25 Women Curators Shaking Things Up – Pt. 1 (artnet news)

By Brian Boucher, Tuesday, March 17, 2015 original article here.

curator

Amanda de la Garza, curator at MUAC, Mexico City

We all know that, as Beyoncé puts it, girls run the world. That’s arguably especially true in the art world, where many powerful and influential art advisors, auction house specialists and dealers are all women. And then there are the curators, whose exhibitions help us to reassess established figures or bring new ones to light. Curators help build museum collections, or work independently to organize biennials and triennials, and often publish in magazines and journals as part of their portfolio.

Who is the next Helen Molesworth, recently appointed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (see Helen Molesworth Hired as Chief Curator of LA MOCA)? Who might be the future Ann Temkin, who has headed up the department of painting and sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art since succeeding John Elderfield in 2008?

Keep in mind, too, that the road to the director’s office sometimes leads through the curatorial department. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Thomas Campbell, MoMA’s Glenn Lowry, and the Walker Art Center’s Olga Viso all served as curators before taking the helm of their institutions. Heads of major museums tend to be lavishly compensated men, but that’s an issue for another time—see We Asked 20 Women “Is the Art World Biased?” Here’s What They Said (see also The Top 20 Art World Women of 2014 and The Most Powerful Women in Art Part One).

We polled our colleagues far and wide to come up with this roundup of 25 up-and-coming curators to watch, arranged in alphabetical order. (No such list is ever complete, so we also welcome your nominations on our Facebook page.) Maybe you’ll see them heading up a department at a museum near you?

Nancy Adajania, Independent Curator. Photo: www.kalaghodaassociation.com

Nancy Adajania, independent curator. Photo: http://www.kalaghodaassociation.com

 

1. Nancy Adajania, Independent Curator, Mumbai

Mumbai-based Nancy Adajania has brought her education in political science, social communications media and film to an engagement with contemporary Indian art. She was one of six curators (all women) of “Roundtable,” the ninth Gwangju Biennale in 2012, described as “an open-ended series of collaborations” and including Indian artists like Jangarh Singh Shyam and Sheba Chhachhi. She has lectured all over Europe, at venues like Documenta, in Kassel; the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), in Karlsruhe; and the Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon.

Katherine Brinson, Curator Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim.  Photo: Courtesy of the Guggenheim.

Katherine Brinson, curator of contemporary art at the Guggenheim. Photo: Courtesy of the Guggenheim.

2. Katherine Brinson, Guggenheim Museum, New York

With a museum-wide Christopher Wool retrospective under her belt, as well as Hugo Boss Prize shows of Hans-Peter Feldmann and Danh Vo, Brinson has earned her seat at the New York Guggenheim, as well as organizing shows at the museum’s Berlin and Bilbao venues. Through her work with the museum’s Young Collectors council, she also bolsters the museum’s collection of emerging artists, bringing in works by artists such as Kevin Beasley, Gerard & Kelly, Agnieszka Kurant, and Adam Pendleton.

Cathleen Chaffee, Curator at Albright-Knox Art Gallery.  Photo: Courtesy of Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Cathleen Chaffee, curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Photo: Courtesy of Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

3. Cathleen Chaffee, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

After stints at the Yale University Art Gallery, MoMA, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, Chaffee went to Buffalo in fall 2013, replacing Heather Pesanti (see below). Her new show “Overtime: The Art of Work” (through May 17) deals with artistic conceptions of labor and includes artists from Honoré Daumier and Tehching Hsieh to influential New Yorkers Josh Kline and Agnieszka Kurant. Among those who will be the subjects of upcoming solo shows are Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Joe Bradley, Michael Rakowitz, and Erin Shirreff.

Rachel in Paris

Rachel Cook, associate curator at DiverseWorks. Photo by Naomi Beckwith, courtesy of DiverseWorks.

 

4. Rachel Cook, DiverseWorks, Houston. 

Sound art is coming into its own institutionally, especially since the 2013 exhibition “Soundings: A Contemporary Score” at New York’s MoMA, and Rachel Cook is part of that wave: her recent DiverseWorks show “SonicWorks” featured artists ranging from locals The Art Guys to New York’s Christine Sun Kim and Pauline Oliveros. Since setting up shop there in 2012, Cook has organized new commissions by artists including Wu Tsang and Liz Magic Laser. She also pitched in on “The Eleventh Hour,” which highlighted presenting politically and socially engaged artists from Rick Lowe to Gorilla Girls Houston and the collective Anti-Trust.

