Up Against the Museum Walls, Motheryogi!

Creative Commons License photo credit: t_a_i_s 

“Occupy Wall Street Movement Declares War on NYC Museums as “Temples of Cultural Elitism”

This recent headline and article from one of my favorite sources, Artinfo News, brings to mind a phrase of outrage from the protest movements of the 1960s (and one that puns well with the architecture of said museums):

Up against the wall, M*****F*****!

To wit, one of the points of the sub-group Occupy Museums! ”is a protest call to fight the “intense commercialization and co-optation of art” that has occurred in recent years.” The fact is, unless you are a blue-chip artist, the chances of your art being on the wall of a major museum are as slim as a Hard Tail model  in a (major) yoga magazine, and the vast majority of arts funding is going to institutions with budgets in excess of $5 million. Once again, my eyes cross into shambhavi mudra over how closely these words about art reflect the yoga world, “intense commercialization” absolutely included.

“We’ve got the vast majority of resources going to a very small number of institutions,” said Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. “That’s not healthy for the arts in America.” Continues Dorfman:

“Most of your museums, symphonies, opera houses — large established cultural institutions that are promoting the European cannon,” he says. “The audiences for those institutions continue to be predominantly upper income and white. So what it means is that this funding is not really benefiting everyone in our society.”

Even when lesser known artists are granted exhibition space, the proverbial “white cube” of walls that constitute the typical museum gallery present a paradox. If one artist is moved to the top of the fund chain, does this suggest acceptance of “the system?” Is it…prostitution?

And what about we innocent, head-by-standing yogis? We’re bringing yoga to the streets. We’re occupying our respective cities and bergs in support of the 1% (or whatever the correct percentage may be). For the most part, we are that tinier percent. As YM has been (thank all forms of goodness) ratifying, it is the yogi’s responsibility to practice for justice. As a population that goes into its own way to shed the barriers to consciousness, it is our duty to offer a “place of reflection, a place to find solace and to go inside.”

Creative Commons License photo credit: Average Jane

(Sound of screeching brakes.) This journalist is busting herself for taking a quote out of context, the little one above, about reflection and solace. Here’s the full quote:

“The art museum is a place of reflection, a place to find solace and to go inside as you look at the beauty around you. What better place to pair these two art forms [yoga and art]: going inside to see the beautify within and coming into the space to see the beauty around you?” Regina Carswell Russo, Cincinnati Art Museum

Russo is referring to the Cincinnati Art Museum’s joining the trend of yoga in museums. What a brilliant notion! Yoga in creative spaces; cross-cultural history lessons in magical settings; moving your body into positions inspired by the surrounding sculpture. I had been loving this idea, it seems like such a win-win. Until I read the blessed news, and as Contributing Arts Editor am reminded of the equation of the art market with capital.

Are there political implications of practicing yoga in the rarified “temples of cultural elitism?” Can I in all good yogic conscious go into handstand up against the museum wall, the very walls that might deny the display of your average artist’s work?

What do you think? Does it strike you as it contradictory to practice yoga in museums one day and then go out to protest Wall Street the next?

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- who has written 41 posts on Yoga Modern.

Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

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