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Art Is a Necessary Element of Every Revolution

Dahr Jamail

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July 30, 2014

Erin Currier's simple art studio, located within an unassuming adobe compound in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is not what one would expect for the first artist (and US citizen) to have had a solo show at the Embassy Republica Bolivaria de Venezuela in Washington, DC. Nor would one guess that her work was included in the collections of the likes of the late President Hugo Chavez, Lisa Bonet, John and Joan Cusack, Julia Roberts and Carlos Santana.

Currier's eyes, that are simultaneously exploring and absorbing, are fitting for someone as knowledgeable and confident, yet humble, as she is. Her work, which is also an important part of her political activism, is obviously well known in the art sphere by major collectors, as well as major political figures and activists intent on changing the current global paradigm of repression and exploitation.

As the philosopher Slavoj Zizek succinctly puts it: "Who needs direct repression when one can convince the chicken to walk freely into the slaughterhouse?"

The work of Erin Currier is designed as a tribute to the underprivileged and disenfranchised of the world - those left on the lower end of the exponential gap between the haves and have-nots, those fighting against the rapaciousness of modern-day neoliberalism.

From Angela Davis to Howard Zinn to Wangari Maathai to waiters and workers and bathroom cleaners, Currier extols those who are both impacted by, and standing up against, the machine. She and her partner, writer, poet, artist and intellectual Anthony Hassett, make annual pilgrimages to slums, ghettos and barrios all over the world, where she collects garbage scraps, shreds of paper and consumer waste while meeting people who will find their way onto her canvases in Santa Fe. Currier sends her gatherings back to her studio where she eventually transforms them into portraits of the dispossessed. For her, the medium is the message: her subjects, like the scraps she uses, have been discarded by the system, and Currier's decision to stop, bend over, pick up and transform these scraps, to celebrate the dispossessed, is her own kind of resistance. Currier then works to "resell the trash in the form of fine art for funds with which to travel again," thereby creating her "reversed Robin Hood form of recycling.