Ruth Estevez,  gallery director and curator, REDCAT, Los Angeles.  Photo: Yvonne Venegas.

Ruth Estevez, gallery director and curator, REDCAT, Los Angeles. Photo: Yvonne Venegas.

 

5. Ruth Estévez, REDCAT, Los Angeles

Director-curator of visual arts at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), Bilbao-born Ruth Estevez was previously at Museum of Contemporary Art Carrillo Gil in Mexico City; while in Mexico she co-founded the nonprofit LIGA, Space for Architecture. At REDCAT, she’s worked with artists including Pablo Bronstein, Javier Tellez, and Allora & Calzadilla. Among upcoming projects are “Hotel Theory,” a group show looking at the performance of theory, and, in collaboration with The Getty Institute, a re-staging of a performance piece by the late Argentinian artist León Ferrari, who deployed sculpture and poetry as “revolutionary weapons” against war, political authority and religion.

6. Amanda de la Garza, MUAC, Mexico City

A curator at The University Museum of Contemporary Art since 2012, Amanda de la Garza Mata has organized a Bataille-inspired group show studying the foundation of the modern museum as linked to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution; a solo devoted to avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas; and, with Julio García Murillo, “Mina 8. Unidad Pasta de Conchos,” an exhibition devoted to a controversial coal mine explosion in northern Mexico. In her free time, she’s part of a collective, Illusory City, that has produced three documentary films on urban issues and helps to edit publications for Tabasco189 Editions, which illuminates links between contemporary art and literature.

Jarrett Gregory, Associate Curator Contemporary Art.  Photo: Courtesy of Museum Associates/Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Jarrett Gregory, associate curator of contemporary art. Photo: Courtesy of Museum Associates/Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

 

7. Jarrett Gregory, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

At LACMA since 2011, Gregory organized the recent L.A. iteration of the traveling exhibition of French art star Pierre Huyghe (see Is Pierre Huyghe the World’s Most Opaque Popular Artist? Ben Davis Sizes Up His LACMA Show) as well as shows of Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Prina. In her previous post, at New York’s New Museum, she worked on acclaimed shows like the inaugural triennial, “Younger than Jesus,” and “Ostalgia,” which brought to light lesser-known Eastern European artists, and she’s contributed to magazines like The Believer and Frieze.

Anna Gritz, Curator for Film & Performance at the South London Gallery.  Photo: Courtesy of South London Gallery.

Anna Gritz, curator for film & performance at the South London Gallery. Photo: Agata Madejska, courtesy of South London Gallery.

 

8. Anna Gritz, South London Gallery

In charge of film and performance at the 124-year-old nonprofit South London Gallery, Anna Gritz is cooking up exhibitions devoted to artists Kapwangi Kiwanga, who draws on academic training for research-based projects, as well as veteran comic performer Michael Smith. After earning an MA in curatorial practice at California College for the Arts, she cut her teeth at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Hayward Gallery, both in London, and ran programs at New York’s apexart. While writing for publications like Mousse and frieze d/e, she’s got exhibitions in the works from Ljubljana to Cologne and Southend-on-Sea, where, with Paul Clinton, she’s organizing a show about stupidity.

Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum.  Photo: Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

 

9. Rujeko Hockley, Brooklyn Museum

Despite being the museum’s assistant curator since just 2012, Hockley has pitched in on shows devoted to LaToya Ruby Frazier, the Bruce High Quality Foundation, and artists from the borough (“Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond”), as well as the current and hotly debated Kehinde Wiley show (through May 24). She’s a veteran of the Studio Museum in Harlem and is, believe it or not, working on a UC San Diego PhD while also serving on panel discussions on Afrofuturism at the Studio Museum, young curators at the School of Visual Arts, and the prison-industrial complex at Neue House.

Jamillah James, Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum.  Photo: Courtesy of the Hammer Museum.

Jamillah James, assistant curator at the Hammer Museum. Photo: Courtesy of the Hammer Museum.

10. Jamillah James, UCLA Hammer Museum

Having held curatorial positions in New York at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Queens Museum before going west to the Hammer, Jamillah James has helped to organize shows there of artists like Mark Bradford and Charles Gaines. She’s also pitching in on programming with Bradford’s nonprofit Art + Practice, which will bring art and social services to L.A.’s Leimert Park neighborhood. She told NY Arts magazine last year that she’s into pop and celebrity culture and appreciates that “it doesn’t take itself too seriously—and I think we can all gain something from that attitude.”

