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Announcement
September 24, 2015

Panel discussion: An evening with Gulf Labor

Vera List Center for Art and Politics

G.U.L.F. Mayday occupation of the Guggenheim, New York City. Photo: Gulf Labor.

In 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report detailing alarming labor conditions and human rights violations on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, where a new Guggenheim Museum was to be built, as one of several international cultural institutions. In response, several dozen artists, curators and cultural producers launched the Gulf Labor Artist Coalition with the intention of protecting the rights of the migrant workers during the construction of museums on Saadiyat Island. Among various initiatives, public programs, and exhibitions—including participation in this year’s Venice Biennale, the artist platform 52 Weeks, and research trips to the Emirates, as well as to workers’ home countries—Gulf Labor’s protest has most recently taken the form of a publication, The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor.

This event features reports by Gulf Labor members Nitasha Dhillon, Mariam Ghani, Amin Husain, Andrew Ross and Gregory Sholette, and focuses on the repercussions in the art world of oppressive labor policies in art institutions. On the occasion of the release of their book The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, they expand on their most recent research and its implications for the work of artists and cultural producers everywhere.

Reporters
Andrew Ross is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, and a social activist. A contributor to The Nation, the Guardian, New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Artforum, he is the author of many books, including Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal, and the editor (for Gulf Labor) of The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor (OR Books, 2015).

Mariam Ghani is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn. Her work has been exhibited internationally and her writing has been published online by Creative Time Reports, Foreign Policy, Ibraaz, the New York Review of Books, and Triple Canopy, and in print by Manifesta Journal, Pavilion, the Radical History Review, and the Sarai Reader. She teaches at Queens College and is part of the Gulf Labor Working Group.

Nitasha Dhillon and Amin Husain are MTL, a collaboration that joins research, aesthetics, and activism in its practice. Dhillon (b. 1985, India) and Husain (b. 1975, Palestine/USA) attended the Whitney Independent Study Program and the School of the International Center of Photography (both in New York). They were deeply involved in Occupy Wall Street and continue to edit and publish Tidal—Occupy Theory, a strategic platform that weaves together the voices of on-the-ground organizers with those of theorists to explore the possibilities created by the rupture of Occupy and its aftermath. Most recently, they helped found the Global Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.).

Gregory Sholette is a New York-based artist, writer, and cultural activist whose recent art projects include Our Barricades at Station Independent Gallery and Imaginary Archive at the ICA, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Las Kurbas Center, Kyiv, Ukraine. His recent publications include It’s the Political Economy, Stupid, co-edited with Oliver Ressler (Pluto Press, 2013), and Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (Pluto Press, 2011). He was a founding member of the artists’ collectives Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D: 1980–88) and REPOhistory (1989–2000). He teaches at Queens College, CUNY and Home Work Space Beirut, Lebanon.

This event is sponsored by OR Books and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, one of the original organizers of WBYA—Who Builds Your Architecture? See here for further documentation. Nitasha Dhillon is the recipient of a Vera List Center research stipend.

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