Sunday, July 12, 2015

Chin Chih Yang Performance in New York

written by Jeffrey Grunthaner 

Queens-based artist Chin Chi Yang initially viewed his Earth Day performance, An Interactive Protest against Corporate Waste, which took place in Times Square and its environs this past April, as an opportunity to engage the world's largest banks and to discuss with the people who went about in them what they thought about recycling. What the performance became was a trance-like, collaborative "drift" through Times Square: a miniature pageant responding to, as Yang puts it, "audience's facial impressions and their minds." The following pictures were captured on site.

Photos courtesy of Doll and Nelson Liu

Location:New York, NY

Thursday, March 05, 2015


5 Booths to Bookmark at the Armory Show

written by Jeffrey Grunthaner in New York

While essentially an agora where galleries from around the world showcase their wares in the form of commodities sold to the highest bidder or the savvy collector bargain hunting, the compactness of the works on display make the Armory show especially friendly to paintings, prints and photographs. Frameable works, after all, are portable like money. In the teeth of this commercial atmosphere, however, some galleries visibly stand out, largely for the diversity of the works they show if not for their innovation. Here are five booths you may want to visit, even if you left your checkbook at home.

Galerie Daniel Templon 
30 Rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris, Frankreich 
+33 1 42 72 14 10
One of the larger booths at the Armory, spanning some three cubical-like rooms, this French-based gallery will attract your attention with a Jonathan Meese painting, before luring you further into a white-walled brilliance where, among other treasures, Iván Navarro’s  almost Flavin-esque “Vitrina” (2008) sits catty-corner from a Kehinde Wiley oil-on-canvas portrait that merges classically-styled inspirations with a decidedly hip-hop urbanity.

Andrew Kreps Gallery 
537 W 22nd St #1, New York, NY 10011
(212) 741-8849
Andrew Kreps is showcasing popular favorites such as Mike Kelly (if only this artist’s relatively unimpressive Color and Form works) to less spectacular yet more impressive items by artists such as Barbara T. Smith, whose 1971 mixed-media picture “Field Piece Schemata 1” will astonish you with its contemporaneity and liveliness.
Barbara T. Smith
Field Piece Schematic 1, 1971
Collage, photo, resin

James Fuentes LLC
55 Delancey St, New York, NY 10002
(212) 577-1201
Unquestionably one of the most interesting galleries in NYC today, James Fuentes's booth at the Armory features chatoyant plexiglass structures by Berta Fischer. Whether hanging by plastic threads or shimmering iridescently like a rainbow on the walls Fischer's works will not fail to impress.

Victoria Miro
16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW, Vereinigtes Königreich
+44 20 7336 8109
Victoria Miro somehow encapsulates what shows like the Armory could be about: a vast of array of work by artists from all around the world. To be sure, the bulk of the paintings in Victoria Miro’s booth will remind you of other paintings by other artists, but the Alice Neel's work “Richard with Dog,” dating from 1954, is a work you can live and grow with.

Yancy Richardson
525 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10011
(646) 230-9610
Comprising mainly photographs, this gallery displays work that gently disrupts the conventions of portraiture and documentary. Matthew Jensen`s daybright illuminations of cross country travel through the United States—“ 49 States” (2008–9) doesn’t feel like Americana so much as a series of pictures drenched in the expansiveness of perception on the ordinary. Zanele Muholi's portraits, by contrast, toy with the conventions of photographic portraiture to make confrontationally realer-than life studies of black youths whose faces and postures become starkly eloquent against a studio-constructed backdrop.

Zanele Muholi

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, MoMA

A review of “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World,” exhibiting at MoMa, December 14, 2014–April 5, 2015

written by Jeffrey Grunthaner in New York

Comprising only 17 painters—ranging from the youth sensation Oscar Murillo to veterans like Mary Weatherford—MoMA’s The Forever Now aspires to be a hip survey of what’s possible for painting today. In fact, it’s only trendy. If one were to take the exhibition at its word, the internet has radically transformed our lives and the way we reproduce images. Starting from this truism, is it possible that MoMA wants to show us painters without any sense of a historical past? Inveighing for an eternal present where the variegated richness of time perishes into an a-temporal “synchrony,” collapsing the difference between “high” and “low”—none of this is original circa 2015, and doesn’t explain why the bulk of the art in the exhibition alludes to 20th century art and iconography.