Ruba Katrib, Curator at SculptureCenter.  Photo: Courtesy of SculptureCenter.

Ruba Katrib, curator at SculptureCenter. Photo: Courtesy of SculptureCenter

11. Ruba Katrib, Sculpture Center, New York

Since earning and MA in curatorial studies at the powerhouse training program at CCS Bard in New York’s Hudson Valley, Ruba Katrib has organized US museum debuts for Cory Arcangel and Claire Fontaine, both at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (see The ICA Miami Will Build a New Home). At SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York, she’s helmed projects like the 2014 group show “Puddle, pothole, portal,” co-curated with artist Camille Henrot, and solos of Radamés “Juni” Figueroa, Jumana Manna and others. Her writing has been featured in Artforum, Kaleidoscope, and Mousse, and she’s organizing a group show with her old prof, CCS director Tom Eccles, on Governors Island this summer.

Naima Keith, Associate Curator at the Studio Museum.  Photo: Courtesy of the Studio Museum.

Naima Keith, associate curator at the Studio Museum. Photo: Courtesy of the Studio Museum.

12. Naima Keith, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

After starting out as an intern at the Studio Museum, Naima Keith returned there in in 2011 as assistant curator, fresh off a stint as curatorial fellow at L.A.’s Hammer Museum, where she assisted with the 2011-12 show “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980.” She’s gotten attention for shows like “The Shadows Took Shape,” looking at contemporary art through the lens of Afrofuturism, and a survey of Charles Gaines, whose works probe “the fraught relationship between a poetics of chance and a politics of radical engagement,” according to Art in America.

 

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5-Minute History of Napoleonic Art Looting (Blouin ARTINFO)

by Noah Charney October 24, 2011, 10:44am original article here.

During the French Republican and Napoleonic eras, art looting became standard practice for victorious armies.  Napoleon took over the leadership of the French army during the campaign in Italy that had begun disastrously, with under-nourished, unpaid soldiers on the brink of mutiny.  Stealing art from the conquered territories became a way of both raising funds to support the war effort, and to raise morale back at home in Paris, where the newly-converted Louvre museum would become a sort of trophy case for the victorious to display the treasures of the conquered.  His policy was first made clear in the armistice signed by the defeated Duke of Modena on 17 May 1796, which stated: “The Duke of Modena undertakes to hand over twenty pictures.  They will be selected by commissioners sent for that purpose from among the pictures in his gallery and realm.” This established a precedent for payment and reparations in the form of art that would continue, both encouraging conquerors and dismaying the conquered, for centuries.

Napoleonic Art Looting (1796-1812)

Napoleon established the first official military division dedicated to seizing and shipping captured artworks.  Specially-trained personnel would follow behind the army to inventory, pack, and ship art.  All confiscations were strictly monitored in the presence of a French army official.  The army would be responsible for the art and its shipping back to Paris.  This division was called the Commission of Arts and Sciences, and was led by a mathematician, a botanist, and two painters.

But despite Napoleon’s attempts at restricting looting to official actions,  it was not only the armies that benefited.  One of Napoleon’s officers in charge of art plunder, the painter Citizen Wicar, took so many prints and drawings for himself that, upon his death, after having sold most of what he stole, he still had 1436 artworks to bequeath to his hometown of Lille. Napoleon’s art advisor, Dominique Vivant Denon, became the first director of The Louvre Museum, and was the mastermind behind the art theft scheme that made The Louvre the treasure house of the world.

In May 1796, when the Commission came to Modena to take the specified twenty pictures detailed in the armistice, Citizen Wicar was present.  He stole a further fifty paintings from the Modena collection for himself and only stopped there because Napoleon himself arrived on the scene.  Not to be outdone, Napoleon ordered his commissioners to stop taking any more art, but then he chose two paintings for his personal collection.

This set a precedent that was followed in the armistices in French victories over Venice, Mantua, Parma, and Milan.  Ironically Venice was stripped by Napoleon of the four bronze horses that the Venetians had stolen from Constantinople in 1204.  Napoleon’s art thefts led to altered military strategy, for Naples and Turin were left largely un-looted because they chose to sign a treaty immediately with Napoleon before they came under attack, and therefore had more leverage in their relations.  They lost the least to plunder of any vanquished Italian cities.

