overloaded to be shocked or disgusted... certainly not enough to actually do anything that challenges the status quo. Here´s hoping that this wakes someone up, even if only for the time it takes to walk out to the parking lot...
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Thanks for bringing this show in-I appreciate pretty a chance to see it here in I.C.
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William Wegman is my hero! He sucks! ... and his dog too.
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I think this guys a Nazi
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Thank you! Please continue to show political, thought-provoking, empressing work. Most enjoy ...
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This show displays exactly the artists intelligence.
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It´s good that this kind of art strikes nerves in people, then why else would it be here? It otherwise may have a weaker statement if they were "cencored". Very intriging. I love looking at things that make me think -Julie N.
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Word. 8 No Art is Shit
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This is what punk kids from Omaha used to do when making flyers for art shows and rock shows in downtown warehouses in the late 80´s and early 90´s. That's how I know it´s true and good. And it´s fantastic to see predecessors with the same thoughts. And we need this Now. Thank you.
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What a relief, support, sigh to have pornography put in its place. Thank you artists for putting the objectivication of women where it belongs, alongside war, genocide, mutiktions´violence. May we know peace! Ulam Irin, Annapolis, MD
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A wonderful show-everything I hoped it would be-some different pieces than the version at Nortwestern- 5/30/02
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I didn´t see the sign warning adults about taking their children into this exhibition until I came out. I would have at least been forewarned. This is evil personified, ugliness glorified and somenone´s brain-fried. What a hard cold heart this artist must have! I hate it and frankly, I rarely hate anything. It only serves to make the place who are warm ....question the premiere of ART even naked... Thank you for allowing me to have a voice. I love Wm. Wegman & his dogs. 5/31/02
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We want more animals dressed up in people clothes either that or put up the Hydrogen man permanately
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Wonderful S. Salant, June 10 02
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Amazing show! Free speech at it´s finest - aggressively beautiful and profound. Post 9-11, this show is evocation that blind faith is not a good thing and to question as you continue to believe in humanity potential - as well as its differences/defiances. DH 5/31
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WOW!!! Paul 6/23/02
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A show that angers, and makes one think all at the same time. Some may say it is violent, disgusting and Sexist, and that in the arts point. Its point being not just to anger you, but make you question why it makes you angry, by confronting the emotions the art provokes, are better understand ... and the society we live in.
-Andrew MacNaughton
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Simply some of the best "Arghhh!-RT" I´ve ever seen! What can I say?... Extremely disturbing art that doesn´t permit one to close off one´s self to the disturbing things humans do to themselves, love it!
-Neil van Gorder
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If they really wanted to be more shocking, they probably should have used more pictures of small children being brutally raped. I hear you can find that pretty easily on the Internet. It was also great to see the number of little kids who could make it out for the show. I saw two 4 year olds who found "his coffin" quite amusing. I bet they know how to find disturbing material - more disturbing than here, on the Internet.
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This was an incredible show! I was very interested in the pieces that had both concentration camp + nude pics. Also-the concentration camp pics with "be Adolf Hitler" à la Duchamp. My 1st visit to the museum + I will be back!
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Beautifully and intensely shocking. Does what art should do. Widen the mind and remind us of the times.
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One wonders what the real purpose of these "provocative" shows is - perhaps presenting art that doesn´t even pretend not to be pure shit and then sneering at those who point out this fact is an attempt to eliminate any taste in our society. Interesting how anything that someone dubs "art" automatically is elevated above the status where it´s value can be questioned.
Art can be shit - there can be incompetant artists just as there are incompetant people in any field. It was a mistake to free artists from the responsibility of finding someone to appreciate their work and simply handing out the tax dollars. What if we did the same with plumbers?
All of you people that are so determined to question society - yet you just dare anyone to question this art, lest they be branded ignorant... are we refusing to question things, or simply trying to give up the responsibility to judge and think?
Where´s the bestiality? Where´s the woman shitting in someone´s mouth? Not very shocking. An I was disappointed by the excessive focus on the holocaust. Why not look inward and show the bombing of Nagasaki? So much more could have been done.
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Lumumba (of Zaire) was murdered by CIA agent in Kinshasa, who has gone public.
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It´s got a good beat + I could dance to it. That´s what I like in any art show. I haven´t had this much fun since the holocaust museum!! And credit for using a Mr. Machine!
-Mr. Tango13
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Makes you question yourself?
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How very appropriate for the current times-does not surprise me - they were eliminated from Art History -too Truthful.

