Bruno Latour, left, and Martin Guinard-Terrin.
COURTESY TAIPEI FINE ARTS MUSEUM
The Taipei Biennial, which closes its 11th edition on Sunday, has chosen philosopher Bruno Latour and independent curator Martin Guinard-Terrin to helm its 2020 edition. The next edition of the biennial is slated to open in October 2020.
Latour, whom the New York Times Magazine has called “France’s most famous and misunderstood philosopher,” is best known for his work that questions the very nature of facts. His best-known work is his 1991 book We Have Never Been Modern, which was a jumping-off point for the recent FEMSA biennial in Mexico.
In 2013 Latour was awarded the Holberg Prize, an annual award administered by the government of Norway that comes with about $750,000 for scholars in the arts, humanities, or social sciences. He is currently professor emeritus of political arts at Sciences Po in Paris, a fellow at the Zentrum für Kunst und Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, and a professor Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design.
Guinard-Terrin is a Paris-based curator who has collaborated with Latour on four projects previously, including “Reset Modernity!” at the ZKM in 2016. Guinard-Terrin has done other iterations of “Reset Modernity!” that focus on the locales in which they are staged, including one in 2016 in Shanghai; with Reza Haeri, he is now at work on a version for Tehran. Guinard-Terrin is currently developing an arts-science residency program at the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, Australia.
In a release, the biennial said that the curators for the 2020 edition were announced earlier than usual in order to provide Latour and Guinard-Terrin “with more resources and support as well as more freedom and time to experiment together.” The organizers also noted that this will allow for the outgoing curators, Mali Wu and Francesco Manacorda, to “share and discuss their perspectives to build connections and achieve coherence in curatorial themes” with Latour and Guinard-Terrin.
While details and a theme for the 2020 edition were not specified, the release said that Latour and Guinard-Terrin “will further probe into the geo-political and geo-historical issues based on the curatorial dialogue of the 11th edition, in hopes of opening discussions on how to establish a foothold on this land.”
This year’s biennial, titled “Post-Nature—A Museum as an Ecosystem,” looked “to address the urgent environmental conversations of the 21st century” and how they relate to “artistic and institutional practice,” according to its website.
Museums Across Mexico, Central America Face Financial Peril, Survey Finds
Dozens of museums across Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean are at risk of permanent closure as a result of pandemic-related financial losses, a recent report by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has stated. The report’s findings were first reported this week by the Spanish-language publication El País. While museums across the world…
Dozens of museums across Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean are at risk of permanent closure as a result of pandemic-related financial losses, a recent report by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has stated. The report’s findings were first reported this week by the Spanish-language publication El País.
While museums across the world struggled to survive last year, this region appears to have been impacted more extensively than others. Within the U.S., for example, fears about institutional shutterings turned out to have been misplaced. In 2020, the American Alliance of Museums predicted that one-third of all institutions in the country would close, but most wound up staying open. The UNAM report presents a more dire picture with potentially farther-reaching effects for institutions in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
UNAM surveyed 285 institutions, many of which said said they are facing a budget crisis that has left their outlook for the future uncertain. More than 75 percent of respondents said they are facing financial insecurity; 63 percent said that a budget shortfall put them at risk of not being able to properly maintain their facilities.
The survey represents the ongoing challenges that cultural institutions across the region face in trying to stay afloat during the crisis. Graciela de la Torre, an art historian and the UNAM chair, who organized the survey in conjunction with the Institute of Leadership in Museums, told El País, “Many countries have put in place mechanisms for the recovery of the sector, but here there has been absolutely no rescue.”
The report also stated that nearly a third of the museums have been forced to reduce their staff and that around 14 percent of employees working in the cultural sector have lost jobs since the start of the pandemic. And while the costs of providing in-person programming are down, the expenses associated with digital projects have only risen for these events, leaving some institutions scrambling to make ends meet, according to the UNAM survey.
Government budget cutbacks issued between 2019 to 2021 have also threatened public museums that rely heavily on federal funding. Earlier this year, 75 percent of the Mexican Ministry of Culture’s funding was redirected to other federally backed projects, including the development of a cultural complex in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Forest.
Some museums in Mexico have already begun to shutter. In July, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán in Mérida said it would close its doors permanently after the state government failed to meet a deadline to allocate funding to the museum. Monterrey’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and the Papalote Museo del Niño in Mexico City were recently on the brink of closing, but they recovered after completing donation campaigns.