Napoleon extracted the most from the Papal States.  Pope Pius VI signed the Treaty of Tolentine in June 1796, yielding to the Napoleonic army.  In addition to the payment of 21 million lives (around $60 million today), Article 8 of the treaty stated that the pope was to give Napoleon: “A hundred pictures, busts, vases, or statues to be selected by the commissioners and sent to Rome, including in particular the bronze bust of Junius Brutus and the marble bust of Marcus Brutus, both on the Capitol, also five-hundred manuscripts at the choice of the said commissions.” Eighty-three sculptures were taken as well, including Laocoon and the Apollo Belvedere, and paintings taken included Raphael’s Transfiguration.  As if that were not enough, Napoleon insisted that the pope pay for the shipping to Paris of the art stolen from him, a bill of another 800,000 livres (or $2.3 million today).  Forty paintings were taken from papal lands in Bologna and ten from Ferrara.  Looted art from Bologna alone required eighty-six wagons to transport.  Of this, Napoleon enthusiastically wrote: “The Commission of experts has made a fine haul in Ravenna, Rimini,Pesaro, Ancona, Loretto, and Perugia. The whole lot will be forwarded to Paris without delay. There is also the consignment from Rome itself. We have stripped Italy of everything of artistic worth, with the exception of a few objects in Turin and Naples!”

This was the first of several wars in which certain renowned masterpieces, such as Jan van Eyck’s The Ghent Altarpiece, became prized spoils, with armies and collectors vying with one another to capture these key treasures, as valuable symbolically as they were financially.  Much of the desire to possess The Ghent Altarpiece, which bears the dubious distinction of being the most frequently stolen artwork in history, was due to the fact that so many other people sought it, either for personal or national collections.  The result was cumulative—the desirability of the artwork accrued with each high-profile incident of its capture and return.  Denon sought it for The Louvre, and because of the high esteem in which he held the painting, its fame grew, prompting others to desire it for themselves.  It would be one of the top targets for the Germans during the First World War, one of only a few cultural objects listed by name and returned by the Treaty of Versailles, and would likewise top the looted art wish-lists of both Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What ISIS Destroys, Why, and Why We Must Document It (Hyperallergic)

by Christopher Jones on March 6, 2015 original article here.

A member of ISIS destroying an Assyrian (all images are stills from the infamous ISIS video unless otherwise noted)

A member of ISIS destroying an ancient Assyrian lamassu (all images are stills from the infamous ISIS video unless otherwise noted)

One week ago the world was shocked by a five-minute video posted online by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showing its members toppling ancient statues inside the Mosul Museum, smashing them with sledgehammers, and pulverizing what remained with jackhammers. The destruction left scholars of Mesopotamia scrambling to figure out what exactly had been destroyed and what remained.

A destroyed statue in the Mosul Museum

A destroyed statue in the Mosul Museum

In some ways, the damage could have been worse. In April of 2003 around 1,500 smaller items in the museum were sent to Baghdad for safekeeping. A few of the items that remained, such as the Assyrian reliefs and the statues of Hercules and a seated goddess from the Roman-era desert city of Hatra, were replicas of originals kept in London or Baghdad.

Nevertheless, the losses are catastrophic. Five life-sized statues depicting kings of Hatra were smashed to bits. There are twenty-seven known statues of Hatrene kings, so this represents a loss of 15% of all such sculptures in existence. Three more life-sized statues of Hatrene noblemen and priests have likewise been destroyed, along with statues of Venus, Nike, and eagles and lions which once adorned Hatra’s temples.

Destructing in the Mosul Museum with some remaining items in the background.

Destructing in the Mosul Museum with some remaining items in the background.

Just as tragic are the loss of the four Assyrian stone lamassu, human-headed winged bulls which were installed in the Nergal Gate at Nineveh during the reign of Sennacherib sometime between 704 and 690 B.C. These were some of the few lamassu still installed at their original location, the same place where they had once greeted visitors to Nineveh over 2,700 years ago. Other lamassu survive on display in New York, Paris, London, Chicago, and Baghdad, but now only Nimrud and Susa retain lamassu at their original locations. (Recent reports indicate that the lamassu at Nimrud may have also been destroyed).

The excavation of an ancient Assyrian lamassu in the early 20th century and the statue in the Mosul Museum.