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Brendan Wolfe: IS THE UI TRYING TO CENSOR THIS WOMAN?
Museum of Art employee Estera Milman thinks so anyway,
which is why she’s decided to make a federal case out of it.

Published in: icon, Iowa City, May 4th, 2000

icon cover photo by Mike Breazeale, 2000Estera Milman says she's being censored. She says it's the University of Iowa that's doing the censoring, and in the name of academic freedom and intellectual independence, she's filed suit in federal court. She also says the UI lost out on a major, groundbreaking art exhibit because of it and may even have risked future federal funding.

That much of the story is easy, even sensational if you take the word of New York City avant-garde artist Martha Wilson. She sees a comparison as old as the Sistine Chapel in this question of whether "the donor has a right to say something about the content of an artist's work. It's like Michelangelo's situation with the pope," she says. "And Michelangelo made it clear for all of art history that he would not be controlled."

The rest of the story, however, is more complicated. Imagine if Michelangelo's masterpiece had gone unfinished because of personality conflicts, philosophical disagreements, bureaucratic turf battles, an internal grievance, acts of retaliation and finally a civil-rights case. Imagine all that and you get a glimpse of what seems to be going on.

Oh yeah, and in this case, Michelangelo's not really an artist.

"I'm a historian," the 52-year-old Milman explains to me from across her dining-room table. She speaks quickly, often in fully formed paragraphs. "My field is the history of contemporary art and politics, or, more specifically, art-based cultural interventions. It is not my artwork that is at stake. It would be wrong to suggest that it's the specific work, like the Brooklyn Sensation."

At the Brooklyn Museum of Art—a case that was really sensational—there was dung being flung and various sacrilegious images. At the UI Museum of Art, where Milman works, there was only a series of academic articles being written by Milman in conjunction with a grant from the federally funded National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Those articles were being edited by her immediate superior, museum director Stephen Prokopoff, who has since retired.

"We all need editing," Milman says between drags from her Camel Lights Wide. "It's part of the academic and publishing process. [Prokopoff] was not editing. He was censoring from my perspective. And we had these very long battles and it was really very nasty."

This is the million-dollar question

At this point—it was March 1998—Milman decided to file a grievance. "I thought this was what the university stood for—nobody can mess with your funded research," she says.

As it turns out, this is the million-dollar question: Where does the university's authority over such research end and Milman's begin?

First, though, a few complications. Prokopoff wasn't just acting as editor. In the role of a Departmental Executive Officer (DEO), he was administering Milman's grant. Actually, he was administering two of Milman's NEA grants. A third in her name was being administered through the University Libraries. (Milman, who describes herself as "an aggressive publisher," has earned more than $284,000 of research funding for the UI over the past 12 years.)

But what does it mean to administer a grant? "According to the University of Iowa Manual of Operations," Milman explains, "with externally funded research grants, the project director has fiscal, as well as programmatic, responsibility for all grants."

In other words, it is the DEO's job to make sure the project stays on budget and on mission, to keep the project within the guidelines of the contract with the NEA without—theoretically—intruding on anyone's intellectual authority.

A second complication: Milman is not a regular faculty member with the many rights and privileges thereof. Instead she is classified as a Program Associate. In 1979 she founded a UI program called Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts, a bridge between the museum, university libraries and various other academic units. In her capacity as director of that program, she has served as an adjunct professor, overseen graduate research (the first adjunct in the history of the UI to do so, she says) and, of course, applied for and received federal grant money.

So before filing her grievance, Milman says she approached the university's Research Council, which is part of the UI Division of Sponsored Programs. The Research Council, she says, "confirmed there's no distinction by way of the rules between [staff like her] and faculty researchers on grants. That's the subtext of this whole thing," she says, "the Provost's office's attempt to distinguish among what they believe is first-class and second-class citizenship. The university has this whole hierarchy."

One could get bogged down in exactly these kinds of issues, and indeed it seems likely that lawyers for both sides are bogged down even as you read this, preparing for a preliminary hearing in Davenport May 11. What's important, though, is what happened next.

"And that's when the retaliation occurred."

"So then we sat down and had a conversation," Milman says, referring to herself and Prokopoff, "which is the first step in this whole [grievance] process, and that's when the retaliation occurred."

Prokopoff placed both of Milman's NEA grants being administered through the museum on what he called "hold." This included a grant intended to fund a major exhibit under her direction titled NO!art and the Aesthetics o f Doom, which was slated to be the premier event of Global Focus: Human Rights, the UI's year-long celebration of the ratification of the declaration of human rights.

