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I cannot write about the nervous system inside my work which would respond directly to the question and categories raised in this symposium——I simply cannot. My work of the past ten years has continuously slid along this precipice, but on its outer rim——hoping to reach some other side largely unknown to me at this time. As a political man, born inside the quietude and intense reflection, I feel no comparable reticence. It is the last sentence of the question that seems unanswerable to me. Feeling horribly threatened as fathers of children, as mothers, as makers of paintings, as the hopeful ones, as people——is enough. We have no special case to plead with the American people, we are not European intellectuals, there are no real precedents for our present situation.

A kind of world which has included art has already come to an end, ground down and out in these past five, six years of our battering the civilized limits that everybody thought would hold. In this recent past artists did, like other professional groups in American, appeal to their special audience: art lovers, collectors, museum people, opinion and media. These efforts failed——as efforts made everywhere to influence by moral persuasion failed——to stop this process of a permanent state of war crisis for domestic control by the most bestial elements of our population. What would I propose that artists do, I would likewise propose that scientists do, that doctors do, miners, farmers, sewing-machine operators, nuns, air-controllers, zoo-keepers, do——until built into the fabric of American life, natural communities of work and sensibility exist to rival the institutional pattern and interests that either overtly or covertly support the war in Southeast Asia and the war on our minority people. By continuous waves of strikes, calls, interruptions, demands, non-cooperation, sabotage, resistance, by no business as usual anywhere, by groups, grouplets, individuals closing things down, opening them up, by making the normal full of surprise, the ordinary unexpected, the typical unknown, until nothing can be counted upon to be what it is. To spread out and educate and inform all those who would listen, that we as a nation carry a terribly violent seed in the 20th century that must be resisted here at home in its home and place. By doing this, we isolate the government, not ourselves. People will continue to make art, I will continue to make art, but what happens to it afterward has now changed. There are no distinct boundaries between governmental cultural "boosterism" and individual patronage. But where they are recognizable, artists should choose to withhold their work, deny its use to a government anxious to signal to the world that it represents a civilized culturally centered society while melting babies in Vietnam and gunning down kids all over the states. No.

I will join with people into any direct political action that strikes back at this layered and spaced brutality called the "administration." The hierarchical make-up of the art world is simply a network of community and interest, filled with art men and women, no more, no less. If it strikes at the war and racism, I will be there, if it doesn't I'll be elsewhere.

——Irving Petlin


Draping works of art in black as a protest is ridiculous. It testifies to its own meekness and becomes an invisible statement. The withdrawing of art from exhibits sponsored by the United States Government is not much better. Both acts are like shutting up shop and turning out the lights. It's like not growing wheat for some purpose or other or pantomiming what should actually be yelled about. What can finally be accomplished by not doing things?

The United States Government does not need artists to maintain its cultural image to the world and won't be hurt when artists refuse to cooperate. The sooner artists are on to this the better. I cannot seriously believe that art is the stooge of politics. How can artists, with all their works, compete with the moonshot?

I have excluded political science from my program. As an artist, I lean towards natural things rather than those created by people, which include forms of government, economic patterns and national policies. An objective attitude is one which makes all world events neither bad nor good but only so much data to play with or not play with. I isolate myself and my work continues with no involvement in any issue. As an American citizen though, I have no trouble seeing how bad things are. And I don't think the American public necessarily needs to be alerted to how serious it is. It knows. The facts alone are staggering and become a protest in themselves.

The most natural reaction to an injustice is a physical response. Don't people raise hell when they are mistreated? It seems to be a staple in American history and has accomplished most in American history and always gets government consideration before anything else. The plain truth behind the Watts riots is that the Watts riots were good and beneficial and healthy regardless of loss of life. The Watts riots nationalized sympathy for a gigantic racial injustice.

If silent dissent is going to continue and be a success, it can't be handled on a part-time basis. It needs meat behind it, so it has to enlist even those who are only remotely in agreement with its ideas. And only when its actions are unanimous will it be effective, if at all.

I don't think an artist can do much for any cause by using his art as a weapon.

——Ed Ruscha


9 April 1968     4, AR 635-200

5—26. Separation to accept employment as a public police officer. Commanders specified in section VI, chapter 2, are authorized to order separation for the convenience of the Government of enlisted men who have 3 months or less remaining in their periods of service and who submit valid applications for separation evidencing employment with a legally established law enforcement agency of the city, county, State or Federal Government. Reserve component personnel ordered to active duty for training under the Reserve Enlistment Program of 1963 are not eligible for separation under this program. 5—27. Definitions. For the purpose of this regulation the following definitions apply:

a. Public police officer. And individual employed by legally established law enforcement agencies of city, county, State or Federal governments.

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