According to UNAM, the José Luis Cuevas Museum, the Antique Toy Museum, and the Caricature Museum in Mexico City, and the Oaxaca Museum of Contemporary Art are in danger of closure.
In Her First-Ever Performance, Tschabalala Self Explores a Creative Relationship in Crisis
With her painted collage Sprewell (2020), Tschabalala Self departed from her more familiar depictions of exaggerated female figures that seem to duplicate by splitting apart. In the apartment scene, a couple embrace with fragmented bodies, suggesting that we still withhold some pieces of ourselves, even in the happiest relationships. Now the artist’s newest work, a…
With her painted collage Sprewell (2020), Tschabalala Self departed from her more familiar depictions of exaggerated female figures that seem to duplicate by splitting apart. In the apartment scene, a couple embrace with fragmented bodies, suggesting that we still withhold some pieces of ourselves, even in the happiest relationships. Now the artist’s newest work, a performance titled Sounding Board, brings that motif to life.
In it, a female and male actor—both of whom remain nameless throughout—deliver dialogue written by Self that ranges from literal to the oblique. The couple’s negotiations lay bare their respective desires and the gender roles and power plays underpinning this union.
Sounding Board will have a three-day run this weekend as part of Performa, the recurring New York festival known for inviting visual artists to step outside the studios and onto the stage. (Like many of the commissioned participants, Self comes to the task without training as a performance artist.) Her 3-act, 45-minute piece will unfold at the bandshell of Jackie Robinson Park in Central Harlem, where Self often spent time as a child. The actors will interact with new sculptures and furniture while wearing costumes, all elements designed by the artist. A Boney M. cover band will function as a Greek chorus of sorts, punctuating the drama with disco hits by the Afro-German troupe. Watching Sounding Board, audiences may feel that they’ve walked into one of Self’s mixed-media creations, whose whimsy and pop culture sensibility only partly conceal the heavy realities of contemporary Black American life.
In the interview below, the artist breaks down the ideas behind Sounding Board.
ARTnews: What was it like creating your first live performance?
Tschabalala Self: I’ve been approaching this whole process experimentally. Toward the end of the first rehearsal, I got a better sense of what direction I wanted to go with the production, and when we met again for the second set of rehearsals, we worked on exaggerating the differences between each act. The whole effort has been super collaborative and exploratory, which is different from my normal artistic process. Making a fine art show is a solitary experience between me and the object I’m creating, whereas with this I’m spending time with the people who are the inspiration for the work. The actors are in many ways the muses, so establishing a dialogue with them has been a completely new and really enjoyable experience.
That interaction must be nice, following the long lockdown during pandemic.
I have a newfound appreciation for collaboration post-lockdown, and a new appreciation for experimenting within my art practice, not working within narrow constraints. Last year, there were so many restrictions. Everyone is taking the opportunity now to liberate themselves, to feel free and connected. This project has been an opportunity to do that, and to try something that is entirely out of the ordinary for me. I’m working in a public space, with a large audience in mind, as opposed to a more traditional exhibition that’s confined to a specific place—which often carries its own constrictions—whether it be a gallery or institution. I’ve learned to appreciate the ephemeral nature of performance. The fact that this piece happens in one moment makes it special. Maybe it will be more likely to survive in someone’s mind as a memory, as opposed to when you see an art show. There, you may interact with an art object through taking a photo of it, but with a performance, how you remember or interpret it becomes part of the making of it. It’s an entirely new layer of collaboration.
Does it feel like this format allows for more control over the narrative? In a show of paintings, for example, you can’t tell someone what to look at first, or for how long.
In my painting practice I deal with figuration and narrative, so sometimes there’s a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the narrative. This play is an opportunity to have some control of how the audience experiences my artwork. As you mentioned, when you’re showing a painting, you don’t have the same level of control. That’s not to say an artist should have–or even aspire to–total control over all aspects of what they’re creating.
Would you call this a more intimate experience?
Yes and no. In a way, you’re having an intimate experience, but within a public space.
What was the process like for creating this piece?
When I was first asked to participate in Performa, I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure what my contribution would be, given that I’m not a performance artist. I wanted to [do the commission], but I wasn’t sure how I would fit into the conversation. But they gave me a lot of encouragement to make something compelling for a live audience. We talked about the performative gestures in my studio art practice. I’m heavily invested in narrative, and interested in the idea of an interpersonal dynamic, so I thought: Let me try to write a dialogue. And that dialogue became the foundation of the entire piece—this conversation between two lovers, who I imagine are creative types. It centers around a conflict that exists because of this stage, which can be a metaphor for a number of things. There’s Person A, who likes being on the stage, who feels happy to remain there, whereas Person B wants to leave.