Oscar Murillo. 7+. 2013–14  

You linger over the Murillo's as much as the two works by Lauren Owens, mainly on account of their intrinsic powers of display. Kerstin Brätsch torments you as much as she delights; and Michael Williams’s works are anodynes that numb any care for a world on fire. The question is: Why are they here? Lauren Owens certainly uses “new media” in her work, if only allusively. Using traditional materials such as acrylics on gesso, Owens simulates the layered contraction of space specific to digitally generated images. The materials Owens puts to use function like a glass partition, through which she can observe the weirdling movements of digital space in quarantine. But Oscar Murillo's? Not only does Murillo's work lack the image-sourced tenor the show seems to want to convey, but his works are absent of any threat to the art establishment generally. One feels in them the lurking possibility of usurpation—like a bomb mounted to a wall—but ultimately they're cased in glass and thoroughly diffused. (This is especially true for the work situated on the floor.) None of it reflects the overarching idea of the exhibition; nor does it speak from Murillo's own voice, which seems to provoke a human response in viewers, preferencing interactivity over the passive contemplation of spectacle.  
But The Forever Now is not bereft of fascinating work. The artist who best represents the “vast synchronic landscape of information peculiar to our century,” as MoMA words it, is decidedly the German-born post-internet painter Kerstin Brätsch, currently represented by Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in NYC. Brätsch’s largely collaborative practice--like her homage to Sigmar Polke, which  was made in collaboration with someone who had worked with Polke personally--not only disturbs traditional notions of individuated genius (a hard-won status in a digitally interconnected and remorselessly surveilled world), but at the very least suggests, however imperfectly, new compositional strategies for introducing painting into areas of experience normally reserved for sculpture or design.

Kerstin Brätsch. Sigi's Erben (Agate Psychics). 2012

Consider “Sigi's Erben (Agate Psychics)” (2012). Something about the work reminded me of dream I once had about a spider-like network of wires rising from the earth. From the wires hanged mirrors, and people would look into them and see themselves fragmented, confusing their fragmented image for their actual selves. The wire construction itself was called Eternity. “Sigi Erben” develops a similar theme: Brätsch’s network of glass pictures speaks to the fragmentation consequent on visual culture generally, where old notions of a compositional whole are somehow lost. While not exactly impressive, this genre-defying installation does indicate a way out of painting’s need to create illusive space, to develop likenesses to a figure/ground relationship. 

If one considers the gestural brushstroke the defining aspect of modern painting, and likeness to a figure the hallmark of classical modes, “Sigi Erben” exhibits how these aspects have been modified through the adoption of new compositional methods, altered even further by the assimilation of unique materials.
The work not only alludes to Sigmar Polke, but renders a kind of exploded diagram of different methods of seeing. “Sigi's Erben” seems to make an issue of being unimpressive, using what looks like a network of steel pipes to display glass pictures at different levels relative to the eye. What’s most significant about “Sigi Erben”, however, is the mix of porousness and impenetrability intrinsic to its display. 

The predominant material is glass, and yet the pictures themselves are not transparent, being filled in by wonky colors that lend them an object-like solidity. Placed high atop the pipe-like structure, like birds nesting in a tree, one sees through the work as a whole, one can even walk through it. Insofar as it references Sigmar Polke,“Sigi Erben” is an utterance, an homage translated into an environment. As an independent work a-temporally afloat in the “vast synchronic landscape of information peculiar to our century,” it synthetically extends the concept of “a grid,” bestowing on it a fluidity not normally associated with the term.   

After painting, the question is not so much how to represent a singular image, but how to make the plastic aspects of a delimited picture present in an IRL way. Can art be an environment, an immersive world-like experience, and still be art? MoMA’s The Forever Now implies this question, but just as suddenly veers away from any definite answer. As a whole, the show feels almost careless, inconsequential, even in a world given over to a-temporality.


