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  • Thursday, April 18 - Wednesday, May 8

  • Reception: Thursday, April 18
    6:30 – 9:30pm

  • Pfizer Building, 630 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn

  • Free and open to the public

MA Curatorial Practice presents its final thesis exhibitions, curated by its graduating program fellows.

"What Happens Here Stays With Us" by John Michael Elammar

"Haunted and Whole" by Jesse Bandler Firestone

"Argot" by Xinyi Ren

"Geographical Memories" by María Alejandra Sáen

"[I]n the image of ..." by Michele Thursz

Full descriptions of projects are below. Unless otherwise noted, all exhibitions are on view from Thursday, April 18 – Wednesday, May 8, with an opening reception on Thursday, April 18, 6:30 – 9:30pm. To schedule an appointment to view an exhibition, contact [email protected].

"What Happens Here Stays With Us"
Curator: John Michael Elammar
Artists: Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings, Phoebe Osborne, Zac Thompson, Mark McCloughan, and Untitled Queen with DJ Jessamess
Sounds by DJ Ickarus
*Doors Open: Thursday, April 18, 7:30pm – 2:00am

"I recently came across a puzzle-platform first-person game called Antichamber. The puzzles are based on passages leading the player through structures created by the game engine that are impossible within normal three-dimensional space. The game’s maze seamlessly expands as the player completes each challenge. I began to ask: 'Could such an approach to space be applied to curating and exhibition-making?' For instance, could there be an exhibition without entrance or exit, or one that slows movement, disorients, stimulates contemplation and doesn’t give too many answers? Perhaps it gives away just enough for the viewer to move through to the next stage."

"What Happens Here Stays With Us" takes the form of a one-night-only party where artists, performers, viewers, dancers and works come together to celebrate queer practices that are perpetually appearing and disappearing. Historically, partying became more than a space for enjoyment and celebration; it became a bubble of collective thought and action, a particular form of space and time where underground communities formed to survive.

Inside the large warehouse space in the Pfizer building, Hannah Quinlan and Rosie HastingsUK Gaybar Directory (2016) presents an archive or visual directory of empty bars gay bars across the UK that have either shut down or are on the verge of shutting down. Phoebe Osborne’s three-hour durational performance Flake (2017-present) weaves in and out of the night, examining the relationships between bodies and environments under blue lighting while slow choreographed movements mesh with nail painting and hanging out.

Mark McCloughan projects disjointed poetry through a computer program that randomizes and combines segments of their original poems throughout the night. Zac Thompson creates wall drawings of a home interior with pastel and charcoal dust that can be swiped away by the touch of a hand; reminding the viewer of their constant state of change, as well as the fragility of our upbringings and memories. Untitled Queen, a Brooklyn-based artist and drag queen, will host a silent disco within the party.

Each of the artworks in "What Happens Here Stays With Us" were created out of the desire to critically analyze the spaces we occupy daily. The curator wanted to put the art back into its context, where it all began: the party.

"Haunted and Whole"
Curator: Jesse Firestone
Artists: Bern Boyle, Jimmy De Sana, Daniel McKernan, Marlon Riggs, Laurie Simmons, Kiyan Williams
In addition to the in-person exhibition, check out Visual Aids online web gallery until Tuesday, April 30.

"Haunted and Whole" is an exhibition bringing together a group of living artists who intentionally channel or have been directly influenced by late queer artists from the past. Each artist alive today—Daniel McKernan (b. 1981), Kiyan Williams (b. 1992) and Laurie Simmons (b. 1949)—is exhibited alongside their deceased counterpart: Bern Boyle (d.1992), Marlon Riggs (d.1994) and Jimmy De Sana (d.1990), respectively.

The exhibition seeks to harness the power of art in communicating across generations, but also to aggressively approach queer histories constantly at risk of being obscured by heterocentric narratives. Boyle, Riggs and Desana all died of AIDS-related illnesses that decimated two generations of queer communities.

Each living artist in the exhibition is connected to their deceased counterpart in different yet overlapping ways including artistic affinities, personal identity and lived experience, or mentorship. The exhibition asks: "How might revealing these linkages between the living and the dead begin to establish a type of queer ancestry?" Despite not achieving lasting, mainstream prominence, the artworks made by Boyle, Riggs and Desana still resonate today. It is these lingering ripples in consciousness that impress the need to further historicize their practices today.

