First Year faculty Noah Fischer recently brought his students to the Whitney Museum to relate his work to the systems and strategies concepts that the students are studying in the course and to discuss the overall exhibition with curator Christopher Lew. Fischer is the initiating member of the art activist group Occupy Museums who created a project called Debtfair for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Debtfair is based around the question: how do debt and other economic realities affect the lives and art work of American artists?
For this iteration of the project, Occupy Museums gathered extensive data from over five hundred applicants nationwide. Selected works from thirty of these indebted artists were then literally embedded into a wall of the Whitney Museum and organized according to the type of debt that they owe including a focus on the Puerto Rican economic crisis, Navient Corporation, and JP Morgan Chase. The installation also includes a digital platform and a wall-sized graph that situates an art object’s precarious value between the fault lines of an increasing trade in debts on one hand and the ultraluxury asset market for contemporary art on the other. With Debtfair, Occupy Museums calls on artists and the art-viewing public to recognize that rising debts destabilize American art communities while delivering profits to elites, therefore necessitating resistance.