You Can't Bury Me, I'm Already Underground
The Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle, NY, NY 10019
May 11 - July 2, 2017

Organized by Danny Orendorff, Manager of Public and Community Engagement Programs
Photos by Jacob Scheurger

 

 

You Can't Bury Me, I'm Already Underground
RESPONSE: Melanie Bernier

In 2012, the City of Boston issued a prohibitive nuisance ordinance that effectively closed a number of music, art, and performance "show houses" in the Allston neighborhood, havens for diverse young artists exploring their creative, personal, and political identities within collectively organized community spaces located outside of mainstream culture. To memorialize the closure of these vulnerable independent venues, Melanie Bernier began creating a series of hand-sewn flags from secondhand denim and leather clothes. Each flag in the series, entitled Thank You For Your Service (2012-2016), features the name of a shuttered venue and the street upon which it was located. 

Saddled with pricey fees, eviction, fabricated anonymous complaints, and other legal actions, fiercely independent venues like those to which Bernier pays tribute have been shut down or forced into increasingly precarious or unsafe circumstances across the nation in recent years. The situation is epitomized by the catastrophic 2016 fire at the Oakland, California warehouse known as Ghost Ship that claimed the lives of thirty-six people. 

That tragedy, and the subsequent targeted closures of many more spaces nationwide, makes clear the urgency for DIY communities to practice greater vigilance, protection, and care for their spaces and inhabitants. To that end, shown alongside Bernier's flags are video and audio excerpts from her current performance projects (the band Boston Cream and collaborative alternative-fitness program Punk Rock Aerobics), aligning Bernier's craft with other practices attending to mind, body, and an ever-resistant and independent spirit. 

- Danny Orendorff