Mircea Cantor, Deeparture, 2005, (still from video), Collection Walker Art Center, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2006.
Cao Fei, Whose Utopia?, 2006, video, 20 min Part of the installation What Are You Doing Here? Siemens Arts Program/OSRAM China Lighting Ltd., Foshan, Guangdong Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Guangdong.
Walid Raad, Let's Be Honest, The Weather Helped series, 1984-2007, Color ink-jet prints; edition 6/7 + 2AP, 18-1/4 x 28-1/4 in. (46.4 x 71.8 cm) each of 17, Collection Walker Art Center, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2007.
Banu Cenneto?lu, Determined Barbara, 2002, Ink-jet prints on paper, 7-5/16 x 10-1/16", each of 32, Courtesy the artist, Istanbul.
Fernando Bryce, Work in Progress, 2006, Series of 80 drawings ink on paper 30 x 21 cm each Courtesy of Collection Inelcom, Valencia.
Artur Zmijewski, Dorota, 2006, Video transferred to DVD (color, sound); 15:00 minutes; edition of 3, Courtesy the artist and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw.
Jorge Macchi, Tevere, 2006, Concrete; edition of 3, 3-15/16 x 275-9/16 x 78-3/4", Diane and Bruce Halle Collection Scottsdale, Arizona.
Gimhongsok, This is Coyote, 2006, foam rubber, fabric 197 x 82 x 65 cm Courtesy the artist.
Tomás Saraceno, Sunny Day, Air-Port-City, 2006, Courtesy of the Artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave.
Galleries 4, 5, 6
Brave New Worlds
October 4, 2007-February 17, 2008
In an era characterized by the unraveling of a unified world order, it’s an act of bravery to imagine a world fundamentally different. In response, rather than creating “political art,” the artists represented in Brave New Worlds collectively call for a return to the “world” as subject matter, philosophical topic, and object of personal concerns and affections with work that is resonant and profound.
Assessing the current state of international art and its political consciousness, the Walker Art Center exhibition Brave New Worlds, assembles work by 24 artists from 17 countries who are exploring, with sharpened awareness, the ways we know, experience, and dream about the world.
The exhibition title, borrowed from Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, evokes an attractive utopian proposition when written in the plural sense in an attempt to frame the art of today beyond glib expressions of globalism and to stress its many voices, artistic practices, and visions.
Organized by Walker curators Doryun Chong and Yasmil Raymond, the exhibition features approximately 70 works by Armando Andrade Tudela, Yto Barrada, Yael Bartana, Mark Bradford, Fernando Bryce, Mircea Cantor, Cao Fei, Banu Cennetoglu, Gimhongsok, Runa Islam, Gabriel Kuri, Jorge Macchi, Josephine Meckseper, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Noguchi Rika, Dan Perjovschi, Lia Perjovschi, Walid Raad, Tomas Saraceno, Sean Snyder, Erik van Lieshout, Haegue Yang, Zheng Guogu, and Artur Zmijewski. (Artist bios follow.) On view will be painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, film, and installation dating from 1995 to the present.
Accompanying the exhibition is a 300-page illustrated catalogue containing essays by Chong and Raymond. The publication includes six “correspondent” essays, inspired by newspaper reports and penned by a group of young art historians, critics, and curators from around the world: Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna (Spain), Cecilia Brunson (Chile), Hu Fang (China), Tone Hansen (Norway), Mihnea Mircan (Romania), and José Roca (Colombia).
A selection of recent texts by philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, Booker prizewinner and activist Arundhati Roy, and award-winning war correspondent Janine di Giovanni will provide additional perspectives on global affairs of the past decade. Also featured will be illustrated artist entries as well as an insert created by Bucharest-based participating artist Lia Perjovschi entitled Subjective Art History from Modernism to Today.
The catalogue is distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., 155 Sixth Avenue, Second Floor, New York, NY 10013, 800.338.2665 (phone), 212.627.9484 (fax), and is available at the Walker Art Center Shop, 612.375.7638 (phone), 612.375.7565 (fax). ISBN 0-935640-89-4. $39.95 ($35.96 Walker members).
