Video still. Kota Ezawa, “Paint Unpaint,” 2014. Single-channel video; color; silent; 1:34 min. Gift of Elizabeth Miller and Daniel Sallick, 2017 (2017.028). Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery, San Francisco
The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has announced “In the Beginning: Media Art and History,” (Oct. 1–Dec. 31), a thematic series that reimagines the museum’s Black Box program. Inaugurated in fall 2005, Black Box has served as a dedicated space within the museum to showcase moving image artwork and has presented a diverse program of work by both established and emerging artists from around the world. As the Hirshhorn’s first ever online exhibition, “In the Beginning” will explore how contemporary video, sound and performance artists use new technologies and formats to interpret history.
Organized by Marina Isgro, the Hirshhorn’s newly appointed associate curator of media and performance art, the online series unfolds in three installments—“Taking Stock,” “Restaging” and “Drawing From Memory”—with each iteration focused on examining the ways in which artists working today engage new technology to better understand people’s histories. Comprising 15 video and sound works, the virtual exhibition considers how artists employ archival material, live action events and hand-drawn and computer-generated animation to develop innovative ways to interpret and relate to the events of the past. Each chapter of “In the Beginning” will be amplified by a free, live, online talk with a featured artist and a Hirshhorn curator, part of the museum’s weekly “Talking to Our Time” conversation series.
“While the physical doors to the museum are closed temporarily, we’re excited to share our first virtual exhibition, showcasing the Hirshhorn’s moving image collection in a new way,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “Acting as an extension of our galleries, the exhibition will give viewers the opportunity to dive deeper into the histories of new media art by highlighting the work of a number of the pioneers of the field who mine history as they push the medium forward with contemporary artmaking tools.”
The first chapter of the exhibition, “Taking Stock” (Oct. 1–31), features video and sound works by artists Camille Henrot, Jennie C. Jones, Mark Leckey and Cyprien Gaillard. Each video in this chapter dislocates existing material and found footage—such as YouTube videos and Google Images searches—from its original site, thereby revealing new readings, meanings and questions. In one example, American artist Jones samples historical recordings of Black experimental music from the 1970s onward to create “Higher Resonance” (2013), an audio collage that places these voices into newly imagined conversations. In another, Leckey crafts his autobiography entirely from recordings discovered online, which he calls “found memories.” Henrot and Orrace-Tetteh will join Isgro Wednesday, Oct. 28, at noon ET for “On Art and Origin Stories,” an online discussion surrounding how the artist layered her exploration of the Smithsonian’s archives and Orraca-Tetteh’s performance as touchpoints in her work, “Grosse Fatigue.”
The second chapter, “Restaging” (Nov. 1–30), highlights performance-based works that explore how to represent the past through live actions in the present. Throughout their practices the artists featured in this iteration, including Kiyan Williams, Rainer Ganahl, CT Jasper and Joanna Malinowska, Dana Awartani and Héctor Zamora use performance to craft allegories about past events and stage events in sites charged with meaning to recount local and global histories. In one video, Awartani sweeps away a sand installation that she created in an abandoned home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The work, “I went away and forgot you. A while ago I remembered. I remembered I’d forgotten you. I was dreaming” (2017), alludes to the continuous cycle of creation and destruction and the complex layering of old and new that is present in the spaces people create and inhabit. Williams will join curator Anne Reeve Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. ET for “On Art and Soil,” an online discussion about their multidisciplinary practice that traverses sculpture, video and performance.
The final chapter, “Drawing from Memory” (Dec. 1–31), centers on videos that use hand-drawn animation or computer-generated imagery to reflect on the processes through which people construct and remember history. The exhibition introduces artworks created by Kota Ezawa, William Kentridge, Terence Gower and Sondra Perry, each of whom asks viewers to consider familiar and forgotten historical events. “Stereoscope” (1999) by Kentridge addresses the history of apartheid in South Africa through the frame of a fictional character named Soho Eckstein. Using his characteristic animation style, Kentridge erased and reworked scenes of protesting crowds, exploding bombs and police violence that unfold around Eckstein, leaving traces that suggest the continued effects of history on the present. In another featured work, “Wilderness Utopia” (2008), Gower employs computer-generated animation to construct a once lost plan for a utopian city designed by the museum’s founder, Joseph Hirshhorn. The final artist conversation related to the exhibition will feature Ezawa online with Isgro Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. ET “On Art and Animation” will address the artist’s translation of iconic media moments into opportunities for collective reflection.
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 Museum’s outdoor sculpture garden is open daily 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. The museum and plaza are 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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