Gulf Labor has now produced The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor (OR Books; Paper $20), which recounts its activism during the last five years. In 2011, artists, curators, and writers affiliated with the group signed up for Gulf Labor’s boycott of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. In New York, they projected messages on the museum’s outer walls, dropped fliers inside, and pasted their own work on its walls alongside exhibitions. At the Venice Biennale, they assailed the Guggenheim site by boat. With the group’s 52 Weeks campaign, which was launched in October 2013 and is documented in The Gulf, artists created works—mostly video and print materials—to support the campaign, sharing them online over the course of a year. Many of the pieces draw their power from simple juxtaposition. Of salaries, as mentioned above; of square footage (the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s 322,917 square feet to the 182 square feet of a windowless dorm room for 10 workers); of the grandiose design of the museum to the punishing mathematics of the workers’ debts, pay, and work hours. In a digital collage entitled 2015: Grand Opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Janet Koenig simply Photoshops workers into the lobby of the museum they have built, where they look terribly out of place but also possibly like a brilliant installation.
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