The Guard of Art or the Art of Guard
by Mic Porte
Intriguing new summer expositions surprise and delight at the MCASD, Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown San Diego.
The Color Field by Liza Lou welcomes you into the old train station. Beautiful and inviting, shimmering with thousands of glass beads in perspectives of color geometry, the installation was a collective art event involving museum art volunteers. I would have liked to walk around the floor piece and enjoy the effect, but was frustrated by the velvet guard rope holding us to a one directional view. I was delighted when the red trolley went by in the background, suddenly animating the red rectangles, and the field of color transformed from a country into a cityscape.
In The Very Large Array room, movements in the permanent collection (less is more?) and some new “old” pieces by San Diegan artist Manny Farber. His soulful grey reflections, early works, are thoughtful and I would like to see a retrospective of his life works one of these days. I also very much enjoy our unique border town artists that the museum has been collecting.
Browsing around this part of the exposition leads to some big black doors. You enter a big black room, with large grey canvas panels on the walls–sober graves?– a screen and Ron Hicks, Soul Guard. And what follows, no matter where you pick up the 20 minute art video, is a zen dance of martial security disguised as a training video for museum guards of the Art Institute of Chicago. Breaking ground for the new social era of “Should Museum Guards Carry Guns?” Ron Hicks, museum guard and ex-deputy sheriff in San Diego, humbly and artfully presents his philosophy of soul guard.
Guards by Hito Steyerl, Berlin-based filmmaker and writer, created this flow video docu-art piece to accompany the Art Institute of Chicago’s conference on museum security. Using beautiful lighting, movement and suspenseful timing, Steyerl’s camera stalks the guards. They demonstrate and enact guard procedure with the masterpieces of the Chicago Institute of Art in the background, commenting on violence in our society and the underlying threat of art meeting with that violence. Poetic inter-splices of reality police video frame the guards, including Ron Hicks, as they explain their paths into police work and museum guarding.
Soul position: thumbprints together, hands over-lapping across body center, relaxed, unengaged, observant,
Shots fired, drive-by shootings, 72 buried in 5 years, tired of funerals, museums are so calm…
From soul position, draw the weapon, running the walls, engage the threat, back to soul position, thumbs together, hands overlapping across body center…
Ron Hicks, from a poor neighborhood in southeast, wanted to be a basketball player or work in the police. He never thought about art before, never visited a museum. “Art has changed my life.” Guard Hicks is inspired by his part-time work over the past two years for the MCASD in downtown San Diego. An injury halted his work as deputy sheriff in Temecula, and he was referred to this job by a concerned sergeant.
Hicks often shares his enthusiasm for art with visiting guests of the museum, seeking their insights to better understand the art all around him. He shared his enthusiasm with me earlier this year and also with the curator of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lisa Dorin, who invited him to participate in the security conference and this video project.
After nine years on the street with security police, thirteen years of community involvement as peace guardian and with the California Youth Authority, Guard Hicks believes the police should be more community oriented. They need to earn the trust of the community as pro-active officers of peace, looking to the people for help. Hicks is disapproving of the policy of alienation with regular displacement of personnel in the police.
He thinks that no gun-training course of 16 hours and shooting 30 rounds is enough to qualify people like museum guards, or teachers, to carry guns safely. In depth psychological training and “thick skins” are essential; it is all about self-control.
An admirer of James Turrell, Hick’s art dream would be of working in light sculpture. Now, thanks to this video project, Ron Hicks himself is part of an intriguing light “sculpture,” Guards, by Hito Steyerl, as well as a must-see introductory film for any wannabe gun-handler, starting with the soul position.
Soul guard, Ron Hicks, now back to soul position, thumbs together, hands overlapping across body center, relaxed, observant…welcome to the museum.
FREE Day at MCASD downtown: third Thursday evenings 5-7pm (Aug 15, Sept.19) and always FREE for under 25 years.