By Anthony Filomena
Stephen Lacy, adjunct faculty member in Cinema Art + Science, Dawoud Bey, professor in Photography, Marc Fischer, Art + Design adjunct and Taisha Paggett, Dance lecturer, secured four of the 103 coveted spots in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The Biennial, now in its 77th year, runs Mar. 7 – May 25 in New York City.
Lacy, who presents his work under the name Academy Records, was contacted by the Whitney early on in the process. He was asked to consider how he might incorporate the work of Chicago/Indiana artist Matt Hanner. Hanner, a Columbia College alumnus, passed away in 2011. Lacy chose one of Hanner’s audio works, No Jets, which was a response to the government’s grounding of all air traffic immediately following the World Trade Center attacks. The short 16mm subject The Bower is Lacy’s response to it.
“As I explored Matt’s archive I kept coming back to the resonance of this piece and decided that it would be appropriate to include in this exhibition,” he says.
No Jets became the foundation of Lacy’s installation, “The Spectre,” a multi-component piece that explores notions of absence, presence and loss. The installation includes the 16mm short and audio samplings. Lacy will also create a large-scale wall drawing on site.
Two pairs of photographs from Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Projectwere selected for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The Birmingham Project commemorates the 50th anniversary of four girls killed by the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and two boys killed in separate incidents on Sept. 15, 1963.
“You cannot literally reconstruct the past, but by making photographs of young people in Birmingham who were the same ages of the six African-Americans killed that day, and to suggest both the passage of time and the lives those young people never get to live, it’s a way of layering the past and the present,” Bey told Alabama News in Dec. 2012.
Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at the Whitney, noted of the Biennial: “There is little overlap in the artists they have selected and yet there is common ground. This can be seen in their choice of artists working in interdisciplinary ways, artists working collectively, and artists from a variety of generations. Together, the 103 participants offer one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years.”
Fischer’s involvement, presenting on behalf of Public Collectors, focuses on the life and work of Malachi Ritscher. Ritscher was a Chicago-based documentarian, activist, artist, musician, photographer, hot-pepper-sauce maker, and supporter of experimental and improvised music.
Fischer’s inclusion of Ritscher’s work ties in to the mission statement of Public Collectors. “I want to share something that the public may not know exists and to see the museum lend authority and importance to a life and a creative practice that probably would not receive museum consideration under normal circumstances,” he says.
Fischer’s complete presentation includes borrowing a number of items from the Creative Audio Archive at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago, including concert posters that belonged to Ritscher, and 8 briefcases he owned that were filled with cassettes and DAT tapes at the time of his death. Fischer will also offer free copies of an essay that he wrote profiling Ritscher’s career success and his personal connection to him.
“This project has been one of the most challenging and emotionally demanding things I have ever worked on. I’m happy to say that it is not something I am doing alone,” said Fischer.
For a complete list of those contributing to the Public Collectors exhibition, visit Public Collectors Tumblr
Paggett’s performance builds on a series of works that she has developed over the past 3 years and is based upon a trans-historical figure that she calls Fila Buster. The work views repetition and time as two, through body and space, and employs those forms as conceptual and choreographic devices.
Fila Buster’s perspective is drawn from a Black American experience and is “the embodiment of a sphere of desires and questions around knowledge, language, our ability to extract practices of liberation from everyday actions and activities and the possibility of unfixing historical narratives as a way of creating new understandings of self and community,” said Paggett.
The Whitney Museum of American Art is the world’s leading museum of twentieth-century and contemporary art of the United States. Focusing particularly on works by living artists, the Whitney is celebrated for presenting important exhibitions and for its renowned collection, which comprises over 19,000 works by more than 2,900 artists.
For more information on the exhibition, visit http://whitney.org/
Images from top:
The Bower featured in Stephen Lacy’s “The Spectre”
Braxton McKinney and Lavone Thomas, diptych in Dawoud Bey’s “The Birmingham Project”
Maxine Adams and Amelia Maxwell, diptych in Dawoud Bey’s “The Birmingham Project”
Malachi Ritscher’s Gravestone, Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, Ill., Nov. 3, 2013. Photograph by Marc Fischer.
Decomposition as a Whole presented by Taisha Paggett