"Argot"
Curator: Xinyi Ren
Artists: Luis Camnitzer, Jesse Chun, Furen Dai, Stine Marie Jacobsen, Taole Zhu

"Argot" presents artworks examining secretive communication and insider/private languages used for expression when freedom to speak openly is not guaranteed. Where the 19th-century French term argot originally denoted the jargon or slang of criminals, many minority groups today use language to creatively bypass or combat specific problems, from homophobia and racism to censorship and algorithmic control.

"Argot" opens the question of insider language as both safe space and walled city with Luis Camnitzer’s Insults (2009), a wall of statements in six different languages, each insulting those who cannot read the respective language. At once antagonistic and comic, Insults plays with the subtle tension between cultural superiority and the anxiety/shame of having a small advantage over its viewers. Furen Dai’s installation and interactive project #Silverwords (2018) takes keyword-based online censorship and users’ reactions to it to create a physical floating dictionary of sensitive terms. This interactive project, which could be read as an observation of the use of argot as spontaneous grassroots resistance, is then contradicted in Dai’s other project, Language Factory (2017). This video installation is the result of the artist’s expedition to Jiangyong county in Hunan, China, to explore the usage of Nüshu—a secret language invented and used by local women—and its transformation by cultural tourism and consumerism.

From here, the exhibition takes the argument to the broader scale of public languages, starting with a series of works by Jesse Chun critiquing the assumed publicness of English as today’s global lingua franca. Through multimedia collages using pedagogical text, image and sound, Chun exposes the institutionalization of a language and questions whether we could imagine a world where the current domination of English is substituted by images, poetics or play. This query is picked up by Stine Marie Jacobsen’s project Pidgin Tongue (2018 - ongoing), an educational project designed to encourage children to devise their own, fluid languages without regard for the rules of existing or established languages. Finally, Taole Zhu’s performance We decided to let them say, "we are capable", twice (2019) activates the site of the Pfizer Building by tapping into the factory’s own history, and uses a fictional narrator to probe the relationship between secrecy in language, prophecy and social change.

"Argot" attempts to expand our understanding of insider languages beyond a merely anthropological or linguistic interpretation by probing the reasons behind a need for secrecy, the joy in identification through style and coded words, the mechanisms at work in the play of camouflage and the implied outcomes of decoding.

"Geographical Memories"
Curator: Maria Alejandra Sáenz
Artists: Alberto Baraya, Jesús Abad Colorado, Clemencia Echeverri, Miguel Ángel Rojas, Andrés Salas

Recognizing that nature is a living body that reacts and holds information, "Geographical Memories" offers pathways through artists’ engagement in acknowledging nature as a victim of the armed conflict in Colombia. If art can function as a form of resistance, denouncement or as an act of protest, can it also be a witness? Avoiding a linear and singular history, "Geographical Memories" brings artists and journalists who testify as witnesses of the conflict, asking how the impacts of the violence committed against nature can be perceived.

This exhibition features five Colombian practitioners who employ video and photography to remember and activate the recent memories of the conflict. Alberto Baraya presents Río, a video that narrates numerous stories of violent confrontation in Colombia’s rivers. Clemencia Echeverri’s video Sin cielo reveals traces of illegal gold mining in rivers whose abundant biodiversity has been exploited as a “natural resource.” Miguel Ángel Rojas’s photograph Santa uses text and image to create a riddle critically addressing the use of chemical fumigation to control coca leaf production. In the video work Sub_terra, Echeverri frames, maps and traces the environmental violence on the territory by overlapping gold mining archival footage and images of a fractured landscape. In his video installation Después del oro, Andrés Salas reflects on disappearance and what has been lost to the ongoing colonial obsession with gold. Finally, Jesús Abad Colorado speaks as a photojournalist and victim of the conflict; his series of photographs are a unique archive that makes evident the scale of the ecological crisis.

"Geographical Memories" calls for an equitable relationship between human and nonhuman life. As T.J. Demos writes, “There is thus an urgent need to change course, and to realize a radically different world, one released from centuries of the domination of nature, a nature historically relegated to the status of 'natural resources' available to infinite exploitation.” Acknowledging nature as a subject of rights and a victim of human violence is necessary to fully memorialize the conflict and act against oblivion in Colombia’s recent history.