Monday, January 26, 2015

'My Heroine And Her Mate', Dorothy Iannone, Peres Projects, Berlin

A review of “My Heroine And Her Mate,” exhibiting at Peres Projects January 17 – February 28.

written by Jeffrey Grunthaner in Berlin

Contemporary paintings, insofar as they take their cues from the collage-like flatness conditioned by a computer screen, have an inclusiveness about them resembling glass tanks full of compendious stuff—an assortment of gestural brush work, quasi-geometric shapes and graduated contours. Looking at the early work of Dorothy Iannone, however, whose show “My Heroine And Her Mate” is currently exhibiting at Peres Projects in Berlin, we can’t help but appreciate the pre-digital texturing that was dependent on Ab-Exy type abstraction.

Dorothy Iannone
"My Heroine And Her Mate" (1962)
Painting - Oil, paper collage, acrylic on canvas
164 x 151 cm (64.57 x 59.45 in)

Iannone’s early paintings have an urbanity about them that belies the love-haunted connotations of their titles, retailoring conventionally dead-end forms of abstraction to suit the aspirations of her highly individualized eroticism and wit.

Layered with almost cartographic designs—like cubistic grids become both plastic and deliquescent—Iannone’s paintings brim with ebullient confidence, underwritten by the fact that most of the pieces in the show were made in 1962 (the others date from 1963 and 1964). Lingering over these early works, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Joe Brainard’s poetic dictum that his paintings be “present.” Regarding Iannone, this translates into canvases so thick with paint and collaged materials (even wall paper, to my eyes at least) that they literally come off the canvas and occupy a space one with the viewer’s body.

While not especially large by today’s standards (Trudy Benson certainly goes much larger), Ionnone’s painterly declarations of love radiate an intimacy that can only be accounted for by the way her materials (mainly acrylic) are shaped into tactile relief on canvas.

The young Iannone tended to develop compositions without any clear locus or center, keeping her paintings in a perpetual state of movement, making her themes (however abstractly presented) interesting still circa 2015. “Secret Blossom” (1962) was one painting I returned to numerous times at the opening. It’s a work you can wholly lose yourself in, admiring both the skill that went into developing such a harmonious arrangement out of such quotidian materials (one material seemed to be wallpaper, but the gallery just lists “paper”) and the creative gusto that was able to put these materials to such sculptural ends.

“Secret Blossom” might be better appreciated today than when it was originally painted, as the contemporary gaze no longer harshly condemns paintings for having a decorative flare. Other highlights of the show include “The Sea Where Cleopatra Bathed” (1964), “Attention!” (1962), and “Dark Lips” (1964).

Dorothy Iannone

Secret Blossom, 1962
Painting - Oil, paper collage, acrylic on canvas
165 x 152.5 cm (64.96 x 60.04 in)

Peres Projects
Karl-Marx-Allee 82
10243 Barlin Germany
tel +49 30 275 950 700

Location:Berlin, Germany

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin

Walton Ford shows an impressive new body of work at Paul Kasmin gallery from May 1 - June 21, 2014.

written by Nathalie Zwimpfer in New York

For Watercolors Ford continues his practice of painting animals in their rawest emotions. In his latest paintings we see half a dozen of owls fighting over a caught mouse, an angry tigress confused by thousands of glass balls, a giant snake that swallows a swarm of birds, a tied-up, biting, monstrous wolf, a pipe-smoking mandrill, a drinking monkey and a flying gorilla.

At first sight the seven large-scale watercolor paintings look like naturalist illustrations from the 19th century, painted during colonial excursions. However, the paintings have many more layers to them and move way beyond the purpose of illustration. They have narrative components and symbolic elements creating a dream-like presence with details full of dark humor. Ford’s paintings show uncanny scenes of violence, rich in disturbing melodrama. There is something odd about the depicted animals, too dramatic to be a scientific portrayal of the world’s fauna.

The paintings tell more about humans than animals. It is human history that is being referenced despite the pictured raw feral behavior of the beasts. Ford’s paintings deal with how we perceive the animal world and how we simply project our own experiences, history and expectations onto it. Therefore, the paintings hardly reference scientific facts but rather the human fascination for the unknown feral world. Ford himself claims that he wasn’t particularly interested in animals themselves but more in their representation.