The excavation of an ancient Assyrian lamassu in the early 20th century and the statue in the Mosul Museum.

The media spokesman who narrates the video was quite explicit about why these artifacts were destroyed. According to a translation provided by MEMRI TV:

Oh Muslims, the remains that you see behind me are the idols of peoples of previous centuries, which were worshiped instead of Allah. The Assyrians, Akkadians, and others took for themselves gods of rain, of agriculture, and of war, and worshiped them along with Allah, and tried to appease them with all kinds of sacrifices.

Yet, when one takes stock of the items that were destroyed it is striking how few of them were actually depictions of gods. Of all the statues shown being shattered only four of them were actually depictions of deities: The statues of Venus and Nike, and the replica statues of the seated goddess and Hercules. At one point the video panned to a sign at the Nergal Gate and highlighted the section which identified Nergal as the god of the underworld, but the lamassu were not depictions of Nergal or any other deity but instead depicted protective spirits who guarded the doorway.

An ISIS narrator

An ISIS narrator

What’s more, several plaques depicting Hatrene gods and goddesses were shown early in the video, but at the end, when the camera pans through the rubble of the shattered museum, these plaques can be seen still hanging on the wall untouched.

But ISIS is quite open that their motives are not simply iconoclastic but also political. From later in the video:

The Prophet Muhammad shattered the idols with his own honorable hands, when he conquered Mecca. The Prophet Muhammad commanded us to shatter and destroy statues. This is what his companions did later on, when they conquered lands.

When Muhammad captured Mecca in 629 he famously destroyed the cult statues kept inside the Kaaba. In ISIS’ perverse logic, destroying physical evidence of the past serves to link themselves with an event from their own idealized version of the past.

In the Wahhabi ideology which informs ISIS, Muhammad and the Rashidun Caliphs which followed him represent true Islam, and the embrace of classical philosophy and learning by the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties represents bid’ah or religious innovations that deviate from the teachings of the first Muslims.

NergalGate

The history of the excavation of the Assyrian lamassu.

Yet, when the early Muslims under Caliph Umar captured Egypt, they did not destroy the Sphinx or other clearly visible Egyptian antiquities. Churches in Jerusalem were respected rather than destroyed. Monks were left alone rather than expelled. ISIS’s videographer tries to rebut this objection, as towards the end of the video there is shown a photograph of the excavation of one of the lamassu with a caption stating that “These idols and statues were not visible in the days of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, but were extracted by the worshipers of devils.”

The half human animal that the Muslim prophet Muhammad rode on his fabled night journey, 17th century Mughal miniature painting from India (public domain)

The half human animal that the Muslim prophet Muhammad rode on his fabled night journey, 17th century Mughal miniature painting from India (public domain)

Furthermore, the influence of pre-Islamic cultures on Islam can be seen elsewhere. Al-Buraq, the legendary steed which carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem on his Night Journey, is traditionally depicted as a horse with wings and a human head, similar to the Assyrian lamassu which ISIS destroyed.

At this point it would be easy to simply mock ISIS as poor scholars of history. After all, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was described as “a street thug” by US military officials, who gained most of his jihadist education not in a mosque but in a prison camp where he was confined for the majority of the Iraq War. But this obscures the purpose of ISIS’s actions: By erasing all evidence of both the pre-Islamic past and alternative interpretations of Islam, ISIS hopes to create a world where knowledge of any belief system except their own interpretation of Islam is forgotten forever.

As a result, the work of documenting what is lost takes on even more importance. Not only is it vital for future scholarship, it serves to remind the world of the existence of all that ISIS seeks to destroy.

What Just Happened? The Björk Experience at MoMA (Hyperallergic)

by E. Wouk Almino, J. Steinhauer, B. Sutton on March 3, 2015 original article here.

Alexander McQueen, Bell Dress (2004) and Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, aka Shoplifter, 'Medúlla' hair piece (2004) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Alexander McQueen, Bell Dress (2004) and Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, aka Shoplifter, ‘Medúlla’ hair piece (2004) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

This morning, three Hyperallergic editors — Elisa Wouk Almino, Jillian Steinhauer, and Benjamin Sutton — ventured out to see the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) latest foray into avant-garde pop star curating: Björk (an exhibition that needs no subtitle). The show consists of a number of scattered components: instruments used in the making of Biophilia (her 8th album), on view in the lobby; two custom-built boxes/theaters that show, respectively, the new MoMA-commissioned video for “Black Lake” and a looping retrospective of her music videos; and an installation called “Songlines,” which features dresses, props from videos, and notebooks in a maze-like series of rooms, accompanied by a 40-minute “experimental sound experience” called “The Triumphs of a Heart” that mixes Björk’s music and a fictional fairy tale.