Artists Armando Andrade Tudela (b. 1975, Peru; lives and works in St. Etienne, France) Having grown up amid the idealistic revolutions and bitter political disappointments of his native Peru, Armando Andrade
Tudela’s artwork is driven by his desire to revisit the utopian dreams of early 20th-century modernism. The artist’s sculptures are complex amalgamations of signs and signifiers that critique modernism’s attempt to erase historical and cultural specificity even as they maintain the imaginative, optimistic spirit of the movement’s radical proposals. Some of his recent projects have been the fragmentation of a replica of a geometric, abstract sculpture found near the ruins of the pre-Inca civilization of Chankillo, a model built from snow of a public housing complex, and photographs of rearranged billboard pieces. Andrade is also the founder of an artist-run space and art collective Espacio La Culpable in Lima, Peru.
Yto Barrada (b. 1971, Tangier; lives and works in Paris, France, and Tangier) Trained as a photographer at the Sorbonne and the International Center of Photography in New York, Yto Barrada’s photographs, installations, and videos document what the artist calls the “territory of the in-between” created by contemporary patterns of migration and tourism. Since 1998,
Barrada has focused on her mother’s hometown of Tangier, Morocco, in an ongoing project A Life Full Of Holes—The Strait Project. On a clear day, the coast of Spain is visible from Tangier across the Strait of Gibraltar, and this tangible distance has made the city a jumping off point for immigrants from all over Africa. Barrada’s portraits and cityscapes eloquently capture in a reportage-like style the estrangement and expectations that mark such a liminal space, where hopeful immigrants often meet their death in illegal passages across the strait.
Yael Bartana (b. 1970, Israel. Lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Tel Aviv, Israel) Yael Bartana’s photographs and videos direct a seemingly objective gaze at rituals shaped by nationalistic politics. Despite their nearly anthropological intent, the artist’s documentary images are poignant, beautiful, and intentionally political. Focusing on Israel, where she grew up, Bartana is interested in how the psychology of children and youths is molded to create citizens of the state.
After receiving her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1999, the artist began to record national ceremonies such as soldiers saluting, a moment of silence on Memorial Day, and children celebrating Purim. Bartana’s recent work, Wild Seeds (2005), is a video showing a group of young people wrestling in a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and mountains. A second screen translates their Hebrew dialogue and reveals that they are playing an eerie and violent game where one group pretends to be soldiers removing the others from their settlements in the occupied territories.
Mark Bradford (b. 1961, United States. Lives and works in Los Angeles, California) Mark Bradford has emerged in the past few years as one of the most exciting painters of his generation. His abstractions blend everyday material culture and geometric painting traditions into vibrant, erupting compositions. A self-described “beauty operator,” Bradford’s paintings collage graffiti stencils, logos, paint, and small endpapers used by hairdressers to give permanents.
From these formal explorations, the artist has expanded his practice to include performances, public interventions, and videos that continue his frank critique of “blackness” and his multifaceted depictions of urban environments. His latest project, Ridin’ Dirty, collaged billboard papers, masonry string, and merchant posters into a mural for the São Paulo Biennial in 2006.
Fernando Bryce (b. 1965, Peru. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany) Fernando Bryce studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and since the early 1990s, inspired by structuralist theories, has been producing images through what he calls “mimetic analysis,” a method whereby he copies by hand archival materials to bring them into a subjective context.
This process calls upon viewers’ personal and collective memories to inspire mutual reinterpretation. Bryce has recently reproduced documents surrounding a U.S. Department of Defense pamphlet about South America, the philosophers Walter Benjamin and Leon Trotsky, the Spanish Civil War, and the Cuban Revolution. Loaded with contemporary resonance, his drawings act, in Bryce’s words, as “iconographic nets” that collect subjective, political, and cultural meanings.
Mircea Cantor (b. 1977, Romania. Lives and works in Paris, France, and Cluj, Romania) For Mircea Cantor, artistic practice is guided by the fantasy “to break free and to go somewhere” visually and experientially. Working in a variety of media, including film, video, photography, sculpture, and multiples, Cantor maneuvers the fragile line between the tangible and the invisible aiming for a permanent state of displacement and misunderstanding that camouflages the utopian aspirations of his art.
Born in Romania, he graduated with a postgraduate degree from the École Regionale des Beaux-Arts in Nantes in 2000. In his most recent works, Cantor examines the exchanges and displacements of signs, with aesthetic modesty and simplicity reminiscent of the Arte Povera artists that invite the spectator to find in the misinterpreted and the misunderstood equally profound communicative effectiveness.
Cao Fei (b. 1978, China. Lives and works in Beijing, China) One of the most remarkable talents of the young generation of Chinese artists coming of age in the new century, Cao Fei has amassed an incredible body of work in the past few years. An accomplished filmmaker/video artist, Cao’s wide-ranging subjects include “cosplayers,” adolescent fans of Japanese animations and computer games, who dress up and enact their favorite characters; her father, a sculptor trained in the socialist realist tradition; and workers in a German-owned factory in a free-trade zone near Guangzhou, her native city in southern China.
