Our goal as artists-in-residence with the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC)—a group of 14 young people who meet weekly at the Walker to create programs for other teens—was to share our experiences, artistic strategies, and working knowledge of museums with our young colleagues. We felt that concentrating on collecting, focusing on the process within a contemporary arts center, would be the best way to achieve that objective. Collecting Corruption is the result of our five-month residency.
The visual arts, and the institutions that present them, are most notably defined implicitly and explicitly by collections. Approached in the broadest sense, the act of identifying, gathering, and presenting objects is ancient, predating the existence of art and extending back to our shared and shadowy past of hunting and gathering. From a focus on the need for physical sustenance, we have evolved to a fixation on the complex assembly of fetishes. As cultural phenomena, the practice of collecting has achieved its greatest degree of refinement and elaboration within the context of the museum, where the act of building a collection creates opportunities for the expression and communication of ideas and value.
In preparation for assembling this collection, our group visited the Walker galleries and art storage areas, met with local collectors, and heard presentations from curators. WACTAC was given complete control of the process, the first step of which was establishing their goals. After lengthy discussions to determine a shared interest, the theme of “corruption” was chosen. More meetings and presentations followed, during which the group considered our foundational concept, then selected and located objects to be acquired to build our collection.
We proceeded in a democratic fashion similar to that of the Walker Art Center’s own Acquisitions Committee. All members of WACTAC proposed ideas and reached consensus. As objects entered the collection, they were identified and catalogued. A smaller working team of five curatorial members selected and arranged objects from this collection of corruption for the presentation on display here.
—Matthew Bakkom and David Bartley, artists-in-residence
The Walker’s Teen Arts Council is a relatively diverse group. While it is true that we all live within the surrounding Twin Cities area, our backgrounds are nowhere near identical. During the process of this project, we of course went through many ideas, and broke a few fragile egos. Our first decision as a democratic council led us to the idea of collecting a concept or an idea.
We decided on the theme of corruption because it brought many things to the forefront of critical analysis. We do not all agree on what constitutes the essence of truth or goodness, but we can see that truth viewed subjectively is very distinguishable from the objective nature of corruption. In some capacity, the group recognized that every idea can be tainted, ruined, corrupted. Often no judgments are passed on ideals when they are corrupted. Things like this just happen. This project was never about defining corruption.
Corruption is our commodity. With a budget and several months of work, we were able to attain an adequate representation of corruption, and display it for you—yes, for you. Corruption is our equalizer. Though it may literally have happened here, our goal was never to box corruption into a neat little package for you, our audience, to enjoy. We own this. We own our corruption. This collection is our proof.
—Chantz Erolin, Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council member
Visual artist and organizer Matthew Bakkom is a graduate of Minneapolis’ South High, a veteran security guard (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), a former projectionist (Walker Art Center), and an alumni panelist (Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program). His work has been exhibited in museums such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Queens Museum of Art in New York, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. He was recently awarded the Jerome Emerging Artists Award (2007) and the Bush visual arts fellowship (2008). He is currently at work completing his first book, The New York City Museum of Complaint, to be released in fall 2008.
A recipient of a visual arts fellowship from the McKnight Foundation in 2006/2007, David Bartley has exhibited his artwork at various national venues. At the Walker Art Center, he has worked with the collection in storage as a senior registration technician for the past 15 years. Bartley is currently organizing a group exhibition of seven artists from around the country at the Burnet Art Gallery, located in the Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis, which will occur during the 2008 Republican National Convention.