He once stated in an interview:

“I do a huge amount of research on animals. But it’s the person that gives me a way in. Animals in the wild are boring. Before Fay Wray comes to Skull Island, King Kong isn’t doing anything. There’s no story until she shows up. What I’m doing, I think, is a sort of cultural history of the way animals live in the human imagination.”

Ford’s paintings reference texts found in colonial literature, folklore stories, mythological writings and other sources. One of his latest paintings called The Graf Zeppelin tells the story of gorilla Susie, the first and only trained gorilla at her time, brought to America in a first-class cabin on the Graf Zeppelin in 1929. She was captured in the Belgian Congo about 3 years earlier and shipped to France after her parents were violently shot.

With sadness, Susie gazes at the viewer. Her posture indicates that she's not feeling comfortable. She sits huddled in the corner of a sofa, shoulders pulled up, tightly holding her foot with one hand. The sofa’s beautiful fabric, the cabin’s floral wallpaper and the heavy red curtains suggest an upscale and elaborate surrounding. Susie was extracted from her natural environment, taken up in the air on board of an airship and flown across the Atlantic. Through the cabin’s window only the vast ocean and a lonely ship are visible below the zeppelin. On the table and to Susie’s left lie tangerines, grapes, carrots, pears and a pomegranate  - a poor substitute to her natural diet or habitat.

Walton Ford
The Graf Zeppelin, 2014
watercolor, gouache and ink on paper

Ford often adds text to the paintings in his usual thin, cursive, old-fashioned looking writing. However, along with the painting Windsor, May, 1829 depicting the smoking mandrill Jack, for the first time in his body of work, Ford writes down a few sentences telling the story from the apes’ own perspective on the bottom of the paper:

“I no longer feel like biting. All the strangeness has made me very tired. The people here have flat faces, the color of tongues. They bark loudly and move quickly. They offer food to me, most of it soft and sweet. I am out of the rain almost always now, inside hard shelters. This shelter seems to be moving. I feel like I’m sitting on a high branch in the wind… being carried somehow. I remember the feeling, of being carried through the warm rain on my mother’s back; my hands and feet gripping her wet fur...rolling along… floating along… the green wet world passing above and below. Now I’m being carried along very high and far. The cool rain passes out there, but in here my fur is dry; and these chattering people carry piles of fruit and watch me while I eat it.”

Although humans are rarely depicted in Ford paintings, they are very present. Susie is located in a human made environment - a cabin on an airship. Nothing resembles the gorilla’s natural habitat in the Belgian Congo, where it was caught. In The Graf Zeppelin Ford gives the gorilla a voice. Susie describes her situation in the unnatural environment, remembering and missing the time with her mother in the jungle, mentioning how men watch her eat. Susie becomes an attraction to satisfy human’s fascination for the wild. The tragic text evokes pity from the viewer. We can relate to the gorillas emotions: Weariness, discomfort, homesickness and yearning. However, whose words are these really? Ford is letting the animal use English language to communicate in a diary-like fashion with many human attributes. In the end we have to admit that it is what we think goes through the gorilla’s mind, while her words become no more than a human projection.

It is not the first time that a text has been written by men from gorilla Susie’s perspective: In 1945, the Cincinnati zoo - the zoo that eventually purchased Susie - published a 6 page booklet on the gorilla. The publication is titled A brief history of “Susie”. world famous gorilla. as told by her, to her trainer W.M. Dressman. In this short text her journey from the Belgian Congo, over France to the US is explained from her perspective. There are also some facts given about gorillas in captivity. The last part of the text uses Susie’s voice to advertise the zoo by inviting people and their friends to visit her, letting them know her performance schedule. The animal is exploited for commercial purposes.

Once again Ford’s most recent works are allegories of war, politics and imperialism and remain a critique of the history of colonialism and our relationship towards the animal world. However, in his latest set of painting he’s adding a more emotional component by deftly triggering the spectator’s empathy. Hence, the viewer becomes more involved in the stories that are being told and eventually is being pulled into the arena away from the spectator’s seat.

Monday, May 26, 2014

THE WEEK AHEAD | Art Comments Desk

May 25 - May 31

Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since the 1950s
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.
October 24, 2013 – May 26, 2014

Yoshitomo Nara, No Nukes (in the floating world), 1999. Courtesy of Eileen Harris Norton.

