3/13/08: Follow-Up to Yesterday’s Post About the Art Exhibit Controversy in Troy
In a reply to yesterday’s post, chrusty brought to our attention an article from Metroland. From that reply:
From the article: According to a source who asked to remain anonymous, Mirch, who has a reputation of using code enforcement for political retaliation, told a fellow demonstrator to not worry, that code would be visiting sanctuary in the morning. Mirch emphatically denied this. “That’s ridiculous. Jesus Christ. I can’t compete with lies,” he said. “You wanna poke me in the eye, let’s do it with facts on a truthful basis.”
The next morning, however, Pierce received a phone call from the Troy code department beginning, “I work for the City of Troy code enforcement. I was told to call you and speak to you.”
Pierce was informed that, without significant repairs to the sanctuary’s exterior and some interior doors, at a cost of more than $14,000, it would have to be closed immediately. Now, the city has changed its demands, telling him that he has until April 10 to make the repairs. Pierce has no idea what will happen if he can’t meet that deadline.
“We haven’t gotten anything in writing from the city,” Pierce said. “The story has been continually changing. Forty-eight hours ago, everything was fine; 24 hours ago, we had to close immediately.”
Pierce has contacted the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Members of the Troy City Council have suggested an investigation into the legitimacy of the code department’s actions, and whether it was an act of political retaliation.
“For years, there have been stories about this administration abusing code enforcement, to suppress people’s First Amendment rights,” Pierce said. “They should investigate on behalf of all the citizens of Troy.”
I don’t doubt that there was confusion and miscommunication, however I’m skeptical of anyone playing the victim card when they were told about these very same problems 14 months ago and never fixed them.
There’s been a lot of grandstanding and posturing from people who overreacted to Bilal’s game mod, and Pierce and others certainly aren’t innocent of it either. Whether it’s him or others reporting on the case, glaring omissions of certain facts are giving the impression that he had no prior contact with Code Enforcement and that he was unaware of the repairs that needed to be made in order for the building to be up to code. Which isn’t the case here at all.
There’s an essential problem here when it comes to individuals being forthcoming. Certainly, Pierce does have a point in that there’s been a lot of miscommunication in the past several days, but if you’re told that there’s code violations in your building and that it legally has to be brought up to code to open it up to the public, then those issues should be addressed. It may appear to be strong-arm tactics, and certainly there are some legitimate questions that should be answered regarding how this situation has been handled this week. But ultimately, Pierce could have avoided all this by fixing the problems over the course of the past year.
Also, anyone who has attended the festivities at “Troy Night Out” will attest to the fact that there is no shortage of art gallery space in downtown Troy. Why nobody else has stepped up to the plate – and why the exhibit hasn’t been opened to another location – is an interesting question that I haven’t seen asked.
All conclusions jumped to and actions taken by both sides of the issue in the past 48 to 72 hours aside, ultimately there has to be responsibility taken by the individual(s) who allowed these violations to go unaddressed for over fourteen months. I hate to sound like a broken record, but sending a letter some time ago saying “we’re not done” and not receiving a response shouldn’t constitute a green-light to resume operations, and I’m perplexed as to how anybody would make that assumption.
Also, it’s worth noting the event listing on RPI’s “Arts” website (here), which specifically noted the “Al Qaeda” connection before the whole mess of the past several days.
From the site:
“In the widely marketed video game “Quest for Saddam,” players fight stereotypical Iraqi foes and try to kill Saddam. Al Qaeda did its own take, creating an online video game using the structure of Quest for Saddam but adding a new “skin” to turn the game into a hunt for Bush: “The Night of Bush Capturing.” Now Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal has hacked the Al Qaeda version of the game to put his own more nuanced spin on this epic conflict.”
“Quest for Saddam” was a follow-up to an amateur game called “Quest for Al-Qaeda” that an 18-year-old made in reaction to September 11th. If you’re asking yourself why you’ve never heard of this “widely marketed” game before, it’s because it really wasn’t. “Quest for Saddam” was not put out by a major distributor, and for the most part appears to just be available for download online. This wasn’t a game that was a huge hit by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it a Halo-style game in terms of quality or popularity.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Equally of note is that there is yet another assumption being made that RPI’s Administration was fully aware of that connection, though certainly and realistically you can’t expect Administrators to view every single item that gets posted on a University’s website. And the events listing certainly wouldn’t say “by the way, the FBI’s currently questioning the artist as to the source of this material and whether there’s some questionable circumstances regarding how he acquired it.”