The Whitney Biennial / by Meg Saligman

The Whitney Biennial is a show that comes along once every two years and it sets the baseline for contemporary art discussion.  I went to the show last week.

In this age of artistic “practices” (I am getting tired of this buzz word), I believe this show is an accurate representation of the contemporary art world. I viewed a lot of people practicing talking about art to other artists. There were curators as artists and artists as curators. I saw live people recreating work of dead people. Now, if we could just get some dead people recreating the work of live people – that would be something. I almost barfed on far too wordy signage telling me how the work should make me feel – I hate that. Thank God I am rewarded with some gorgeous work on the fourth floor, and please no one apologize that it is visually seductive and stunning.

Amidst all of what I have come to expect in a contemporary show, I hear a soundtrack on a video of a man talking and I hear quite clearly, “Take the culture where you want it to go.”  This is said on a video by David Robbins. I would have referred to him as “the artist David Robbins” but he would refuse the title. He would far prefer to call himself an independent imagination. When I later looked him up, his writings further clarified what he woke inside of me, “The goal is to foreground freedom of action within history rather than within the record of history which is cultivated…The goal is to give oneself complete access to one’s own imagination.” Thank you Whitney Biennial for bringing me the clear words of David Robbins when I needed to hear them.

I know where my power lies. It is when I am making things with my hands along side other people. It is when I cross boundaries. It is when I create and share visual beauty. It is when I manipulate materials for the 10,000 time. I want to know the full power of my own imagination. My goal is complete access.