Saturday June 17, 2023 – Saturday September 9, 2023
by Francisca Benítez
Earth Chxrch at 36 Loisaida Avenue and East 3rd Street. Photo by Francisca Benítez
Saturday, June 17th from 4 – 7 pm [RSVP]
Performance by The Stop Shopping Choir, 6pm
Wednesdays – Saturdays, 12-6 pm
#DirectAction #franciscabenitez @storefrontnyc
We put our bodies on the streets
our bodies in the trees
our bodies against the fences of a chemical plant
our bodies inside banks
our bodies in the forest
our bodies against the pavement
we become one sonic body
in crescendo through tunnels
caves, theaters, jail cells
we become everybody
and one with the buzzing of the honeybees
— Francisca Benítez
Accessible public space can only exist if it is collectively created, used, exercised, and cared for. Dissent and meaningful dialogue are forms of expression that uncover its political possibilities. Direct Action by Francisca Benítez explores the many ways in which the artist and activist grapples with the ethics of protest and her sustained commitment to solidarity through collective action.
By putting her creative body on the line, Benítez uses direct action as a method. In the words of the late anthropologist and activist David Graeber, she embodies the practice of direct action by her insistence in engaging the city freely when faced with structurally oppressive urban environments. Her expansive work is both a product and a stage of the rituals of resistance that result from her long-term involvement with activist groups rooted in Lower Manhattan. Whether it’s organizing against displacement, fighting for housing, standing up to developers, or singing about climate futures, her work imagines and engenders a society beyond capitalism.
Rubbings hung on the wall are part of Benítez’s growing catalog on the many ways in which the ground floor of the city is both host and platform to diverse forms of protest and collective dissent. A sculpture consisting of the artist’s old bicycle seat includes a branch used in a performance protest at the East River Park. A metronome made from a piece of New York City streetscape serves as a reminder of the urgency of the work that Benítez undertakes in her melded life and art practice. A consistent tool in Benítez’s work is her voice—an instrument used to harmonize, to unionize, to crescendo. Whether it’s uttered or gesturally performed, Benítez understands her voice as a tool for collective action, and music as her ultimate form of sociability.
Direct Action showcases the processes and procedures of her artistic practice, which is centered in the use of performance as a method to engage the politics of space and her participation in political and community action. Her involvement with various activist organizations such as The Stop Shopping Choir, Art Against Displacement, Chinatown Working Group, Coalition to Protect Chinatown & The Lower East Side, East River Park Action, and Asamblea Popular de Chile en Nueva York, are crucial aspects of her practice. With her artistic work operating as both backdrop and instigator, Benitez uses Storefront as a productive space to strengthen existing collaborations and forge new ones.
Throughout the run of the exhibition, the gallery will operate as a meeting room, a rehearsal studio, a writing workshop, and an urban stage. By opening up the space of the institution to the many activist groups she is an integral part of, Benítez transforms Storefront into a site for social intervention. Direct Action invites the audience to consider the possibilities of protest, and encourage participation in local collective organizing efforts.
About the Artist
Pier 54: Francisca Benítez, Soliloquy in Signs, 2014. Photo by Liz Ligon. Copyright 2014 Francisca Benítez, Liz Ligon, and Friends of the High Line. Commissioned and produced by Friends of the High Line.
Francisca Benítez is an artist born in Chile in 1974, living and working in New York since 1998. Her art practice explores relations between space, politics, and language, being closely linked to the places where she lives and the communities she interacts with. Her videos, photographs, performances, and drawings are shown internationally. Recent exhibitions include: Riego at Die ecke, Santiago; In Support at The Kitchen, New York; New/Now at the New Britain Museum of American Art, CT; Uprisings at the Jeu de Paume, Paris; Much wider than a line at SITE Santa Fe, NM. She graduated as an architect from Universidad de Chile (1998) and Master in Fine Arts from Hunter College of the City University of New York (2007). She is an alto singer in the Stop Shopping Choir, an anti-capitalist direct action performance group based in New York City.
On the Ground
Direct Action is presented as part of On the Ground, a yearlong research project and exhibition series about New York City’s ground floor. Through a close look at the urban typology of the storefront, this expansive endeavor presents newly commissioned artistic explorations and dialogues about the heterogeneous threshold between public and private space throughout 2023. The project will unfold through three exhibitions, a radio show, an open call, a public program, and a thematic reader.
Direct Action by Francisca Benítez. Organized by the Storefront Team. Graphic design by Estudio Herrera.
This exhibition has been made possible through the support of the Graham Foundation, the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; with invaluable support from Storefront’s Board of Directors, the Storefront Circle, Storefront members, and individual donors. Storefront is a proud member of CANNY (Collaborative Arts Network New York), currently supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, Imperfect Family Foundation, and the Jay DeFeo Foundation.