En Español:

Reconociendo que la naturaleza es un cuerpo vivo que reacciona y almacena información, la exposición Memorias Geográficas ofrece una mirada a través de prácticas artísticas donde se reconoce a la naturaleza como una víctima del conflicto armado en Colombia. Si el arte puede ser una forma de resistencia, de denuncia y un acto de protesta, ¿puede ser también un testigo? Para evitar una historia singular y lineal, Memorias Geográficas presenta la obra de artistas y periodistas quienes testifican y se preguntan cómo se pueden percibir los impactos de violencia cometidos contra la naturaleza. 

Esta exposición presenta obras de cinco profesionales colombianos que hacen uso de la fotografía y el video para activar las memorias recientes del conflicto. Alberto Baraya presenta Río, un video que narra numerosas historias de confrontación violenta en los ríos de Colombia. Sin cielo de Clemencia Echeverri, es un video que revela los rastros de la minería ilegal de oro en los ríos, afectando gravemente su abundante biodiversidad y explotándolos como un “recurso natural.” La fotografía Santa de Miguel Ángel Rojas usa texto e imagen para crear un juego de palabras que aborda críticamente el uso de la fumigación química para la erradicación de los cultivos de hoja de coca. En el video Sub_terra, Echeverri enmarca, mapea y dibuja la violencia ambiental en el territorio, superponiendo imágenes de archivo de minería de oro e imágenes de un paisaje fracturado. En su video instalación Después del oro, Andrés Salas reflexiona sobre la desaparición y lo que se ha perdido debido a la obsesión colonial por el oro. Finalmente, Jesús Abad Colorado presenta como fotoperiodista y víctima del conflicto, fotografías que son un archivo único que evidencia la magnitud de la crisis ecológica. 

Memorias Geográficas hace un llamado a la relación equitativa entre la vida humana y la naturaleza. Dice T. J. Demos: “Existe una necesidad urgente de cambiar el rumbo y de hacer un mundo radicalmente diferente, uno liberado de siglos de dominación a la naturaleza, una naturaleza históricamente relegada al estado de 'recurso natural' disponible para la explotación infinita.” Es necesario reconocer la naturaleza como un sujeto de derechos y una víctima de la violencia humana para recordar el conflicto de forma completa y establecer un acto contra el olvido en la historia reciente de Colombia.

"[I]n the image of..."
Curator: Michele Thursz
Artists: Michael Rees, Willy Le Maitre, Seibren Veerstag 

“[I]n the image of…" explores technology’s increasing abstraction of language, space and culture, and builds upon the shared experience and development of the technical image. With the use of augmented and virtual reality, 3D imaging and custom algorithms, the exhibition expands upon traditional genres such as sculpture, painting and cinema to present artworks as worlds within worlds, portals to other spaces and experiences.

The exhibition reflects on shared experiences attained through technologies and images built on code: a technical and linguistic instrument traversing both virtual and physical states. The images and spaces produced by coding languages are dialogical and interactive in ways that are inherently different from traditional media. If these coded images and spaces allow spectators to choose between varying levels of engagement, can it also be said that they offer portals to varying levels of existence?

Included in the exhibition is Michael Rees’s Pneumatopia: Synthetic Cells, a modular sculptural system combining air-inflated, inkjet-printed PVC vinyl forms and an augmented reality application. Willy Le Maitre presents two bodies of work that investigate images as performative spaces. Both the Tiger Compound Series, 2017, and The Clear Lake Archipelago, 2018, are phenomenological dwellings for what Le Maitre calls “experience images.” Also included are Siebren Versteeg’s algorithmic paintings, Double Lean with Shim and Double Lean with Shim II, 2014, and Three Clowns, 2017. These paintings are reproduced in the same vein as the technical image.

As an exhibition, "[I]n the image of…" can be seen together as a single installation investigating relational experience through the apparatus of technology. Rather than present works of art as such, the exhibition layers traditional genres and optics—media, images, virtual objects, animations, digital tablets, virtual reality headsets, code and the naked eye—as abstractions giving way to a unified experience shared between artist and audience.

Pfizer Building

630 Flushing Avenue »

School of Visual Arts | 209 East 23 Street, NY, NY 10010-3994 | Tel: 212.592.2000 | Fax: 212.725.3587