A Nos Amours
Chantal Akerman
La-bas (Down-There)
Film screening
Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow
May 28, 7–9 PM
United Kingdom

Still from La-Bas, 2006.

Putting Right
Opening reception: May 29, 6.30–8.30 PM
May 29 - August 2, 2014

Sean Edwards

Friday, April 25, 2014

THE WEEK AHEAD | Art Comments Desk

April 20 - April 26

13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World's Fair
Queens Museum
Opening Reception: April 26, 2014, 6-8pm followed by an opening party, 8pm–12am
On View: April 27–Sept 7, 2014
New York

April 25, 7–9 PM
New York

Charles Sanders Peirce, Labyrinth.
From Charles Sanders Peirce papers, MS Am 1632 (1537).
Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Opening reception: April 25, 7–8 PM
April 25 - June 21, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE WEEK AHEAD | Art Comments Desk

February 24 - March 2

In the Stomach of the Predators
Opening reception: February 28, 6pm
March 1 - April 19, 2014

Solo exhibition
Opening reception: February 28, 6 - 8 PM
February 28 - March 29, 2014
New York

Opening reception: March 1, 6 - 8 PM
March 1 - April 5, 2014
New York

New Typography
Opening reception: March 2, 6 - 8 PM
March 2 - 30, 2014
Brooklyn, New York

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

AC INTERVIEW, Stefanos Tsivopoulos at Art Basel

While at Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Comments interviewed artist Stefanos Tsivopoulos at the booth of Kalfayan Galleries. Born in Prague but based in Amsterdam and Athens, Stenfanos also represented Greece at this year's Venice Biennale with his solo exhibition 'History Zero'.

How does this exhibition here at Art Basel Positions relate or extend the work presented in the Greek pavilion at the Venice biennale this summer?

In a couple of ways, first, its the world premiere of the single channel version of the triptych History Zero that was shown in Venice. And the second way is I am taking a step further with the alternative currencies, which was in the central part of the pavilion in Venice by making my own proposal of an alternative currency which suggests an imaginary way of exchanging. This new currency is handmade crocheted doily that bears the words Fuck the  ” (its also the title of the work) and comes together with series of three photographs that show different gestures and use of the doily.

Stefanos Tsivopoulos
Fuck the 

What's the risk of proposing a system as opposed to critiquing a system?

If you look a bit more carefully, the way my proposal is articulated is based on human exchange, on trust, mutual trust, and the idea of the gift. The idea of the gift as a concept and as a sacred economy was thoroughly developed by Charles Eisenstein. His concept is that we can propose a new way of exchange through different objects and different systems of communication. This is an imaginary, I would say, utopian way of human exchange.

Stefanos Tsivopoulos
History Zero

This way of exchange relates to your posters here at the booth. Is this your gift?

Yes. The piece is called Residue, and it was inspired by my walks in Athens. I'm from Greece and over the years I've seen people displaying different commodities that look like luxury products such as Chanel wallets, bags, shoes, etc but they are actually cheap imitations made in China. This is part of the economic situation that reflects the current crisis in Greece. Most of these products are sold by immigrants living in Greece, and thats their way of making ends meet.

And the second poster, again, is coming from the streets of Athens. Angela Merkel, the counselor of Germany who is highly related to the economic crisis in Greece visited Athens back in 2012 . There were a lot of demonstrations on the streets, so I tried to collect some of the stones and debris that were thrown during the protests. In the end I took a picture of the pile of stones. Two elements contradicting one another but at the same time both reflect the economic situation in Athens.

Stefanos Tsivopoulos

Whats the challenge or opportunity for art during moments of crisis?

I think art is affected by crisis but art has its own mechanisms to push back or find ways to present itself with new ideas. I think art can be much greater and much bigger than any kind of crisis because it takes it inside its own system and somehow makes new propositions and brings to the front new ideas.

For example, in my own country I see that people are coming closer now because of the crisis. The idea of art as a commodity or just as an art object changed a lot because theres no such market anymore in Greece. People are away from the burden that they have to produce just a marketable object. They want much more than that. Art became more socially engaged and more critical towards society and that brings artists together by forming new initiatives and alliances, which is fantastic!

