Year: 2016

Institutional Garbage: Archiving the Emotions of Art Institutions

Scrolling, swiping, and clicking are the only tactile skills required to engage with Institutional Garbage, a web-based exhibition produced by Sector 2337 and the Hyde Park Art Center. These actions, performed by a mouse, keyboard, or the tap of a finger, make a ritual out of interacting with exhibitions presented in the digital sphere. Co-curated by Caroline Picard and Lara Schoorl, Institutional Garbage conceptually tears down the institutional walls of the art world, from elite academic spaces to donor-run museums, to showcase “the administrative residue of imaginary public institutions.” [1] As the title insinuates, the show makes a point to draw attention to the seemingly imperfect “trash” of 41 artists, writers, and curators. Lara Schoorl, a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and current publicity manager at Sector 2337, states that the exhibition aims to “elevate the connotation of trash,” attempting to understand it as a crucial component of the creative journey through the art world. Schoorl described in detail how this innovative rendition of a virtual exhibition initially “started …

Sadie Benning’s Shared Eye at Renaissance Society

There are limits to how far artists can push works of art, but few test them as forcefully as Sadie Benning. Benning’s installation on view now at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society attempts to give viewers a Shared Eye on US politics and history, conjuring a kind of collective memory through the rhythmic sequencing of panels and our subjective interpretations of their interpolations. That aim might already be a mouthful, but Benning does not stop there. Taking leeway with what she calls the “complexities” of visual media, she wanders far afield into contemporary art’s hottest clichés. Cut up and reassembled from digital snapshots, found photos, trinkets, and painted segments, Benning’s panels collapse and expand media. As physical objects, they are neither here nor there, neither the one nor the other. Unfortunately, the artist takes the same postmodern tack to their subject matter, willing it to hover in the ether and float away at first sight. The operative word here might be “edgy.” Work that cannot be defined as belonging to any one medium is in …

Earthbound Moon at Ballroom Projects

Earthbound Moon (EbM) is a collaborative organization whose stated aim is to “terraform the Earth” by transforming its surface into a non-contiguous sculpture garden. They propose to undertake this re-purposing, or rather this perceptual shift (for their concept of “sculpture” is generous), over the course of a hundred generations. This is a radical expansion of the time-scale usually involved in evaluating the possibilities of cultural production. It is a time-scale reserved for geological histories, an ecological positioning not lost on EbM. Earthbound Moon is consistent in contextualizing their work in the history of everything. The entire show at Ballroom Projects is organized as an archive of the organization: its projects, its resources, its library, its collection, and its influences. The archive is organized as a timeline that stretches back to the Big Bang, represented as a tiny white dot on the floor protected by a haphazard masking tape square. Their work is contextualized in the large fabric of all time. They describe years in which they are working to 5 values, dating a work ‘02014’ …

The Neo-Futurists and Accessibility: A Conversation with Kurt Chiang and Lily Mooney

Kurt Chiang, artistic director of The Neo-Futurists, calls their space in Andersonville “a labyrinth,” and when you go see their signature show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, entering the building can feel like entering another world. Your experience begins in a long line of people outside the building. There, you are given a token to reserve your seat. You enter the building and trek up two flights of stairs. To the left are the bathrooms. To the right is “The Hall of Presidents,” a long hallway lined with portraits of every US president to date, rendered in a variety of artistic styles. Go down this hallway, and you are in a kitchen. There is a candy counter manned by a volunteer, and behind the volunteer is a sink, some cabinets, a stove. It’s a kitchen. Past the candy counter, past the antique photo booth, past a typewriter station, through two double doors, and down a step into “The State Park,” a gymnasium-like space with a player piano at one end, and a …

Movement Matters: Mary Wu

Movement Matters is a column that investigates work at the intersection of dance, performance, politics, policy and issues related to the body as the locus of these and related socio-cultural dialogues on race, gender, ability and more. For this installment, we sit down with dancer, collaboration and performance artist Mary Wu to discuss her at times alarming audience interactions, the ethics of art-making and new aesthetics of the body arising out of the disability arts movement. Michael Workman: Thanks for taking some time to sit down with me discuss your work. Mary Wu: I haven’t made my own work in a long time, I have to say. I want to make work that I feel like I need to make. It was years ago that I made a solo work now, I showed it at Research Project, this very small work-in-progress showing curated by friends. It was very much making art for art’s sake based on years of solo practice for myself. I wanted to have something to show and then I did it and …

Softness as Subversion

The Franklin’s My Feet Have Lost Memory of Softness utilizes space and place to explore the concept of softness, questioning and expanding the audience’s pre-existing relationships with change, time, and the hierarchies of an art gallery. Curated by Ionit Behar, the crux of the installation is the representation of softness as a characteristic of mutability and change. Within the realm of an art installation, change can be indicative of transition and fluctuation in a viewer’s experience and subsequent understanding of a work. This conception of softness is compounded by the nature of the Franklin as a site, a quality described by the show’s written materials as an “unconventional and unofficial presence.” Such presence is derived from the fact that the Franklin is an artist-run site within Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan’s East Garfield Park home and yard. These blurred boundaries between the communal and the domestic are in and of themselves a softness, one that speaks towards an artist community formed from transition. When entering the Franklin’s outdoor space one is immediately confronted by Jean …

Race Abstracted: Thelma Golden and New Global Black Aesthetics

On a warm Thursday evening, Thelma Golden sauntered across the carpeted stage of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Rubloff Auditorium with an elegant stride. Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum of Harlem, moderated the panel “New Paradigms 2016: An Evening of Art and Conversation.” It showcased seminal artists of color in today’s art world from diverse parts of the globe. Glenn Ligon, Lynette Yiadom Boakye, and Cauleen Smith collaboratively examined how their work reveals the intricacies of the individual and collective histories of the global Black diaspora. Golden asked concise and complex questions that lead the artists to unpack the phenomena of a global Black presence in art making, moving beyond colonial labels such as “African American.” Despite their different aesthetic approaches, all three artists shared the similarity of vouching for the silenced voices in the canon of art history. Their cultural perspectives in art making seamlessly united as they talked about navigating the identity politics of the modern world through their artistic process. This mutual goal shared between the artists revealed …