I don’t think of this as being a traditional play. It’s more of an experimental play or piece of performance art that isn’t linear. There are circular elements in terms of the logic and dialogue and presentation, which were influenced by the visual motifs I incorporated: shadows that obscure the stage as the repetition of speech obscures the meaning. I paid a lot of attention to the costuming too, down to their shoes and jacket. All the props I made are based on drawings, which includes sculptures and furniture. And all the motifs have been lifted from my paintings, and some of the furniture pieces are discrete works on their own. Every element came together bit by bit. Everything was layered and accumulated.
Tschabalala Self, Sounding Board, 2021. A Performa Commission for the Performa 2021 Biennial. Actors rehearsing in UGG X Tschabalala Self collaboration boots. From left to right: Hunter Byrant, Alexis Cofield, CJ Hart and Nectar Knuckles at the Joffrey Ballet School in LIC.
Photo by Sergio Gutierrez. Courtesy of Ojeras
What do you think of Person A and B? Should the audience think of them as paintings come to life?
Sometimes I do think of them as live versions of characters I developed in my paintings, but they’re also three dimensional. I think people familiar with my painting practice will be able to glimpse the interiority I imagined for these two. Though I’m not sure they will be truly actualized until the performance happens.
Each actor made the dialogue their own. And seeing the variety of interpretations kind of proves that, even within certain constraints, there can be an infinite number of rearrangements. Part of this was creating a group of objects, ideas, forms, and props, and seeing what the actors could do with them or how many different angles the they could find to approach the text.
Has the process of creating Sounding Board illuminated anything new for you about your practice?
This experience has opened up a lot of ideas and possibilities for my practice at large that I may not have considered before. It’s shown me that whatever you’ve attached to your identity as an artist isn’t truly your full skill set. There’s a logic or philosophy that I apply to my studio practice, and I can apply those ideas to any artwork, whether it’s a painting, a three-dimensional object, or a performance.
Something being finished doesn’t mean it’s fully resolved; it means that I realize there’s nothing left for me to contribute. Maybe whatever else needs to happen with the work will happen through an interaction with the audience. I’ve been loose with the interpretation. I think that flexibility in tension with the natural constraints of the stage has created this exciting dynamic.
National Gallery of Art Acquires Iconic Faith Ringgold Flag Painting
Ahead of a Faith Ringgold retrospective due to open at the New Museum in February, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has acquired a painting from the artist’s famed “American People Series.” Titled The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), the painting was gifted to the museum by the Glenstone…
Ahead of a Faith Ringgold retrospective due to open at the New Museum in February, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has acquired a painting from the artist’s famed “American People Series.” Titled The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), the painting was gifted to the museum by the Glenstone Foundation, which was formed by ARTnews Top 200 Collectors Emily and Mitchell Rales. (Mitchell is the president of the National Gallery’s board.) It is the first painting by Ringgold to enter the museum’s collection.
In The Flag is Bleeding, a white woman is shown interlocking arms with two men, one of them white, the other Black. All of their forms are partially obscured by an American flag whose stripes ooze blood. The source of some of that blood appears to be the Black man’s chest, which has on it a wound that he covers with his hand, in a position that recalls the one taken while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. In the hand not held to the wound, the man holds a knife.
National Gallery curator Harry Cooper said in an interview that staff at the museum initially thought that Ringgold’s work may prove too expensive to acquire. But with director Kaywin Feldman’s encouragement, “We aimed high in really going after artists who were underrepresented in the collection,” he said.
When they reached out to Ringgold’s dealer they were presented with a selection of works that Ringgold had kept in her personal collection for years. Among them was The Flag is Bleeding. “We at the National Gallery are trying more and more to represent the paintings that have something important to say about the nation,” Cooper said.
Ringgold has previously made use of the American flag in works the deal head-on with racism in the U.S. “The flag is the only truly subversive and revolutionary abstraction one can paint,” she once said. Similar works to The Flag is Bleeding appeared in a recent Ringgold survey held by the Raleses’ Glenstone museum in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries in London. The painting is due to appear in Ringgold’s New Museum show.