New York City, NY
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, a contemporary artist, musician, and celebrated fixture of Boston’s punk, feminist, and do-it-yourself (DIY) communities, 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, evictions, 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.
A new exhibition series presented in MAD’s sixth-floor Project Space, RESPONSE is committed to exploring the many strategies through which artists, craftspeople, and designers address pressing social and political issues within their artwork and related activism. Simultaneously, RESPONSE extrapolates upon themes and techniques found within exhibitions featured on MAD’s main gallery floors—in this instance, Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture - by emphasizing contemporary creative practices that are increasingly interdisciplinary and socially engaged. The series considers the potential of art, craft, and design to inspire critical meditations and interventions upon the world around us.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.