With a temporary move to City Hall, the artists of Little Berlin, Extra Extra and FLUXspace leave their Kensington neighborhoods to form The Department of Alternative Affairs. Serving as an exhibition and workspace, the DAA is located within the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. On view until July 29, the fictitious organization exposes new audiences to each group’s interest in social practice and institutional critique.

With a website, ID badges for each artist, and fake insignia, The Department of Alternative Affairs takes on the look of an official government organization. Situated within a clerical office setting, the artists of Little Berlin create an installation complete with filing cabinets, a dry erase board, potted plants, and office furniture. The dry eraser board provides information about the DAA’s mission, and free reading materials such as issues of artist member Dan Murphy’s Megawords magazine provide a greater understanding of Little Berlin’s interests. Visitors are also invited to submit work for the author-LESS-ity project, a publicly curated exhibition that will be held at City Hall.

Each Monday, a member of Extra Extra dons a ceremonial robe while performing a meditation ritual. With a looping video of collapsing structures descending into disorder, and a beaten, metal oil drum corroding in a pool of water, the performance mocks solutions for greater office productivity and well-being.

FLUXspace provides a collection of microfilms of the New York Times, dating from the newspaper’s inception in 1851 to 2008, for viewers’ perusal. Complete with a machine for viewing and take-away instructions that detail its operation, the project allows each day’s news to be viewed in an archival form that closely matches its original state. Unlike digital versions, articles are laid out as they originally appeared and advertisements remain intact. Hoping to keep this information from being lost, the artists want to raise awareness of the benefits of preserving the technology, and they are currently looking for someone to preserve the collection.

By educating a new public about their respective spaces, the artists in The Department of Alternative Affairs introduce visitors to artist-run organizations and the types of projects artists are initiating. With a mantra of “Art in the pursuit of good” and a government sanctioned appearance, each space seems to underscore the importance of artists and their potential for social betterment.

Ellen Abraham

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