Her moving images are showcased in often-complicated sculptural installations that incorporate her videos and photographs in theatrical settings. Cao’s work combines a remarkable sharp-eyed rendering of a new China and surrealistic elements of fantasy.
Banu Cennetoglu (b. 1970, Turkey. Lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey) Banu Cennetoglu studied psychology at Bosphorous University in Istanbul before moving to Paris to study photography, and her current photographs and artist’s books continue her interest in how psychological states are mapped onto architecture and landscape. Her project, False Witness (2003), records the structure of the Asylum Seeker Registration Center in Ter Apel, Holland.
The asylum seekers have a 48-hour examination procedure during which they are not allowed to leave the building. During this time, the applicants are moved between rooms whose design corresponds to the status of their application. Cennetoglu’s photographs reveal how the building both manipulates and reflects the moods of the applicants. She establishes a further parallel between the asylum seeker and the viewer by installing the photographs in continuous strips that run the length of dark, narrow hallways.
Gimhongsok (b. 1964, South Korea. Lives and works in Seoul, South Korea) Gimhongsok is a conceptual artist who works in a variety of media—film, video, sculpture, and installation. He studied at Seoul National University and the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Gim often utilizes common materials to engage viewers in dialogues surrounding nationalism, economy, and cultural divisions. At the same time, his work may be characterized best as addressing many (im)possibilities of intercultural, interlinguistic translation. Recent projects include Interpreters (2005), a montage of actors collectively imagining a narrative about the state of a nation in the wake of a fictional government policy of distributing handguns to all citizens; Untold Scandal (2005), a wall text of the entire English language subtitling the Korean film of the same name, a historically transposed and recontextualized interpretation of de Laclos’ novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses; and Boat (2000–2007), a fiberglass rock loaded with foodstuffs and useful devices gathered in the cities where it is displayed.
Runa Islam (b. 1970, Bangladesh. Lives and works in London) Runa Islam’s films, videos, and photographs capture poetic moments of undeniable beauty. Blurring the lines between film and sculpture as well as art and cinema, her architectural installations of moving images that float between meditation and narrative encourage a wide range of interpretations. The artist’s flexible cinematic language is evident in such recent films as Be the First to See What You See As You See It (2004), which features a pale, white woman scrutinizing and shattering household china; Time Lines (2005), which uses the cable car over Barcelona to make a sweeping shot of the city and its sky; and Conditional Probability (2006), which documents 14- and 15-year-old students of North Westminster Community School in captivating mise-en-scènes. Islam’s background in film history and philosophy subtly permeates her films, which analyze the social semiotics of her subjects and herself as a woman director of Bangladeshi descent.
Gabriel Kuri (b. 1970, Mexico. Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium, and Mexico City, Mexico) The materiality of present day life and the semantics of mundane objects take on the character of a collective language in Gabriel Kuri’s work. Infused with humor and even self-parody, Kuri’s “social plastic,” as he refers to his objects/signs, combines the social tone of conceptualism with the material logic of Arte Povera to reflect upon consumerist behaviors, the appeasement of yearnings and daily sustenance, and ultimately, the value of art within capitalism. Born in Mexico, Kuri received an MFA from Goldsmith College in London in 1995 and currently divides his time between Brussels and Mexico City. In his latest group of works, defined as “speculations” by the artist, he orchestrates groupings of objects, both found and fabricated, that resonate for their semantic implications as well as for their material properties. The works continue his study of material contradictions, as he described: “Turning something upside down, or wronging it, is often the way to understand more deeply how it works.”
Jorge Macchi (b. 1963, Argentina. Lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina) The conceptual work of Jorge Macchi prompts questions of casual incidents and fate through the absence and presence of language and the interplay of the visible and the invisible. Although he graduated with a degree in painting from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires in 1989, Macchi’s commonplace objects and minimal environments are strongly rooted in the formal materiality and aesthetic economy. The presence of the ready-made, primarily in the form of newspaper clippings, city maps, and music sheets that are carefully altered, censored, and decomposed, represents a desire to reclaim the objects’ materiality in an attempt “to make the most minimal movement possible.” In his work, Macchi displaces the familiar to echo fragments from the silenced past, the unread police reports of missing victims, erased visual registers, or the untraced image of an event.
