To organize or not to organize (an art festival), that is the question
Ask Artblog Advisor, Beth Heinly, responds to a question about her own art practice of organizing the Open Call Guerrilla Outdoor Performnce Festival (OCGOPF). Beth explains what the festival is for those who haven't heard of it and suggests that, in the spirit of Philadelphia's community arts scene, anybody can organize the next OCGOPF, and suggests a few (very few) rules to follow. Have a question about the Art Life for Ask Artblog? Email ask@theartblog.org. Or submit a Google form with your question. There's a link to the Google form at the bottom of the post below. All names kept anonymous.

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Tara White for OCGOPF, Wissahickon Valley Park, 2014
Tara White for OCGOPF, Wissahickon Valley Park, 2014

Anonymous asks…

“Are there plans for another ocgopf?”

Dear Anon,

Ok sincerely, this question has been sitting in the inbox for quite a while because I feel weird answering questions that are literally about my art. Don’t get me wrong, I’m into it – but how can answering this question apply to other artists out there across many disciplines. What knowledge or philosophical pondering can we glean from discussing my own personal art projects? I’m actually trying to figure that out, hence this opening paragraph.

First off, if you read THEartblog you should know what OCGOPF is – Matt Kalasky wrote a wonderful snippet about it here. By my endorsement you can guess what Matt wrote was spot on. OCGOPF is a performance festival I have organized since 2014 that borders on chaos, challenges authority, is out to please no one (except the artist in us) and is slightly illegal – mostly we just break rules – sometimes unknowingly. Festival performances can happen anywhere that is considered a public space – of which I have learned there is very little. Really OCGOPF says it all in its name, an initialism that stands for Open Call Guerrilla Outdoor Performance Festival. Most public spaces have at least one level of authoritarian rule. Rittenhouse Square, site of some of the most recent performances, for instance, has five. Five! (Philadelphia Police, Friends of Rittenhouse Square, Fairmount Park Rangers, Center City District Security, Rittenhouse Landscapers) And at the end of day they love us (we were hugging goodbye with the security staff at Rittenhouse Square by the end of the week). People truly do love art. Except the Barnes Foundation. They threatened to arrest us when we performed outside their space on public land, the sidewalk – ironically during the opening of their “Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flanerie”. Oh I have video.


Guerrilla Performance outside the Barnes Foundation, Jerry Kaba & Beth Heinly, 2017

It’s ok. Honestly, because it begs the most glorious point of OCGOPF, and that is it’s anti-institutional. OCGOPF does not ask permission – it pushes boundaries. OCGOPF does not receive grants – it’s free…from obligation. OCGOPF is not curated – it’s open to anyone. I do push the proposal process because the first part of taking an artistic idea seriously is writing it down. So, do that.

Beth Heinly for OCGOPF, Wissahickon Valley Park, 2014
Beth Heinly for OCGOPF, Wissahickon Valley Park, 2014

Why did I put together these festivals? Well, I want to perform outside, for the people – art crowds are so passé. Essentially, I could do it alone and actually after organizing four past OCGOPF’s – I want to be alone – but it’s more of a spectacle when there are several of us simultaneously performing in one area. And OCGOPF is supposed to be a spectacle. It’s not easy locating and kicking out several different performances happening at once.

Today more than ever, I believe that artists need to begin to reject the art institution and we need to cultivate the larger audience. I say “begin” like artists have never done this – that is not true. I merely forget all their names. But I use the word “begin” as a call to action.

Jaleesa Johnson performance entitled "Physical Law" for OCGOPF, South Block Park, Portland, OR, 2017
Jaleesa Johnson performance entitled “Physical Law” for OCGOPF, South Block Park, Portland, OR, 2017

The philosophical underpinnings of OCOGPF are economic – stay tuned for an upcoming article on this issue, and consider the following two paragraphs a primer because the author cannot wait.

The economic problem is the majority of art institutions, museums, galleries, etc are supported through wealthy people. Wait what? Hear me out. There is no wealth that comes from a completely pure place – it’s a white place. A place which mirrors the art world. Look, neoliberalism sucks. To grasp more where wealth comes from within an Art Museum Board – read about the recent Whitney Museum protests appropriately named “Decolonize this Place” which I am all for btw, but really the whole board has to go! I hope at least museum boardees across the country are all quivering in their sleep after seeing people protesting Warren B Tear Gassing Honduran Refugees Kanders. Protesting at the museum is a wonderful start and I applaud the artists and art lovers from “Decolonize this Place”. Artists complaining Ivanka Trump owns their artwork? Not so much.

Laura Bernstein for OCGOPF, Philadelphia Underground Pedestrian Concourse, 2015. Photo Credit: Joseph Hu
Laura Bernstein for OCGOPF, Philadelphia Underground Pedestrian Concourse, 2015. Photo Credit: Joseph Hu

Climate change for one is a major issue today and I’m not sure Olafur Eliasson’s Ice Watch – a cultivation of 200,000-something year old icebergs from Greenland melting outside the Tate in the shape of a you guessed it a watch – as performance about climate change is worth the price for a work of art about the issue. Olafur, it’s not the carbon footprint of your climate change art that bothers me – it’s the corporate sponsorship you receive to produce the work. Essentially, climate change is a problem because of corporate greed. Make art about that. Problem being – I doubt they will fund your project. On the lowbrow part of the spectrum we have Banksy shredding a work of art at an auction house. Do we really need to dissect this? Melting icebergs sponsored by Bloomberg = Shredding art at auction sponsored by Sotheby’s. They both fall flat. (Ok the icebergs do look cool honestly & it’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, er, tax write off LLC, but still) Artists, do not engage!

Yvonne Lung, DISH for OCGOPF, Rittenhouse Square, 2016. Photo Credit: Jenny Drumgoole
Yvonne Lung, DISH for OCGOPF, Rittenhouse Square, 2016. Photo Credit: Jenny Drumgoole

So to answer your question Anon with another question, do you want there to be another OCGOPF? I’ve laid the groundwork. OCGOPF is not Beth Heinly’s art. It’s an open call for guerilla performance art. I want to officially announce – anyone can continue this project. Though I recognize it’s easier for a white lady to go out on the streets and scream – it’s not her time now – and I hope less straight white people take the lead. I’ll totally scream with you if you want. Cops love me! Also no violence – aside from screaming of course. That’s the one rule of OCGOPF. To quote from Janeane Garofalo from a recent stand up I saw her perform “be a good citizen” and I’ll add “within reason”. I also always included “no littering” as a rule too – we’re performance artists not street artists. If you have documentation from your OCGOPF performance and want to be added to the website, drop me line. I’m easy to find on the internet. As far as me organizing one? Maaaaaybe? I’m pretty burnt out at the moment and organizing a group of artists is far from something that I want to do.

Sincerely,
Beth More Art Less Corporate Funding OCGOPF Forever


Glossary

OCGOPF Open Call Guerrilla Outdoor Performance Festival


Ask Artblog is the essential advice column for all your art life questions. Beth Heinly and Dave Kyu, our Advisors-In-Chief, offer solid advice from life experience and mature opinions on issues. Have a question for Dave or Beth? Email ask@theartblog.org. Or click here to submit a Google form with your questions. All names kept anonymous.

Tags

beth heinly, Jaleesa Johnson, jerry kaba, Laura Bernstein, OCGOPF, Open call Guerrilla Outdoor Performance Festival, Tara White, yvonne lung

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