According to a motion filed in the case by Milman's lawyer, "Defendant Prokopoff told Ms. Milman that the NO!art exhibition was cancelled because of her grievance." According to the same document, "Prokopoff stated that he had called the National Endowment for the Arts asking how Ms. Milman could be dismissed from her position as the principal investigator of the NEA grants." In addition, "During the 1998-99 fiscal year, in retaliation for filing the grievance, Ms. Milman was given only a token salary increase while everyone else in the Museum received a substantial raise."

"This seemed to me to be just flaky beyond belief," Milman says. "This was March. The show was scheduled to open in September."

Remarkably, Prokopoff admitted the retaliation in a July meeting, in front of UI Provost Jon Whitmore, Vice Provost W.J. Knight, Milman and assorted lawyers.

"He just all of a sudden said it and everyone seemed shocked," Milman remembers.

No doubt red-faced, the university was forced to admit to the retaliation as well. In a Sept. 22, 1998, letter to Milman's lawyer, Vice Provost Knight wrote: "We have no dispute on Ms. Milman's retaliation claim. The fact that Mr. Prokopoff stated that his postponement of the NO!art Exhibition was an act of retaliation against Ms. Milman because of her initiating the original grievance speaks for itself. Because such acts are explicitly prohibited in University policy, neither of us sees a need to conduct a hearing on this issue. Instead, all that remains is for us to work out the details of designing and implementing a remedy that will include the rescheduling of the NO!art show in a reasonably expedient fashion."

As you might imagine, this never happened.

Instead, what has ensued over the last year-plus has included a series of bureaucratic delays, a fight over travel reimbursement, a fight over whether the university was reneging on its commitment to provide matching funds for the grants and a letter from UI Associate Counsel Marcus Mills stating "that the Museum Director is the ultimate decisionmaker, including decisions on editorial control over any text published or displayed, space and presentation, and budgeting."

Back to that million-dollar question.

The UI would only be willing to work with Milman in staging her exhibit if she granted full editorial control to Prokopoff, something Milman flatly refuses to do. This, she says, is when she decided to sue.

"The university is saying they own me, they own my thinking, they own my intellectual production," she says. "That's First Amendment to the Nth power. `Editorial control' is what they're saying [is at issue], and that to me is the same as being in a totalitarian state."

No comments to spare

Prokopoff, when reached at home, said, "The case is before the courts at this point. That's all I can say right now." However, he did go on record in a sworn statement filed as part of the case: "Ms. Milman's direct challenge to my authority to perform the functions of my positions as director created disharmony and disrupted normal working relationships in the museum."

Associate Counsel Mills refused comment. When contacted by phone, employees of the UI Museum of Art also refused comment, saying they were instructed not to talk about the case.

In fact, the only UI employee willing to discuss the case, even indirectly, was Brian Harvey, assistant vice president in charge of the Division of Sponsored Programs. He is the one who oversees the external funding administered through the university. He confirms the role played by Departmental Executive Officers, such as Prokopoff. They handle the purse strings—or, as Harvey puts it, "the proper expenditure of funds ...according to general university policies."

He seems to contradict what Prokopoff described as Milman's "direct challenge" to his authority. When asked if it was customary for a DEO to assume editorial control as part of those responsibilities, Harvey responds simply, "No."

"It's about biting the hand that feeds you."

Martha Wilson is what they call a "big deal" in the New York art world. Founding Director of the Franklin Furnace, an avant-garde art space and library, she is the recipient of an award from the Rockefeller and Andy Warhol Foundations honoring her Commitment for the Principle of Freedom of Expression. This is partly because she opened up the Furnace to folks like Robert Wilson, who, in 1977, repeated the word "there" 144 times next to a chair on stage. Or Karen Finley, who, in 1983, took a bath in a suitcase and made love to a chair aided by Wesson oil.

In a move that was not at all unrelated, the New York City Fire Department then shut down the space, classifying it as an "illegal social club."

All this helped spark the Culture Wars of the '90s, which saw heated battles between an increasingly conservative Congress and an NEA inclined to fund cuttingedge art. It comes as no surprise, then, that Wilson—who says she's still fighting the Culture Wars—understands the Estera Milman case in this context.

"It's about biting the hand that feeds you," she tells me over the phone from New York. "The university feels like it's a conduit for your money and it can control what you say and Estera is basically saying no."

For his part, Dan Siedel wants us to think in more specific terms. Curator and interim director of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Siedel received his Ph.D. in Modern Art History from the UI in 1995. He points out that what's important here is that Milman was working out of a museum and not an academic department, where mechanisms like tenure are in place to protect academic freedom.