What disciplines or experiences inform your work? Obviously economic concerns, but what else informs your production?

Im working a lot with history and archival material. One of my major projects was for Manifesta 8 back in 2010 where I did a lot of on location work and research and thats where the filmare based. This research involved a lot of search on archival photography and film as well as local history and myths, poetry, and other findings around the subject matter. Its a bit like the work of a historian or an archaeologist who digs in the past and into the history of things. Im tracing the roots of the treeinterested in the origin of things and for me this is a way of dealing with whats happening nowadays. Even though I go back in history, its always in relation to the present and future.

Stefanos Tsivopoulos
Fuck the 

One of the things we like about your work is the way you approach history. At Art Comments we often discuss the notion of history as a medium and as something that is alive.

If I may, there's a very interesting recent exampleFor several years Im collecting archival photographs and some of them are from the National Television of Greece. A few months ago the National Television was seized once and for all because the government austerity plans demanded the layoff of almost two and a half thousand people. The whole institution and 75 years of broadcasting collapsed overnight. Black screens appeared on TVs all over Greece and the Greek people were like, "oh, my god." That was terrible news not only because of the layoffs but also because it was a black day for democracy and for the freedom of speech.

Ileft with all this material in my hands and I wonder about its new meaning. I don't know how to approach it or how to deal with it anymoreI feel that these images have a completely new value now. So the idea of history is not something that is frozen in the past. Images and history are charging constantly and reactivated in different ways according to our lives now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

53rd Venice Biennale Interview

This past summer Art Comments sat with independent curator Stamatina Gregory at a local cafe in Venice, Italy to discuss her involvement with the Bahamas pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale, a pavilion that featured the cerebral and risk-taking artist Tavarares Jackson.

Working on the first inaugural Bahamas  pavilion must be exciting and stressful.

It is definitely exciting and stressful at the same time. I mean, this is the kind of project that has taken a tremendous amount of planning, and primarily on  behalf of the artist. So it's been over 2 and a half years in the planning process, including both the conception and the installation of the work. And also the negotiation process with the government because it is not like doing a show with an institution. There's a lot more diplomacy involved. This woman right here, Amanda Paulson, the director of the National Gallery of the Bahamas, is Bahammien, I'm not. Although she wasn't involved in this iteration of the pavilion. She'll likely be involved with future iterations. I've learned about the structures of the Bahammien ministries through her. She's dealing with the culture side. Definitely exciting and stressful. You want to make sure that people notice the work you've done. And this was really important for the artist, Tavares Strachan. He wanted to have a real presence here at the Biennale. Even having a presence at the Arsenale already disrupts expectations about the representation of the Bahamas. And so that was the first step, to make sure that there was real visibility and that you were not in some broken down pallazzo somewhere. And also, through the installation completely disrupt expectations about what art from that country or an artist from that country might look like. A number of people viewing the exhibition came up to me and this was kind of shocking and they said, 'But the Bahamas is not cold.' So you are disrupting expectations, and you are speaking not only to an art world audience but you are also speaking to a general audience in many ways.

Can you talk about the differences in working in a commercial gallery setting, non-profit sectors and the biennale?

The area that I've had the least experience is the commercial gallery setting. I actually have not curated many exhibitions for commercial galleries. And within that category there's a huge range. You can curate an exhibition for a gallery that is somehow invested in this exhibition and you're showing a particular artists work that might sell, and so therefore money might be invested in the installation, planning and associated materials. But in my experience doing work for commercial galleries has been a labor of love for smaller commercial galleries where there actually isn't a lot of capital. And you notice that too in international biennale exhibitions that it kind of falls on the dealer to finance a lot but it is only a certain category of a dealer that can do that or do it on a certain level.

Most of my curating has been with institutions, either museums or non-profit institutions so I am used to working under stricter budgets. But also having the infrastructure of the museum or the institution on my side. Which makes a really big difference. And here it is completely different, I am one small part of an amazing team that made this happen. And I am one of the minor players that is behind the tremendous force, that is the artist Tavares Strachan. And he in many ways is the person closest to these negotiations. There's negotiations between the government of the Bahamas with the institutional structure of the biennale. It's been a learning process for everyone. The installation presents its own set of challenges and the negotiation presents its own set of challenges. And of course, here in Venice, installing anything is challenging. And so for me, I've primarily been on the communication side, I've done a lot of writing, editing and contextualizing of the exhibition in preparation to our opening for a long period of time. And that's primarily been my role as that kind of facilitator but also as part of a small team where everyone does everything when needed.

