SLP Staff Round-Up: 2015 New Museum Triennial

New Museum_Triennial_02_2015_Benoit Pailley

Josh Kline, ” Freedom” (2015); Image: Courtesy of Joel Berg

Presenting fifty-one emerging artists from twenty-five countries, The New Museum Triennial, “Surround Audience,” is the museum’s third round-up, this time co-curated by the museum’s curator Lauren Cornell and artist Ryan Trecartin. More than in all past New Museum Triennials, the innovation and evolution of digital technology as a medium or tool is the most paramount feature of the exhibition. The staff here at SLP went to see the show and here is everyone’s take: Over the past ten years (if not more), Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin have become indispensable forces in the ongoing shifts of digital media in art – Cornell as its foremost scholar and living database, Trecartin as among the most vital and exciting artists yet to make the leap from YouTube to museum, musee, and kunsthalle. Personally, I was expecting the duo to produce a more-or-less mash-up extravaganza, rife with excitement and interactivity. Yet, to the show’s credit, Cornell’s professionalism guides Trecartin’s curiosity to a net result that is at once restrained and thoughtful as it is diverse and exuberant. Outstanding examples include: Oliver Laric’s morphing animation; Josh Kline’s teletubbied police state; the dazzling installation of Frank Benson and Juliana Huxtable, in which the latter is as much a muse for the former as she is for herself; Avery Singer’s paintings; and Ashland Mines’s audio work. Sure, the exhibition suffers the usual tropes of the –ial format: trying to cover too much at once, and the trickiness of presenting work from foreign cultures taken out of context. I might add that there are some installation pitfalls, particularly with creating the appropriate spaces within the New Museum itself for the most compelling (if not spacious) ways of presenting the work on view.   By and large, however, the exhibition so well encapsulates the moment – in art, culture, and otherwise – that typical gripes about notable absences or omissions may be avoided; the salient ideas on view are well-made, and there are few artists whose inclusion would have altered the outcome too drastically (if forced to name one, however: Artie Vierkant). Highly recommend!

-Sheri Pasquarella, El Capitan

Ashland Mines's sound and light installation in the New Museum stairwell,

Ashland Mine, “promise of echo” (2015); Image: Courtesy of Hyperallergic

Encompassing a wide range of media, the works in the show intersect passive and active deeds with individual and societal agents, leading to a self-reflection around the origin and extent of our daily battles. While Ashland Mines’s Total Freedom, 2015 sound installation in the staircase confronts us with the noise pollution that we are obliged to accept as a reality of space-sharing in big cities, Laurence Abu Hamden’s video work responds to the intentional  production of sound made in mosques in Arabic countries. Eva Kotatkova’s Not How People Move But What Moves Them, 2013 installation and performance uses a deterministic approach to question whether we are merely products of the environment we inhabit; while, on the other hand, Antoine Catala’s Distant Feel, 2015 functions as a campaign aiming to change the status quo by inspiring people to feel empathy. Whether actively or passively, purposely or unknowingly, in communion or in competition, the show makes us further notice how the technologies which connect us are also push us apart. Whether connected through social media, the Internet,  or via a flight, no one need feel out of reach: we are now everyone’s audience as much as we are our own. More than ever we are and we feel surrounded.

Tatiana Mateus, Apprentice


DIS, “The Island (KEN)” (2015); Image: Courtesy of CoolHunting

The density of the show’s presentation triggered less a evocation of wonder and more a sense of complete calamity—a dystoptic and cynical hallucination of multiple social, political, and existential paradigms collapsing in on themselves. It is a “chaos-stew” nurturing a fear of invisible hierarchies of control, the disappearance of the autonomous individual, and the dissolution of tradition across cultures. Many of the works looked back to both theory and practice emerging from the 80’s and 90’s, however the indulgent kitsch of early net art was intentionally absent. The exhibition was more of a reprise—digesting the immediate past to re-evaluate the present.  Many questions are raised but few conclusions illustrated.

Nico Alonso, Digital Assistant

Eduardo Navarro, “Timeless Alex” (2015); Image: Courtesy of Emerson Rosenthal

One contemporary acronym came to my mind while processing this show: FoMO – ‘Fear of Missing Out’. FoMO has become our shorthand the anxious nagging feeling that, while doing one thing, we are simultaneously missing out on something exciting or interesting happening elsewhere.  Our enjoyment of the present and what is in front of us is diminished by imagining the greener grass on the other side of the moment. Due to the relative ages of the Triennial artists, perhaps, “Surround Audience” appears to take FoMO as an underlying theme . This applies to both the artists and the viewers.  Two works by Olga Balema delicately exemplify FoMO by suspending (or maybe fetishizing) common materials in plastic casings filled with water. Balema’s works seem to be holding on to and haphazardly preserving these materials just in case the present moment does not live up to one’s expectations for a successful tomorrow. Another FoMO moment is evoked by Eduardo Navarro’s Timeless Alex (2015). This four hour performance stars dancer Jennifer Sullivan in the role of Lonesome George who is the last living Pinta Island tortoise. Sullivan wears the sculptural costume of Lonesome George and slowly dancers her way around Central Park. The work brings FoMO into the animal world by questioning Lonesome George’s perception of time and how that might affect cognition over the course of his long life. It is also introduced into the work by virtue of the fact that our viewing of Navarro’s installation at the exhibition ignites a FoMO on the performance which takes place offsite.  These two examples illustrate a a reoccurring trend in the exhibition at-large which leads to the question:  is ‘fear of missing out’ a timeless concept made timely by a our social media or rather is it a more commonplace experience for contemporary makers and audiences who’ve grown up in the simultaneity of Instagram and Twitter (all the more aware of what they are missing out on) and the inevitable failure-loop produced by following your daily feed or thread ritualistically?

Brooke Tomiello, Administrative Assistant 

Casey Jane Ellison, “Touching The Art” (2014-15); Image: Courtesy of WSJ

I went to view the exhibition on a popular night. While taking in each work I was almost equally compelled by the museumgoers’ reactions to the art. It was clear which works were “trending,” either because of the medium, the message, the aesthetics allure or maybe even the Instagram-worthiness. A work particularly on-trend that night was that of self-proclaimed “self-objectify(er)” Casey Jane Ellison. Her online talk show, Touching the Art, is installed on a flat screen in the museum’s foyer. The meta-infused work features a talk show about the use of triennials and biennials as a means of setting the precedent for dialogue in contemporary art. This work single-handedly sums up not only the content of the exhibition overall, but rings true to the connections between “Sound Audience” and the contemporary visual and social landscape we occupy.

Naana Frezel, Digital Intern

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