Institutional Critique

la salle blanche = the white room -> "the white cube"

What relationship do artists have with museums and galleries in the 1970s? Do artists feel well supported by such institutions? Who benefits from art's institutions? Who is not served by them at all?

Marcel Broodthaers, La Salle Blanche, 1975.











"From 1968 to 1972, [Broodthaers] operated the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art,
Department of Eagles), a traveling museum dedicated not to his work as an artist but to the role
of the institution itself and the function of art in society..."

Marcel Broodthaers, The Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles), 1972.










He expected a crowd commensurate with the size of the interest generated by the occupation of the museum. Thus, he scrounged crates for people to sit on, decorated his space with postcards of art, and as a conversation prompt stuck the words “Museum” on the door. Later a curator, doing what curators do, would invite him to restage this talk-space as an artwork for a show in Düsseldorf, a proposition that he first resisted on the grounds that the original action had been “against the established institution of the museum.” - Ben Davis, Artnet
Marcel Broodthaers, Museum, Museum, 1972.











The highly influential Situationist book The Society of the Spectacle argued that spectacular features like mass media and advertising have a central role in an advanced capitalist society, which is to show a fake reality in order to mask the real capitalist degradation of human life. To overthrow such a system, the group supported the May 1968 revolts in Paris, and asked the workers to occupy the factories and to run them with direct democracy, through workers' councils composed by instantly revocable delegates.

Sorbonne Graffitti

"Humanity won't be happy until the day the last bureaucrat is hung with the guts of the last capitalist."
Vandalism inside the Sobornne University, 1968











The “Situationist International” were heavily involved in the student/worker demonstrations and protests of 1968. The group rejected all art that separated itself from politics, and believed that the notion of artistic expression being separated from politics and current events “renders artwork that expresses comprehensive critiques of society impotent.” - Art Daily October 11, 2012


University of Lyon, 1968











  • We will ask nothing. We will demand nothing. We will take, occupy.
  • Expect anything. Fear nothing.
  • Run, comrade, the old world is behind you!
  • Those who make revolutions half way only dig their own graves.
  • Boredom is a pattern, not reality.
  • We don’t want a world where the guarantee of not dying of starvation brings the risk of dying of boredom.
  • In a society that has abolished every kind of adventure the only adventure that remains is to abolish the society.
  • Warning: ambitious careerists may now be disguised as “progressives.”
  • Stalinists, your children are with us!
  • A single nonrevolutionary weekend is infinitely more bloody than a month of total revolution.
  • Under the paving stones, the beach.
  • Live without dead time.
  • Be realistic, demand the impossible.
  • If God existed it would be necessary to abolish him.
  • Fall in love, not in line!
Situationist Graffitti in Paris, May 1968.











Malcolm Browne, Thích Quiang Duc's self-immolation, 1963
Draft card burning, 1969











Lunch counter sit-in, 1961
I Am A Man March, 1965.











"Long Hot Summer of 1967" 159 events of civil unrest across the United States
Civil unrest in Watts, August, 1965.
Newark Rebellion, 1967.
Six days of unrest, 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $40 million in property damage
In Detroit, five days of unrest, 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed











Columbia Student Protest, 1968.

More on the Columbia University Action










1968 and Anti Form
  • North Korea captures US spy ship and takes crew hostage
  • North Vietnam launches Tet offensive eventually leading to U.S. withdrawal
  • Czechoslovakia invaded by Russia
  • Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinated
  • Marcel Duchamp dies
  • Olympic medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists during the National Anthem to protest racism
  • German students protest capitalism and the exploitation of the common man
  • French student and worker strikes nearly bring down the government
  • Students at Columbia, NYU, Kent State and other universities protest wars in Vietnam & Cambodia, the draft, and institutionalized racism
  • Pope condemns birth control
  • Star Trek airs first interracial kiss on U.S. television
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • First manned spacecraft orbits the moon. Apollo 11 will land on the moon the following year.
  • Worst oil spill yet off the coast of Santa Barbara leads to the establishment of the EPA and largest oil reserve in North America discovered in Alaska
Tommie Smith (gold medal) and John Carlos (bronze medal) protest at 1968 Olympics in Mexico City











Guy Debord's aim and proposal, was "to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images," "through radical action in the form of the construction of situations," "situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, and art." In the Situationist view, situations are actively created moments characterized by "a sense of self-consciousness of existence within a particular environment or ambience."

Christo, Wrapped sculpture in the garden of the Villa Borghese, Rome
Barry Le Va, On Edge, Shatter, Scatter, 1968.











Yellow Jacket demonstration December, 2018


Macron = remove

government = resign

system = abolition











"At this moment, we do not come to work for the university, but to demand that the university work for our people." - The Plan of Santa Barbara

East L.A. Brown Out, March 1, 1968.











"Chicano meant looking at oneself through one’s ‘own’ eyes and not through Anglo bifocals."- Ruben Salazar

Frank Romero, The Arrest of the Paleteros, 1996.











Judy Baca, The Great Wall of Los Angeles, 1974 - present.
Farewell to Rosie the Riveter

located on Coldwater Canyon Ave between Oxnard St. & Burbank Blvd. and the eastern edge
of the Valley College campus in San Fernando Valley, alongside the Tujunga Wash

Driving directions and guide





















Post-Structuralism = philosophical approach based on the idea that words and photographs are unstable and cannot be trusted, and that everything is a momentary construction with no ultimate meaning or truth.
Edward Ruscha, The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1968.










Asco, Spray Paint LACMA, 1972.
Asco, First Supper (After a Major Riot), 1974. Pictured: Patssi Valdez, Humberto Sandoval, Willie Herron III and Gronk.










Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970.











Entropy = 1) a measure of the amount of energy in a physical system that cannot be used to do work; a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system. 2) lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
ice water
Related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics = the idea that energy dissipates toward a disintegrated homogeneity of matter. Entropy negates the concept of progress on the scale of geological time.
a classic example of entropy described in 1862 by Rudolf Clausius as an increase in the disgregation of the molecules of the body of ice.











Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty made pink by algae in the Great Salt Lake, 2011.




















Double Negative

Double Negative

Michael Heizer, Double Negative, 1968 - 1970.
Center for Land Use Interpretation, Michael Heizer, Double Negative present day