Josephine Meckseper (b. 1964, Germany. Lives and works in New York City) Although best known for her assemblages in department store display cases or on glass shelves, Josephine Meckseper has also expanded her practice to include video, photography, and textiles. Meckseper was born and raised in Germany, but has lived in the U.S. since receiving her MFA from the California Institute of Arts. Dissecting American contemporary culture and its discontents, she juxtaposes sales boutiques with art galleries and fashion trends with political statements, while in the process leveling everything as capitalist by-product. The artist’s latest sculpture, Shoes (2007), for instance, is a multitiered display carousel of sandals, which echoes such diverse references as Duchamp’s readymade racks, the footwear of poverty, and Holocaust images of piled shoes.
Zwelethu Mthethwa (b. 1960, South Africa. Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa) Zwelethu Mthethwa was one of the few black students to attend the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town during Apartheid, and his talents and perseverance earned him a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the U.S. Since 1999, Mthethwa has dedicated himself to depicting life in the shantytowns and workers in sugarcane fields surrounding Cape Town, as well as miners in Mozambique, primarily through large-format photography. Though circumstances are often dire in these environments, the artist insists, “I do not believe poverty is equal to degradation … think these photographs preserve and show a humanness of the occupants in their private spaces. They restore their pride and affirm their ownership.” Perhaps the greatest aesthetic accomplishment of his brightly colored images is a subtle shift away from dominant modes of representing the disempowered “other.”
Noguchi Rika (b. 1971, Japan. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany) Photographer Noguchi Rika has explored geographically, culturally, and psychically distant places in a number of photographic series. Her subjects include hikers on Mount Fuji, a rocket-launch center in southern Japan, and the depths of the ocean. Infused with a deep sense of poetry, Noguchi’s photographs possess a subtle yearning beneath their calm, composed surfaces. The atmospheric light in her photographs has often been compared to the illumination of 19th-century landscape paintings, particularly those of German painter Caspar David Friedrich. The artist has said of her mysterious and almost spiritual images, “I will continue to shoot photos. For the sake of the 99% of the riddles that dominate daily life.”
Dan Perjovschi (b. 1961, Romania. Lives and works in Bucharest, Romania) Since the overthrow of communism and the death of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Dan Perjovschi and his wife Lia have invested heavily in establishing and promoting contemporary art in Romania. In 1991, he even joined the staff of Bucharest’s prominent opposition newspaper, 22, as political illustrator and art director to increase his involvement in his country’s development. He is now known for his graffiti-like drawings that cover the walls and floors of art galleries around the world. His style resembles the editorial cartoons that he produces for the newspaper, and the drawings often respond to divisions between the elite and the disadvantaged masses in Romania, the constantly shifting boundaries and nature of the European Union, and the movements of capital around the globe. Infused with gossip, literary references, and witty punch lines, Perjovschi’s drawings deliver their political message with generosity and humor.
Lia Perjovschi (b. 1961, Romania. Lives and works in Bucharest, Romania) Lia Perjovschi challenged herself after the fall of communism to bring information to Romania that the citizens had no access to under their tightly controlled state. Since 1989, she has created archives, diagrams, and information rooms that tell various modern histories and visually demonstrate how we organize history. Perjovschi’s projects such as her subjective art history, collection of globes, or maps of the mind are straightforward in their concept but complex in their implications. Her artwork asks us to consider how the construction of history affects the structure of our thoughts and if it is possible for an individual to take control of that process.
Walid Raad (b. 1967, Lebanon. Lives and works in New York City) In his quest to meticulously document the Lebanese Civil War from about 1975 to 1991, Walid Raad has disregarded the dichotomy between truth and fiction. He formed the Atlas Group in 1999 in order to collect and preserve documentation of the war, but the fictional group has taken on the metamission of examining how film, video, and photography function as documents of physical and psychological violence. In recent projects, the group has presented documents of the 1982 air and sea assault against West Beirut, the notes of Lebanese historian Dr. Fadl Fakhouri, and the testimony of an Arab man, Souheil Bachar, who was kidnapped in Lebanon by Islamic militants in 1985 along with five Americans. However, it remains unclear which elements of these presentations are truth and which are fiction. As a result, they exist as free and polysemic representations of profoundly traumatic events. Raad dissolved the immensely productive Atlas Group project in 2004.
