Trade Show artist to speak at MASS MoCA

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North Adams - Pyramid schemes are among the most emotionally and financially damaging cons in the country, yet they’re also the most comical. Artist Conrad Bakker’s pyramid marketing scheme pitches a functionless product with the straight face of scam marketeering. The Untitled Product Distribution Network is the latest in Bakker’s series of Untitled Projects, whose past forms included sculptures for sale on streetside folding tables and paintings for auction through ebay. The sale of these commodities comes bundled with implicit (and sometimes hilariously blatant) critiques of the business paradigms they are modeled after. Bakker, one of the artists featured in MASS MoCA’s current exhibition Trade Show, will discuss his work and answer questions at MASS MoCA on Saturday, April 30, at 1 P.M. in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10. Conrad Bakker lives and works in Urbana, Illinois, teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the School of Art and Design. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally in places like the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Fargfabriken Center for Contemporary Art and Architecture (Stockholm, Sweden), Southern Exposure (San Francisco, California), The Soap Factory (Minneapolis, Minnesota), and Art in General (New York City). In 2000 he received a Creative Capital Foundation project grant, which enabled the production of the Untitled Mail Order Catalog, a fully functional mail order catalog selling carved and painted replicas of typical mail order items (binoculars, nose-hair trimmers, etc.) Bakker’s ongoing Untitled Projects engage a variety of social and consumer contexts. With his formal play and imperfect carving and painting techniques, he intends to evoke humor and a sense of contextual awareness. Ultimately Bakker views his work as an attempt to identify the complexity of what it means to exist in a society based on consumption and the artifice of popular culture. Organized by Rebecca Uchill, an intern from the Williams College-Clark Art Institute Graduate Program in the History of Art, Trade Show is part of the continuing series of MASS MoCA exhibitions presented in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams/Clark Graduate program in the History of Art. Admission to In Conversation with Conrad Bakker is free with museum admission but reservations are required and can be made by calling the MASS MoCA Box Office at 413.662.2111 from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. (closed Tuesdays). Members are admitted free to the gallery and the talk.
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Pittsfield Council Rejects Petition Against Magnesium Chloride

By Brittany Polito

PITTSFIELD, Mass.- 

The City Council on Tuesday shot down Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick’s attempt to block possible purchases of magnesium chloride in response to the poor road conditions during the pre-Christmas storm

Kronick said that there were two major mistakes made in the city’s response to Storm Elliot: not pre-treating the roads with rock salt or putting out an emergency alert about the situation. 

 

On the agenda was also a petition from Councilor At Large Earl Persip III requesting a cost-benefit analysis of obtaining the equipment necessary to use magnesium chloride, which is effectively used by the state to pre-treat roads for snow.  

 

It will be taken up at a later date along with a full report on the storm from Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales. 

 

Kronick feels that magnesium chloride would have “done nothing” to change the outcome of the snow event and saw it as an attempt to hide a mistake. 

 

“The counselors are proposing to raise your taxes people with a new budget request for purchasing equipment and salt. They are not requesting a cost analysis, cost-benefit analysis, not even verification that the rock salt would have been effective that day and we won't even know because they didn't try but the evidence says that it would have worked,” Kronick said. 

 

“So the purpose of their request to purchase equipment is to cover the trail of the Mayor’s embarrassment for not one: pre-treating the roads and tow: issuing an emergency alert to let the public know that the roads are unsafe to drive on.” 

 

Though roads are usually pre-treated with rock salt, it was not done during this storm because the rain that came before the snow would have washed it away, Morales told iBerkshires after the storm. 

 

Up until this storm, the city couldn’t justify the acquisition of magnesium chloride or the material to dispense it. 

 

Councilors were equally appalled at the road conditions but felt the petition was premature and even inflammatory.  

 

It wound up being filed after failed motions to table and approve.  Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Sherman, Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey, and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio were absent. 

 

“We all are appalled, disappointed in what happened here,” Ward 4 Councilor James Conant said. 

 

“There’s no question that public confidence in this operation is at an all-time low and so I think another couple of weeks, make the report, let’s hear what’s produced out of this event, then we can revisit.” 

 

Persip explained that he petitioned to inquire about the chemical and get the cost of it, branding it as information that the council should know when they discuss what happened during the storm. 

 

“I am too appalled at the response.  I can agree that there should have been a snow emergency, there should have been a phone call, we agree on those things,” he said. 

 

“But to accuse us of raising taxes at this meeting right after the tax bill comes out I find interesting, and then not wanting all the information.” 

 

He added that Kronick’s talk about his petition not being “political posturing” was nonsense. 

 

Since the fiscal 2023 budget has already been approved, Persip asked the councilor where he does not want to see allocation for magnesium chloride appear and Kronick clarified that he doesn’t want it on the fiscal 2024 budget. 

 

Councilor At Large Pete White said that the council’s job s to look at every issue as it comes before them and that the request is for information only. 

 

“I will not support this or petitions like this to just blank and say we’re not going to fund things because we didn’t like what happened without actually seeing data and facts before us,” he added. 

 

Warren called the petition a “fool’s errand.” 

 

“The fact of the matter was, (Persip) wants more information to help make a proper decision,” he said. 

 

“That’s what I want so I’m not going to make any decision about buying not buying equipment, not buying other materials until we get a report.” 

 

Ward 6 Councilor Dina Lampiasi pointed to Kronick’s presentation of graphs showing the weather conditions during the storm and called the approach “dishonest” and a “misrepresentation.”  During the event, she compared the conditions outside to the weather app on her phone and found them contradictory. 

 

Councilor At Large Karen Kalinowsky said the petition was not clarified enough. 

 

A handful of people expressed displeasure with the way that the snowstorm was handled and rising taxes during open microphone. 

 

Kronick took the stand and read a communication from a longtime Massachusetts Department of Transportation employee who he would not name. 

 

The letter expressed concern about the Department of Public Work’s leadership and claimed that salt is the best option for safe road conditions —even when there is rain before the snow. 

 

Persip observed that when people complain about their taxes being raised, the bigger complaint is that things aren’t getting done. 

 

He heard more complaints about the storm than about the tax bills. 

 

“It's not just about the dollars and cents all the time,” Persip said. 

 

“It's about finding solutions where people feel safe, they can go out for the first time, it's the holiday when people are actually visiting their families and it was unsafe.”

 

Also on the agenda was a petition from Council President Peter Marchetti, White, and Persip requesting a full report on the issue that resulted in poor plowing conditions over the holiday weekend, which will be taken up at a later date. 

 

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