"It hasn't been worked out sufficiently so that museum staff enjoy as much freedom as their academic colleagues," he explains. "Part of this has to do with the museum itself, which serves a broader audience and set of interests. Does a university museum have the right to impose an institutional value on what is deemed important or unimportant research? Does the university allow for different voices among its staff? Or does the university museum director have the pressure to impose a single, monolithic voice? These issues have not come to the surface before now."

Which may be a roundabout way of saying that all of this doesn't quite add up to censorship. That's how F. John Herbert, another UI grad and co-director of Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids, sees it anyway. "In some ways this doesn't seem like censorship," he says, offering the caveat that he is only marginally familiar with the details of the case. "It just seems like bad management."

After all, remember that there are a couple of different issues being debated here: the original editing of Milman's articles and the suspension of her NEA grants in retaliation for the subsequent grievance.

"I wouldn't call it retaliation necessarily," Herbert says. "I would just say, `We don't really have a working relationship here.' My response as an employer in that situation wouldn't be, `Now, let's get working on these other grants together."'

"The NEA loses money and they don't like that."

Siedel and Herbert's points of view seem to make sense. Except that Milman says she confirmed with the Research Council, even before filing her grievance, that in terms of her funding, there was no distinction between her and other faculty. Tenure shouldn't matter. Her working in the museum shouldn't matter. Again: "That's the subtext of this whole thing," she says, "the Provost's office's attempt to distinguish among what they believe is first-class and second-class citizenship."

It also seems to make sense that if Prokopoff and Milman were not clear on who had what authority, then grants ought to be set aside until that could be clarified. Except that the university admitted that what Prokopoff had done was "explicitly prohibited in University policy." Or was it that what he had done was not in itself inappropriate but came to be defined, through his own words, as "retaliation"?

However this is resolved, it will likely be too late to salvage Milman's exhibit, NO!art and the Aesthetics of Doom. The $14,000 remaining of the original NEA grant will revert back to the federal government (and not the NEA) if unspent at the end of June. It's a prospect Milman says the university should take more seriously.

"The university is putting at risk future NEA and possible NEH [National Endowment for the Humanities] funding for other UI scholars," she says. "The NEA loses money [if this exhibit doesn't happen] and they don't like that."

Siedel puts a fine point on things. "It's obvious to me that [Milman] didn't write her grant without the support and permission of museum staff. That's not a problem. But when you implement that funding, that becomes more problematic."

You can say that again.

About Brendan Wolfe: She is a writer & editor (Kirkus, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, Colorado Review, et al.) who has edited two alternative weekly newspapers, worked on the copy desk of a daily newspaper, and taught. He is working on a book. Readers who have been moved to respond in print to his journalism have attested the following: He is maniacally vacillating, politically correct, disingenuous, puerile, self-righteous, foppish, talentless, irksome, unfunny, stupid, embarrassing, and pretentious. He is a purveyor of journalistic garbage. He is a scum-suckin’ creep. A single, bloated ego. He has horribly abdicated his moral responsibility to cultivate the conditions for free and intelligent debate. He is deserving of a raspberry. His writing is poorly written, poorly researched, annoying, mistaken, absurd, absolutely absurd, insulting, extremely insulting, tacky, unprofessional, distorted psychotic gibberish, inane, and intellectually and journalistically dishonest. His writing is also detrimental to the quality of life and public affairs in Iowa City. It misses the boat, lacks integrity and accuracy, is offensive, glib, banal, counterproductive, and off-base. It is marked by political grandstanding, quasi-highbrow grandstanding, and bloated egomania. He engages in naked exercises of power. He engages in questionable journalistic tactics. He engages in politically correct snobbery and incompetent research. In addition, he is known for his rhetorical sleights of hand, his gross generalizations, his non-talented bias, and his self-puffery. Also, his stereotyping and simplifying. His cut-and-paste editorial style, his intellectualizing, his self-congratulation, his jaundiced eye. His gigantic stretches into the voids of dumb. He engages in mental masturbation. He participates in intellectual circle jerks. When he's not glossing over, ignoring, or suppressing unpleasant facts, he is climbing into the God-spot. He has been accused of Brendanian, moralistic logic, as well as Brendanian artfulness: i.e., he rambles and misconstrues but doesn’t research. It has been implied that he is a Nazi, a homophobe, a sexist, and a racist. It has been said: “I can’t believe your editor is that big an idiot.” “Deliver us from such evil witch-hunting.” “Fie on Brendan’s conclusions.” “You insult my intelligence, Sir.” And his favorite: “Put down the Vaseline, button your fly, and pick up a pen.” Source: http://beiderbecke.typepad.com/about.html

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