Is that the role of being a director of programs and education?

In part. I organized a small program that we had the other day a talk between Tavares (5:38)and it was moderated by Eric Shiner. In the beginning I think we had a much more ambitious program in mind. In the crush of the few days of the preview of the Biennale, reality starts to set in, the work is discursive on its own and all the layers of discursivity don’t need another discursive layer of events. There is not a steady stream of events in the space. So it’s not like the Japan pavillion where it’s chaotic and things are happening and it’s not like some other pavillions that have embraced or are still rooted in the discursive turn where the pavilion is where things happen. And so my title became deputy curator to better reflect the work I was doing.

How did the selection process for the artist work?

Every pavillion is different and the hierachy of who makes which choices are completely different from pavillion to pavillion. I didn’t select Tavares, in fact Tavares selected me. The artist happily enjoys working with friends and we’ve known each other a very long time and everyone on this team. Before he graduated with his MFA we have known one another and we did a show together in 2009 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where I was curator at the time and that was a part of the project where he was launching rockets off the coast of Nassau using only Bahamian materials. Sand, sugar cane.

Can you talk about the contemplative component of the exhibition?

One of the major and connective threads throughout the artist’s pracice is this idea of what is visible and what is invisible and how they shift and how displacment and cultural and historical changes affect both. To realize what is there and what is not there takes a patience of vision for the viewer. Part of the artist’s project and part of the project of this installation is undoing common conceptions of what we think we know about history, narratives of history, what we know about representation. There are many layers to the work, for example, the narrative of Matthew Henson. 

This theme of visibilty and invisibility and through the installation itself. Ironically, the erased figure of Henson is no more interesting to anyone visiting the pavillion or involved in the international art world than the original figure of conquest that he was associated with. At the same time I think that the work goes further and also is undoing what we immediately reach to as a kind of form of contemporary projects. Because if you look at the missions of institutions for example, many of them mention supporting underrecognized artists and underrecognized figures so this process of uncovering has now also become a kind of common form. 

What I love about the artist’s practice is that it’s not merely about an external narrative but also about an internal narrative. Not only a kind of disclosure itself, an invitation of the viewer into this disruption and displacement. So when you walk in, neon signs which may be exploding or imploding telling you "I belong here, you belong here, we belong here" then you’re like where is here? Who am I? What is this kind of transnational space, is it really transnational? Who is involved who is left out?One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition is "40 days and 40 nights" which is the 40 Bahemmien children singing in the pavillion. One thing that I love about it in this space is that it’s two communities from across the globe north of this space and south of this space together speaking a language that we can understand.

Can you talk to us about your approach to history and curating?

That’s a really big question. I think curators have a responsibilty to critically look at history and not just to learn it in a profunctionary way. I’m about to finish my PhD in art history and I feel like maybe I begun to know something. Only begun though. Since the advent of the real professionalisation of curating and also the idea of curating as a career is a really hip and glamourous rockstar thing to do, this critical vision of history is kind of getting left aside and history for everyone is starting in the 80’s or something.

I’ve been looking at Tavares’s work for so long I started thinking about everything in the terms of the problem and the idea of firsts. Who did something first? This colonial rubric that we apply to these things. The idea that a topic is done but you’re always searching for the new thing, when new things are there to uncover everywhere. 

I just finished working on an exhibition from recent history looking at an artist who’s work is really not very well known. An exhibition of (Brian Weil) who’s a New York based artist and died in 1996. He’s best known as an activist, he started New York’s first needle exchange program. The body of work he’s best known for are his large-scale photographs representing various aspects of the AIDS crisis, domestically and globally through portraits. The photographs are wonderful but a limited byproduct. It’s the same kind of thing in curating. The big question now is what is the role of the object and what’s the role of the history. Maybe that’s one answer.

Thank you.