wait- who doesn’t understand?

Soooo, I just received this pretty interesting call for submissions yesterday.

I’ve got some concerns about it, but I think it could be pretty great, too.
First, the call. At the bottom, my thoughts on it.
Teen Age: You Just Don’t Understand
Curated by Ken Goldberg

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS BY 15 MARCH 2010
An art exhibition at the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco during ZER01′s 2010 01SJ Biennial Art Exhibit and Festival in Fall 2010.  Seeking proposals for works of art by collaborative teams that include at least one person under 18 and one person over 21.

“Here we are now, entertain us.”  – Nirvana

“High school’s full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses.” -J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Teenagers push the boundaries of accepted behavior in every era.  They thrive despite raging hormones, clueless parents, ridiculous authority figures, and the dawning recognition that the entire status quo is absurd. They will define the future of new media.
Teen Age: You Just Don’t Understand is the working title for an exhibition that aims to illuminate and challenge the shifting roles of new media in contemporary life, from Facebook to Flickr to texting to Twitter. We seek to encourage collaboration between teens and more experienced artists.  Submitted artwork can address any contemporary issues at the intersection of art, technology, and culture and can be in any format or medium (electronic, painting, photography, sculpture, etc.)  but must be submitted by collaborative teams that includes at least one person under 18 and one person over 21.
Accepted works will be exhibited at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco to coincide with the 2010 01SJ Biennial: “Build Your Own World”: http://zero1.org/01sj/2010-biennial
Submissions are due 15 March 2010
Submission Guidelines:
Submit the URL of a website that briefly describes your proposal listing these 6 aspects: 1) Title, 2) Concept Description (up to 500 words), 3) Images (up to four), 4) Bios of team members (up to 200 words each), 5) Format and Technical Requirements:  list hardware and software needed to present your work, spatial and sound requirements, what equipment you will provide, and what you will need from the gallery, and 6) Contact information. Sorry, no attachments or other format accepted. Please email the URL to Catharine Clark Gallery info@cclarkgallery.com with the subject line “Teen Age ExhibitionProposal.”
Works must be completed and delivered to Catharine Clark Gallery by July. More specific information about opening date to be announced at a later date.
For questions about submissions, contact Catharine Clark Gallery at (415) 399-1439 or email info@cclarkgallery.com

OK. So, first: I’m really, genuinely excited that a space as well-regarded as Catharine Clark is willing to host an exhibition that involves teenagers, and especially one that necessitates collaboration, at that! Seeing as teens are a rapidly dwindling part of the San Francisco population, it’s nice to see a different kind of art space (other than the ones who’ve had excellent youth programs forever, like SoEx) put some focus on them. I like the new media aspect of this, too.

Here are my sticking points: I really dislike the assumptions implicit in a sweeping statement like “Teenagers push the boundaries of accepted behavior in every era.  They thrive despite raging hormones, clueless parents, ridiculous authority figures, and the dawning recognition that the entire status quo is absurd. They will define the future of new media.” It does a disservice to teens, and presumes much about their lives, and their access to technology (beyond their presumed at-a-minimum iPods, cell phones, and social media). I’ve worked with kids who were too poor to have a cellphone, and too humiliated to admit it. Choosing profoundly dated quotes by your go-to white male American anti-heroes doesn’t really widen the pool of suggestion much, either. I fear that this is a set-up for an equally narrow subset of applicants, too: the Venn Diagram showing where fine art, new media, gender, collaborative projects, and youth intersect tends to be a profoundly privileged and narrow little slice.

However. Please prove me wrong. I’m not bitching about these things because I think this project should fail. Far from it. I want it to succeed, but I also want it to reflect a genuine diversity of experience, culture and gender. Please forward this call on to anyone you know in arts, art education, or hell, who’s an interesting, creative teenager. I hope that this gets distributed widely, because I genuinely do want to see it do well.

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