None of us editors was very familiar with Björk before (Hrag, who is the Björk fan among us, couldn’t make it). It’s unclear how familiar we are with her now. Here, a discussion of the show.

From left to right: Bernhard Willhelm, 'Volta' Tour Dress, The Icelandic Love Corporation, Second Skin (2004) and Wild Woman Voodoo Granny Doll Crochet (2007/15) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

From left to right: Bernhard Willhelm, ‘Volta’ Tour Dress, The Icelandic Love Corporation, Second Skin (2004) and Wild Woman Voodoo Granny Doll Crochet (2007/15) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Jillian Steinhauer: WELL, that was interesting. Do we start with the good or the bad? How about both? The good, for me: I left more into Björk as a musician than I’ve ever been before! The bad: holy hagiography.

Elisa Wouk Almino: The good: I got to see Björk in person dressed as a cactus. (She was there for three minutes, partially visible behind lots of journalists.) The bad: I think my headset told me that to feel like an underwater jellyfish is to experience a higher mode of being.

Benjamin Sutton: For me, the only good part was the exhibition’s lower level, where we got to watch her music videos. The bad: everything else. That being said, there were a couple of objects upstairs, in the “Björk: The Ride” portion of the show, that I really liked. What were some of your favorite future Hard Rock Café artifacts from the show?

Some of Bjork's notebooks in the "Songlines" portion of the exhibition (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Some of Björk’s notebooks in the “Songlines” portion of the exhibition (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

JS: I think you mean “Björk: The Experience.” (Sorry, readers, it’s actually called “Songlines.”) And honestly, I had trouble concentrating on any of them because I was so distracted by the horrible audio droning on in my ears: “You have been given a heart, which rests on your chest”; “The girl’s body had become home to a new heart — a tiny baby’s girl’s heart.” I was disheartened to learn that the script was penned by an actual writer named Sjón.

I suppose I liked seeing her notebooks and handwriting. The dresses were cool, but I just don’t have strong feelings about crazy designer dresses.

EWA: Yeah, in some ways I was more surprised by the mannequin Björk heads than the elaborate dresses themselves. And based on those notebooks that sound like the utterances of an angsty teenager (some of them do, actually, date to her childhood), I would think Björk wrote the script. That being said, the notebooks are one of the few items that revealed something about her work process.

Iris van Herpen, 'Biophilia' Dress (2011) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Iris van Herpen, ‘Biophilia’ Dress (2011) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

BS: Agreed. That lack of anything even remotely informative about her work and creative process is what, for me, made it not just an underwhelming exhibition, but a seriously bad one. I think her videos and the collaborations she’s done with artists and designers — everyone from her former partner Matthew Barney and the Dutch duo Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin to Alexander McQueen and Marjan Pejoski — are worthy fodder for a museum show, but this one is so conceptually compromised and flimsily assembled that I spent most of today’s preview in disbelief that I was actually at MoMA.

JS: This is probably just me being me, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s a bit of sexism at work here. I feel like if this were a show celebrating a male musician, we’d get more than just dresses and music videos — which, although they look awesome on a big screen in a comfy makeshift theater, are, after all, available to watch at home on your computer. Did either of your learn anything today that you didn’t already know about Björk?

EWA: I learned, thanks to the “Black Lake” video, that Björk has a deep connection with rocks.

JS: Ha!

EWA: I do honestly think she takes her love of rocks seriously.

Installation view, 'Björk' at MoMA (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic) (click to enlarge)

Installation view, ‘Björk’ at MoMA (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

BS: I dunno, I learned that Björk probably drives a Volkswagen now — at least I hope she does, in light of how heavily VW-branded this show is. (The “innovative technology” for “Songlines” is based on an app developed by Volkswagen.) As far as the sexism question, Jillian, I don’t know. I haven’t seen an equivalent exhibition devoted to a male musician. I guess we’ll have to wait for the inevitable Beck retrospective.