Tomas Saraceno (b. 1973, Argentina. Lives and works in Frankfurt, Germany) Tomas Saraceno’s futuristic constructions and images merge art and architecture to sculpt utopian visions. The possibility of moving cities from the earth’s surface into the air is one of the central themes in his practice. Recent projects include building the world’s largest solar energy-powered geodesic balloon and a balloon raft on the highest and largest salt lake in the world, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. The artist has said that he sees himself as part of the tradition of those who have “looked to the sky to escape the reality of earth.”
Sean Snyder (b. 1972, United States. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany, and Kiev, Ukraine) Sean Snyder has explored and investigated many historically neglected and geopolitically charged sites, such as an improbable replica of the main set from the TV drama “Dallas” in Slobozia, Romania, and the international reconstruction urban-planning project after the devastation of Skopje, Macedonia, by a massive earthquake. The methodology of investigative journalism that he used on these projects is still a part of his practice, but now he has moved further into the arena of media and representation. More precisely, Snyder is currently interested in the media’s manipulation of “reality” and “truth” to avoid what the images and stories might potentially reveal. In his current videos, the artist zooms in, dissects, and recombines a massive databank of images collected via satellite TV and the Internet to expose the construction of our own subjectivity by technologies of mediation and visuality.
Erik van Lieshout (b. 1968, The Netherlands. Lives and works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands) As a model of liberal democracy and cultural pluralism, the Netherlands has long been at the forefront of cultural shifts in Europe, including the recent rise of right-wing nationalists. Erik van Lieshout has immersed himself in this milieu and has used his installations, drawings, and paintings to unpack the complex psychology of those grappling with immigration, tolerance, the legacy of colonialism, and sexuality. Recently the subject of his own documentaries, van Lieshout is brutally honest in his depictions of his relation to hip-hop and the African diasporas, a heated political argument with his best friend about the murder of the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and his own struggle to balance work and family. These documentaries are presented in installations made to look like garages, drive-in theaters, and undulating mirrors, bringing the street aesthetic of the artist’s early paintings and drawings into a three-dimensional space.
Haegue Yang (b. 1971, South Korea. Lives and works in Berlin and Seoul, South Korea) As an art student from Korea studying at the Stadelschule in Frankfurt am Main, Haegue Yang learned firsthand how differences in culture can render even the most inconspicuous things suddenly strange. Yang’s books, videos, and sculptures are often meditations on estrangement presented in an almost documentary fashion. Her trilogy of videos, Unfolding Places, Restrained Courage (both 2004), and Squandering Negative Spaces (2006), examines the artist’s environments in Seoul, London, Berlin, and São Paulo. About the socialization and alienation of the individual, the artist has said that the trilogy focuses on “a dialogue between ‘singularities,’ whose location is rather vague whereas his or her identity of ‘homeless’ is definite . . . The voiceover contemplates on being lost, constantly losing oneself, negating distinctive territories, lacking courage, while various minor informal urban scenarios as well as staged elements are unfolding.”
Zheng Guogu (b. 1970, China. Lives and works in Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, China) Zheng Guogu’s artwork takes a conceptual and iconoclastic stance on the presence of pop culture in modern China. Zheng’s multimedia work includes staged and composite photographs, digitally manipulated Japanese animations and pornographic films, scribbled ink paintings, photo-collages on rice paper, installations of toys and model motorcycles, performances, and cast-iron Coke bottle sculptures. One of the artist’s latest projects took images from Art Basel’s Web site, superimposed them over the art fair’s press release, and had skilled Chinese painters meticulously copy the images onto canvas. Ultimately, Zheng’s work is a multifaceted documentation and testament to the condition of living in synchronicity with and in periphery to an increasingly globalized world.
Artur Zmijewski (b. 1966, Poland. Lives and works in Warsaw, Poland) Since 1998, Artur Zmijewski has been creating anxious, strange, and beautiful films and videos with an intense emotional impact. Most of Zmijewski’s projects begin with a sociological hypothesis that uses memory or taboos to examine the psychological relationship between spiritual and physical aspects of the human condition. Recent films, photographs, and installations include his records of 24 hours in the mundane life of three Polish women workers; Repetition (2005), a recreation of the 1971 Stanford prison experiment, which asked volunteers to pose as guards or prisoners and had to be stopped due to the subjects’ violent actions; and portraits of a fundamentalist Jew who demands that Arabs be punished for the Holocaust and of a young woman who moved to Israel from Germany deciding she had been reborn after being murdered as a little boy in Auschwitz. Zmijewski once defined art as the “mortal fight for human consciousness” and his documentaries often serve as memento mori reminding us of our own isolation and fragility.