Hirshhorn Has Announced Free, Livestreamed Summit “Talking to Our Time: What Comes Next” Oct. 8 and 10

Summit Includes Leading Thinkers Zoe Leonard and Eileen Myles; John Akomfrah and Olafur Eliasson in Conversation; and Laurie Anderson in Performance on Museum’s YouTube Channel
October 6, 2020
News Release

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composite photo of several artists

Images (clockwise): Eileen Myles, photo by Shae Detar; Olafur Eliasson, photo by Runa Maya Mørk Huber / Studio Olafur Eliasson © 2017 Olafur Eliasson. Zoe Leonard, photo by Jana La Brasca. Laurie Anderson, photo by Ebru Yildiz; John Akomfrah, Courtesy of the Artist and Lisson Gallery.

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present “Talking to Our Time: What Comes Next,” an extension of the museum’s weekly online series “Talking to Our Time.” The livestreamed event series focuses on giving global audiences access to understanding how artists exercise their agency to impact significant change in the world. This online summit will comprise two panel discussions and a live performance featuring award-winning artists, writers and thinkers from around the world. The program will be free and livestreamed on the museum’s website and YouTube channel Oct. 8 and 10.

“The Hirshhorn is the national museum of modern art,” said Hirshhorn Museum Director Melissa Chiu. “Our mission is to connect audiences with the artistic minds that are pushing the boundaries in the ways we think about and interact with our world. The summit extends this commitment and uses our free, international platform to amplify voices working toward creating a more equitable and sustainable culture.”

The opening event, Thursday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. ET, will feature an interdisciplinary conversation with multimedia artist, Zoe Leonard, and poet and former presidential candidate, Eileen Myles. Three decades after Leonard wrote “I Want a President” in response to Myles’ 1990–91 presidential bid, the poem remains an important reminder of the role art and artists can play in defining and shaping civic life. Leonard’s work “I Want a President” is included in the Hirshhorn’s ongoing exhibition “Manifesto: Art x Agency.” Her practice merges photography, sculpture and installation and balances rigorous conceptualism with a distinctly personal vision. Similarly, as the author of 22 volumes of poetry and fiction, Myles employs writing as a form of activism and instruction. Believing “poetry always, always, always is a key piece of democracy,” Myles addresses a multitude of themes in their work, such as gender and sexuality. The timely conversation will raise important questions about what people seek in leadership and who people trust to represent individual and collective national interests.

The second event will take place Saturday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. and will feature the internationally renowned artists—both champions of art as activism—John Akomfrah and Olafur Eliasson. The artists will be joined in conversation by Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, for a discussion rooted in the two’s significant work both as artists and advocates for climate reform. As a writer, filmmaker and artist, Akomfrah has created countless works that investigate themes of memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics, specifically looking at experiences of migrant diasporas globally. In his famous six-channel video installation “Purple,” Akomfrah warns of the dangers threatening the planet and the cost of human progress. Eliasson has created a practice most interested in capturing themes of perception, movement, embodied experience and feelings of self through art. For him, art is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Using this thinking, Eliasson’s large-scale light sculpture “Your oceanic feeling,” currently installed in the Hirshhorn’s lobby, addresses the pressing issue of climate change. Foregrounded by both artists advocacy work, the panel will investigate how artists engage with the important issues of their time and employ art as a tool in the making of and shaping of history. 

On Saturday, Oct. 10, at 4 p.m., the Hirshhorn will share, for the first time online, “Duets on Ice,” an iconic performance work by celebrated American multimedia artist Laurie Anderson. The performance comprises the artist wearing skates frozen into blocks of ice and playing her violin in a series of electronic duets until the ice melts and she loses her balance. Nearly 50 years after “Duets on Ice” was first performed, this presentation will be streamed from the Hirshhorn’s outdoor plaza on the National Mall, a meaningful place for an artist who has investigated pressing issues such as national identity, the climate crisis and the effects of technology on human relationships throughout her practice. This performance comes in anticipation of “Laurie Anderson: The Weather,” an exhibition that the Hirshhorn will open in spring 2021.

More about “Talking to Our Time,” the museum’s weekly artist conversation series, is available on the museum’s website

About the Hirshhorn 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all. The Hirshhorn’s outdoor sculpture garden and plaza are open daily 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. The museum building is currently closed due to COVID-19. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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