Work by 24 Artists from 17 Countries on View October 4-February 17
Some artworks offer escape: fanciful worlds, soothing aesthetics, images and ideas made to calm and comfort. Others nudge us to question and reflect on realities facing us as individuals and as a society. The latter definition of art guides the Walker Art Center exhibition Brave New Worlds, which considers the present state of political consciousness, expressed through the questions of how to live, experience, and dream. On view October 4–February 17 and organized by Walker visual arts curators Doryun Chong and Yasmil Raymond, the exhibition of some 70 works by 24 artists from 17 countries doesn’t resort to simplistic notions of “political art.” Instead, diverse artistic voices seek different potentials for engagement and thus collectively offer a look at today’s world beyond glib expressions of globalism. The exhibition title, inspired by Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, capitalizes on its ambivalent resonance. Made into the plural form, “brave new worlds”—the micro-worlds proposed by the artists—present a multiplicity of interpretations and perspectives that critically cut through the collective haze of the “globe” that obscures the world’s many realities. On view will be paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, videos, films, and installations dating from 1995 to the present.
What forms would such “politically conscious art” take? Several artists work in ways that are akin to investigative journalism: for instance, a photographer documenting the lives and landscapes of Tangier, Morocco, the jumping-off point from Africa into Europe across the Strait of Gibraltar; a pseudo-archivist collecting, organizing, and analyzing the striking similarities between photos from the U.S. Department of Defense Web bank and those from Jihadist Web sites. Other images in the exhibition show not only the streets of Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war and an antiwar protest in Washington, D.C., but laborers on sugarcane fields in South Africa and workers in a lightbulb factory in Southern China. To this complex portrait of war, civic action, and labor, Brave New Worlds adds further visuals and objects of poetry and reverie: plastic bags combined to make a giant balloon, a series of photographs of the sun, a cowboy hat filled to the brim with used motor oil. “We had this great opportunity to bring two dozen artists to one place and the only requirement we came up with for ourselves is that their art-making is responsible to the world,” says Chong. “And that’s our definition of ‘political consciousness.’ ”
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 prize-winner 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).
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: Armando Andrade Tudela; Yto Barrada; Yael Bartana; Mark Bradford; Fernando Bryce; Mircea Cantor; Cao Fei; Banu Cennetoğlu; Gimhongsok; Runa Islam; Gabriel Kuri; Jorge Macchi; Josephine Meckseper; Zwelethu Mthethwa; Noguchi Rika; Dan Perjovschi; Lia Perjovschi; Walid Raad; Tomás Saraceno; Sean Snyder; Erik van Lieshout; Haegue Yang; Zheng Guogu; Artur Żmijewski
[imagen 1: Armando Andrade Tudela, Camion, 2003, single slide projection, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist, Carl Freedman Gallery, London, and Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam / imagen 2: Fernando Bryce, Work in Progress, 2006, Series of 80 drawings ink on paper 30 x 21 cm each. Courtesy of Collection Inelcom, Valencia]