Take a read:
2012 New Museum Triennial
February 15 – April 22, 2012
The New Museum
New York, NY 10002
The New Museum’s second triennial, The Ungovernables, features works of thirty-four international artists that were born between the 1970s and the 1980s and have never before shown in the United States. The umbrella theme of the show is about a generation that has come out of revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s, strategic rebellion, and determination. In the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it seems quite fitting. Kudos to the curator, Eungie Joo, director of education and public programs at the New Museum, for her year and a half worth of efforts to bring these artists together from around the globe. However, unlike the show’s powerful title and theme—which renders significant anticipation and excitement—the works lack disobedience and wildness: that mind-blowing, brilliant punch in the face the audience might expect from “ungovernable” artists. Perhaps along her trek around the world curator Joo was feeling weary? She may have simply checked if they were from another country and added them to her list. One may dare say that the triennial, in stark contrast to its catchy title, is quite… bland. However that is not to say that the show should be ignored; there are still works that make a trip to the show worthwhile.
A floor-to-ceiling piece, A Person Loved Me, by Argentinean artist Adrián Villar Rojas is one of them; the colossal installation is compelling in its size and structure. It may remind one of a spaceship, or of the moving house in Miyazaki’s film Howl’s Moving Castle. The interesting fact is that whole sculpture is rendered in clay. You can’t miss it, the structure actually emanates the characteristic earthy smell of earth. The mammoth structure is heavily scarred with cracks all around, and looks as if it may collapse in the near future. The artist himself describes his piece as “an instant ruin.” As such, the sculpture—in the context of the exhibition’s underlying theme of revolution—becomes a ruin from the future, a wreckage of a civilization. As all civilizations tend to do, this sculpture too will demolish and crumble to dust. Despite its ephemeral destiny, it contains a lasting lesson, perhaps a warning about political systems that mankind is propelled to establish, or a reflection of failed ideals and generations.
The audience will only be able to fully appreciate Amalia Pica’s light projection of two intersecting circles if they read (or have prior knowledge to) the description that dictators in Argentina banned Venn diagrams in the 1970s because they were deemed as subversive. What is fascinating about this is that a system of power recognized a potential revolutionary tool that could be used by—what we would now call under the light of the Occupy Wall Street movement as—the 99%. The dictators in Argentina had exercised and exerted a greater control over social and political structures, just as the bankers of today are accused of doing.
Works like this is spread throughout the gallery, which brings the audience back to its title. The impact of the ”ungovernable” triennial as a whole is unsatisfactory, but there is no doubt that the glimmering few could trigger participating and non-participating artists alike to find a way to truly become ungovernable in the future.
-Jenny S. Son