JS: I didn’t see the David Bowie retrospective, but it seemed to suffer from similar problems, so that would perhaps be a useful comparison. I feel like this gets at the question of how to present these types of artists in a museum setting. I agree that Björk seems worthy of a show, but it seemed like MoMA had no idea what to do with her or how to create one to emphasize her actual artistry. So they went for spectacle.

EWA: We did have to stand in three different lines for puzzlingly long amounts of time. One line that was somewhat worth the wait was for the new video MoMA commissioned, “Black Lake” — the visuals were actually quite stunning.

Björk, still from "Black Lake"

till from Björk’s and director Andrew Thomas Huang’s “Black Lake” video (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

 

JS: Agreed. I think “Black Lake” drove home for me that Björk’s best medium is the music video. It made me wish the show was more intensely focused on that aspect of her work, on breaking down how those get made, especially since they seem so collaborative.

BS: Yeah, “Black Lake” was beautiful, but even that was overwrought. The architectural installation — by The Living — seemed superfluous and incredibly inconsiderate. Like curator Klaus Biesenbach and Björk decided: “Let’s cover the walls with soft, plush things, then make people sit on the floor!” [Maniacal laughter.] And the video plays simultaneously on two screens on either side of the room in some feeble attempt at creating an “immersive” experience. Why not just have one screen and more of those cushioned red cubes from the adjacent music video theater?

Instruments for 'Biophilia': Björgvin Tómasson and Matt Nolan's Gameleste and Björgvin Tómasson's Pipe Organ

nstruments for ‘Biophilia’: Björgvin Tómasson and Matt Nolan’s Gameleste and Björgvin Tómasson’s Pipe Organ (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

JS: I don’t know, I didn’t mind the floor so much — at least we were allowed to sit. Can I just mention that I thought the instruments in the lobby were super cool, probably my favorite part? Although I was disappointed to miss the Tesla coil — the wall text said it was there, but I couldn’t find it.

EWA: Yeah, I don’t think there was substantial enough wall text throughout. I’m all for an exhibition that privileges experience over information, but I think some context would have made the show less fragmentary and confusing.

BS: Maybe, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, that’s why we were all so intensely disappointed by the exhibition: we were expecting an exhibition. Had we shown up to preview “The Tunnel of Björk” — and had said tunnel flowed a little more smoothly — we would have liked it?

JS: But if we wanted “The Tunnel of Björk,” wouldn’t we have gone to alterna–Walt Disney World?

BS: That’s exactly where we went.

Shaun Leane, Feather Ear Pieces (2003/15) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Shaun Leane, Feather Ear Pieces (2003/15) (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

 

Alexander McQueen, "Pagan Poetry" Dress (2001), and Matthew Barney, 'Verspertine' Music Box (2001) and 'Vespertine Live' Shoes (2001) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Alexander McQueen, “Pagan Poetry” Dress (2001), and Matthew Barney, ‘Verspertine’ Music Box (2001) and ‘Vespertine Live’ Shoes (2001) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Chris Cunningham, "All Is Full of Love" Robots (1999) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Chris Cunningham, “All Is Full of Love” Robots (1999) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Detail of one of Chris Cunningham's "All Is Full of Love" Robots (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Detail of one of Chris Cunningham’s “All Is Full of Love” Robots (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

 

Coat from "Jóga" Music Video (1997) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Coat from “Jóga” Music Video (1997) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Bernhard Willhelm, Body Sculpture (2007) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Bernhard Willhelm, Body Sculpture (2007) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Björk ephemera and photos (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Björk ephemera and photos (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Val Gardland, Crystal Mask

Val Garland, Crystal Mask (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

 

Installation view, the "Songlines" portion of Björk at MoMA (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

Installation view, the “Songlines” portion of Björk at MoMA (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Sean Hellfritsch and Isaiah Saxon, "Wanderlust" Painbody Head, Costume, and Yak (2007)

Sean Hellfritsch and Isaiah Saxon, “Wanderlust” Painbody Head, Costume, and Yak (2007) (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

The entrance to "Songlines" (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

The entrance to “Songlines” (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

 

The music video room (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

The music video room (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

 

A view of Andrew Cavatorta's Gravity Harps (2011), used on Björk's album 'Biophilia,' in the MoMA lobby (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

A view of Andrew Cavatorta’s Gravity Harps (2011), used on Björk’s album ‘Biophilia,’ in the MoMA lobby (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Björk's and director Stephane Sednaoui's "Big Time Gravity" video (1993), projected on a large wall at MoMA

Björk’s and director Stephane Sednaoui’s “Big Time Sensuality” video (1993), projected on a large wall at MoMA (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

 

Björk will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art (11 W 53rd St, Midtown East, Manhattan) from March 8 through June 7.

