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 S.W.A.T. Explique

Snuff Walls Around Townhouses On November- 17, 1989 The Okanagan Artist's Alternative mounted an exhibition of paintings, sculpture and constructivist work in a rented space, The United Way Building in Kelowna, B.C. Canada. The exhibition was titled CONDOMINIUMS. Each of the thirty artists in the O.A.A. was invited to contribute up to three pieces with an entry fee of ten dollars, to be hung by a volunteer hanging committee from the membership of the O.A.A.

The hanging committee had the right to deny the inclusion of a piece should 1. there not be enough space for three works submitted by the same artist or 2. the piece not be a statement on the theme.

The opening night was Friday, November 18 and the members in attendance were pleased with the show.

On Saturday, November 18 at 8:15 A.M. a group of six people, four from the O.A.A. decked the walls of the Sandhaven Adult Community Complex with twelve sandwich boards. The two cardboard pieces of each board were joined together with two canvas straps to enable them to be draped on the wall. On each strap was written "Fine Art Out of Context - Remove -Recycle - Sell - Save - Invest." The six people, henceforth referred to as "the S.W.A.T. team," dropped the sandwich boards from a vehicle onto the sidewalk in front of the wall and parked close by. Three masked figures in black quickly hung the boards on the wall, while The S.W.A.T. operation was videoed by a camera man and photographed by a photographer. Traffic passed by as the S.W.A.T. team decorated the walls.

Concurrent to the S.W.A.T. operation, another S.W.A.T. member called "the media," a local newspaper, The Courier, to say that "a media event" was taking place at Sandhaven. A journalist from The Courier arrived at 8:30 and greeted the unknown video camera man and the photographer.

The S.W.A.T. team had vacated the site by 8:45. A.M. On the outside wall of Sandhaven the image showed "A thug scaling the walls." On the inside, the residents saw a lewd figure exposing himself, (no explicit body parts, only a coat held open, inside which was printed "Snuff Walls Around Townhouses.")

The white exterior wall of Sandhaven provided a perfect backdrop to the multiple thug images. The interior wall was not visible from outside the walls. The first phase of OPERATION S.W.A.T. was complete. One of the S.W.A.T. team had booked in for the first volunteer shift of sitting the exhibition on Saturday at ten A.M. During that time, the photographs were printed and delivered to the United Way Building. The S.W.A.T. member taped them in sequence to an empty wall within the exhibit with masking tape and posted the S.W.A.T. Communique (Exhibit A) alongside the photographs.

During the week of November 20, the S.W.A.T. Team edited the video footage of the S.W.A.T. operation. During the week of November 20, un-named members of the O.A.A. expressed intense dissatisfaction with both the S.W.A.T. event and the inclusion of the photographs within the CONDOMINIUM exhibition.

The first article had appeared in The Courier (Exhibit B). The publicist for the O.A.A. felt it necessary to respond to the S.W.A.T. intrusion by submitting exhibit C to The Courier. The Courier mistook this statement to read that all thirty members of The O.A.A. had been involved in S.W.A.T.; which necessitated a second statement to the Courier setting it straight as to only a small number of artists from the O.A.A. having been involved. (Exhibits D and E) The Courier also wrote two articles independent of the S.W.A.T. Impetus (Exhibits F and G) During the week of November 20, the photographs and Communique were removed from the CONDOMINIUM exhibition.

S.W.A.T. concedes they did not go through the volunteer hanging committee. Due to the crucial aspect of timing in The S.W.A.T. Operation it was necessary to form an ad hoc volunteer hanging committee Saturday A.M. to mount the S.W.A.T. Documentation. The CONDOMINIUM exhibition was dismantled November 30. The S.W.A.T. video was shown twice to the membership present during the dismantling. The credits revealed to the members present the identity of the S.W.A.T. Team.

The next meeting of the O.A.A. will address such issues as, 1. What constitutes Alternative Art? 2. Is an ad hoc committee, in fact, a committee or "a verbal con.?" 3. Does being part of an exhibition with organized media coverage preclude extracurricular media coverage if it is inherent to the concept of the piece?   4. Has S.W.A.T. become too conceptual to maintain a sense of humour?

Julie Oakes