Like a fat mouth flanked with expanding cheeks chewing too much bubble gum and blowing bigger, still bigger bubbles, then inevitably – POP!! – cover the earth in a mess of gooey pink bubble gum.
But for that exploded moment after a collapse, what seemed previously impossible is suddenly possible. Remarkable things grow in the rifts and fissures of our lost confidence in the stability of established reality. The X Initiative Yearbook is a chronicle of what was by all accounts a magical temporary gathering of efforts between artists, curators, thinkers and patrons. The project spanned one year, beginning in March 2009, in the building that once housed Chelsea’s Dia Center for the Arts.
The economic downturn of 2008 left several of Chelsea’s commercial art galleries vacant. The former Dia, or 548 W. 22nd Street, in the center of this exodus, was offered as a site for a short-term non-profit arts initiative. Elizabeth Dee invited then-gallerist Cecilia Alemani to be its creative director. In Alemani’s introduction she writes, “X Initiative functioned as a rupture, a pause in a landscape fueled by money. It was like the ‘piazza’ that Chelsea never had: a place where artists, art lovers and professionals could come together… We wanted to be underground but to maintain a certain institutional voice, to be poor but not scruffy, to be D.I.Y. but with a certain elegance.”
The Yearbook is a document of the activities of the X Initiative’s major projects, performances and symposiums, group and solo exhibitions, all concluding with an inclusive, open call. The Yearbook resonates with the immense generosity of the project. Contributions from a varied and striking cast, make up a conversation that is relevant today. One such passage is the transcription of Town Hall Meeting/Panel – with Lindsay Pollock, Jeffery Deitch, Brett Littman, Michael Rush and Anya Kielar discussing the effects of the financial crisis on museums, focusing on the proposed deaccession of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis. Town Hall Meeting/Panel reveals a remarkable idealism as its participants grapple with ideas about new participation between commercial and non-commercial sectors of the art world.
As we begin to see the pink beginnings of a new bubble in 2014, with an onslaught of bright-eyed arrivals to our my beloved smog city of Los Angeles and a wave of emerging artist run and non-profit spaces—a central and driving concern for our fast growing contemporary art community echoes similar questions raised by X Initiative. This is to say, how can Los Angeles be more than a global commercial art capital? What are new platforms where we can reconsider the relationships between art markets based on speculative investments and art communities in interesting ways? And most importantly, what happens when we privilege art practices over art objects and strive to create sustainable art markets that support holistic art practices?
Cecilia Alemani, Ed., X Initiative Yearbook, (Mousse, 2011)
Images: Cover and interior of X Initiative Yearbook