 

 

Centuries of Collecting the Curious and Macabre through Digital Storytelling (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on February 26, 2015 original article here.

Anatomical Venus by Clemente Susini from Florence, similar to what was in Joseph Kahn's anatomical museum (1771-1800) (courtesy Wellcome Library)

Anatomical Venus by Clemente Susini from Florence, similar to what was in Joseph Kahn’s anatomical museum. Kahn is featured in Wellcome Collection’s new digital story The Collectors (1771-1800) (courtesy Wellcome Library)

John Tradescant founded Britain’s first museum in the 17th century with a collection of mermaid hands, natural history specimens, and a purported piece of the crucifix. Centuries later, a newlywed paleobotanist named Marie Stopes published her collected knowledge from six months of reading “almost every book on sex in English, French, and German” at the British Museum in the 1918 Married Love. The Collectors, a digital story from Wellcome Collection launched earlier this month, joins both of these stories in an interactive narrative on collecting, curiosity, and access.

Photograph of Marie Stopes in her lab with microscope. (courtesy Wellcome Library)

Photo of Marie Stopes in her lab with microscope. (courtesy Wellcome Library)

The Collectors is the second such digital story from Wellcome, following Mindcraft, which debuted in December with a narrative on medical history, madness, and the history of mind control. Divided into six chapters, The Collectors gives brief portraits of six collectors with stories based in the UK, drawing on objects in the Wellcome Collection and Library, some of which are not on display. Features like video, data visualization, and portals into digitized resources on their stories are embedded in the scroll-down storytelling.

Written by Anna Faherty, the tales of the collectors are unified by their amassment of literature or objects that impacted public knowledge. Faherty stated in her “Why the World Needs Collectors” blog post that she “selected people who tell us something about the power of curiosity or the control of knowledge. Whatever their own motivation for acquiring things, the decisions collectors make about selecting, displaying and caring for objects or data have implications for us all.”

Starting page for Wellcome Collection's "The Collectors (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Starting page for Wellcome Collection’s “The Collectors” (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

For example, there’s haberdasher John Graunt who was the first to tabulate statistics in the Bills of Mortality, revealing the demographics of the 1662 London Plague. His story is accompanied by the eerie sound of the tolling bells summoning the “searchers” — the women who inspected the corpses. Their published macabre findings were, until Graunt, seen primarily as resources for gossip. For the story of John Kahn’s Anatomical Museum, opened in 1873 after most of the London medical museums had closed due to obscenity accusations, ghoulish fleshy noises and the clink of a knife accompany images of an anatomical Venus and dissection models similar to his displays. His actual collection, however, was destroyed after his prosecution under the 1857 Obscene Publications Act.

Both Mindcraft and The Collectors are hosted on a digital interface created by Wellcome Collection in collaboration with the digital agency Clearleft. The platform is a creative way of storytelling that can engage audiences with historic collections through the actual people behind them, while highlighting rarely-viewed objects in a new context.

“The digital stories are part of our ongoing strategy to commission and collaborate on digital projects that enhance Wellcome Collection’s program, and provide curious and intriguing experiences for an audience beyond our physical venue,” Danny Birchall, Wellcome digital manager and executive producer for the digital stories, told Hyperallergic. “We’re less interested in creating ‘virtual versions’ of exhibitions than we are in making digital a meaningful part of the program itself, from participatory social media projects to games and digital art commissions. Often a good digital project takes a spark of inspiration from one part of an exhibition and runs with it in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a physical space.”

Bills of mortality accumulating on a map of London in "The Collectors (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Bills of mortality accumulating on a map of London in “The Collectors” (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

 

Title page to a statistical analysis of mortality for the plague in London of 1665 (courtesy Wellcome Library)

Title page to a statistical analysis of mortality for the plague in London of 1665 (courtesy Wellcome Library)

 

Chapter on "The Curious Gardener" from "The Collectors (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Chapter on “The Curious Gardener” from “The Collectors” (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

 

Ethnographic collection: Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (1955) (courtesy Wellcome Library)

Ethnographic collection: Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (1955) (courtesy Wellcome Library)

 

The Collectors digital story is available at Wellcome Collection.