Alpha and Omega of Our Athens Nostalgia: U is for University

When you found Allan Sekula’s School is a Factory, 1978-1980 at ASFA, you registered a distinct sense of recognition and satisfaction. You had seen this work in Madrid, where it is part of the collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. You also felt that Sekula’s wry meditation on the institution of the art school and university was occupying the rightful place at the Athens School of Fine Arts, positioned amid other works and initiatives that chimed with this site of learning. Yet as you examined the interplay of photographs and captions, taking photographs of each and every panel, you also recalled something you had been told about a work somewhere in this location: “a work that was both humorous and serious and interesting and occasionally graphically clever”. You liked Sekula’s work all the more for aligning it with this description, even if it was meant for another work. Still, at the time, like the slave in Plato’s Meno, drawing his square in the sand in response to Socrates’ questions, you knew more about what you were looking at than you had initially thought. You read the caption beneath the photograph on the left: This photograph was taken at a Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. An well known avant garde artist and tenured professor at a university in southern California interviews a less well known artist for a teaching position. Since she’s a Latina, the mere fact of the interview satisfies affirmative action requirements. She doesn’t get the job. You seemed to recognize the artist being interviewed, both from the photograph and from the description of her in the caption, but you were not certain. You were reminded of a similar experience you had, when thinking you recognized Martha Rosler in a group photograph with this artist and Lucy Lippard in Cuba in 1981, taken with artists from the iconic exhibition Volumen Uno, only for Rosler to reply to your request for clarification by telling you that it was not in fact her. But this situation was different as instead of learning that you were ignorant, you learned something you knew already. You read it in an essay by Amy Sara Carroll, that you had been right all along, thanks again to Rosler’s testimony. Furthermore, you also discovered that she was being interviewed by Allan Kaprow, the master of the ‘happening’, even though this interview was real and not a performance. Can you recognize her without looking it up?

 

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