|Robby Herbst’s exhibition at Dumbo Arts Center, “New Pyramids For The Capitalist System,” explores acrobatics, class, bodies and interpersonal dynamics through a series of large-scale drawings, installations, and performances of human pyramids. The project was inspired by photos of Herbst’s grandfather (a collection of beach and socialist acrobats) and a 1911 diagram produced by Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) called “Pyramid for the Capitalist System.”||
“Robby Herbst is an interdisciplinarian broadly interested in socio-political formations.”
Robby Herbst, performance of “New Pyramids for the Capitalist System,”
City Hall, Los Angeles, CA. November, 2011. Photo Credit: Lisa Anne Auerbach. Courtesy of the artist.
New Pyramids for the Capitalist System, Dumbo Arts Center
Robby Herbst’s exhibition at Dumbo Arts Center, “New Pyramids For The Capitalist System,” explores acrobatics, class, bodies and interpersonal dynamics through a series of large-scale drawings, installations, and performances of human pyramids. The project was inspired by photos of Herbst’s grandfather (a collection of beach and socialist acrobats) and a 1911 diagram produced by Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) called “Pyramid for the Capitalist System.”
At sites associated with Occupy LA, Herbst and a group of amateur, costumed, acrobats enacted the IWW diagram by creating human pyramids. Acrobats dressed as workers, managers, law enforcement, clergy and
capitalists. This exhibition focuses on social dynamics and the efforts to memorialize the actions highlighted in the pyramid performances. Drawings and sculpture will examine the spatial and political implications of what it means to bear the weight of this rigidly defined class system.
“New Pyramids For The Capitalist System” reminds us that we are physical beings, inhabiting specific time and spaces. The acrobats hold and press against each other in the fleshy, intimate experience of supporting one another, a responsible community of interdependent relations.
Herbst’s grandfather was a talented acrobat involved who for decades did stunts with others at Orchard Beach in the Bronx.In the 1930s he associated with the Young Worker’s Athletic Club (YWAC) – a socialist acrobatic group.On display are many photographs of Herbst’s grandparents’ acrobatic performances in which banners with anti-fascist and pro-Communist slogans can be seen. Herbst’s grandfather, Martin, was generally at the bottom of pyramids and stunts. As a strong trusted man, he was able to bear the weight of others. By tying in their acrobatic activities to the Capitalist Pyramid, Herbst makes literal the need we have for mutual support.
Robby Herbst, New Pyramids for the Capitlaist System, 2012. Ink, gouache and watercolor on paper, 17 x 22 in. Courtesy of the artist.
Through a public re-visitation of a popular political text (the Pyramid) from the early 20th century, the project aims to investigate the resonance of such language today. Following from a tradition of ambiguity in participatory new genres public art, this project explores the possibility of the legacy of class ideology within public spaces. “New Pyramids” raises questions of how the built environment can influence political participation. It explores the potential for human interaction, as exemplified by the acrobatic pyramids, to change our understanding of spaces. The show will also question how the spaces we occupy are meant to bear the weight of our interactions within them. The performance of the human pyramids raises issues of the nature of cooperation and complicity by citizens in the maintenance (or overturning!) of societal divisions.
Robby Herbst is an interdisciplinarian, broadly interested in socio-political formations; behavioral architecture, languages of dissent and counter cultures. Explorations have lead him to visual art, writing, group work, independent media, public theory and organizing. He founded and is a former editor of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, an internationally recognized journal and “feral institution” whose aim is to explore creative and critical culture. Today he organizes and contributes to the Llano Del Rio Collective’s guides to Los Angeles.