Entering the New Museum’s 2015 Triennial “Surround Audience” is like stepping into someone else�s search history. If you�re passionate about the same information that he or she is, you might find the work fascinating. If not, you may feel as though you�re laboring through a reading assignment, or worse, correcting homework. Either way, though, curators Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin have managed to create a fascinating equivalent for online life, with all the confusion, distraction, contradiction, and uneven quality that we have come to associate with post-analog existence.
[Image at top: Verena Dengler, Identity, 2014.]
Featuring “fifty-one artists from over twenty-five countries,” the Triennial captures our inability to categorize and divide work into the old genres, and reveals artists� increasing lack of interest in rendering information into visual form. Lisa Tan�s video �Waves� is a good example. She describes her ideas about the internet and communication, which are interesting, against images of the ocean and a video of her typing at the computer. The piece is thought provoking but not terribly refined, reminding me that the art world has a wider tent than other fields. While literary editors would be quite discriminating about what essays, stories, poems, or journals they would publish, museums and gallerists seem to embrace all forms, no matter how rough or anti-visual. Upstairs on the fifth floor Martine Syms presents an installation that includes research materials like books tagged with post-it notes and old TV scripts alongside an artist’s book and two videos. Reinforcing my notion that individual pieces aren’t necessarily important, the videos she produced for the Triennial weren�t turned on the day I visited.
Singling out individual pieces for praise seems beside the point, but my favorites were the book edited by Brian Droitcour called The Animated Reader, and Daniel Steegmann Mangran�’s Phantom. The Animater Reader is an anthology of writing in the spirit of the exhibition, and if, as Cornell and Trecartin have said, the show is about �language and humanity,� this little low-tech volume captures it. Phantom, on the other hand, utilizes state of the art technology to create a virtual environment accessed by donning an Oculus Rift DK2 headset. I enjoyed experiencing the skeletal forest drawing completely unaware of the actual world around me while wearing the headset, and then watching others lurch blindly around the space (as I had) when it was their turn. The project struck me as a spot-on metaphor for contemporary life.
Throughout the exhibition, lengthy wall labels provide background on the artists and sometimes the projects presented. They help to put the disparate projects in context, but they also risk ruining the effect. I�d rather muddle through the jam-packed exhibition, confused, making up my own ideas about the work. Even if, like Guan Xiao’s installation, the piece is visually rich and compelling on its own, the text-based artsplaining ensures that we’ll spend more time reading than looking for fear of otherwise missing the meaning of the project. But again, perhaps that’s part of Cornell and Trecartin’s point.
Some of the work is more traditionally visual, but the installation defies close scrutiny. Rachel Lord’s paintings are hung too high, while Peter Wachtler’s charcoal drawings are behind glass so reflective they are hard to see. Avery Singer and Sascha Braunig contribute evocative figurative paintings that simulate what it feels like to be ON the Internet–an apt phrase because, in my experience, online life is addictive, much like a drug–but the work is poorly lit. I loved the inclusion of little paintings hung over the bunks in Nadim Abbas’s Chamber 666 bunker capsules: we will need art after the apocalypse hits!
In the voice-over for Lisa Tan’s video, she paraphrases Baudelaire, who once said that when he wanted to write about the sea he would take a bath to immerse himself in his subject. Cornell and Trecartin have exhorted viewers of the exhibition to emulate him, pulling artists from all over the world to wrap the audience in a web of fascinating information and ideas. The show is essentially about the daunting experience of contemporary life–about our increasing need to make sense of a world of burgeoning intricacy, over-saturated with data–and not so much about any of the specific projects that are included.
“2015 Triennial: Surround Audience,” curated by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin. New Museum, LES, New York, NY. Through May 24, 2015. Artists include: Nadim Abbas (b. 1980, Hong Kong, China. Lives and works in Hong Kong, China) Lawrence Abu Hamdan (b. 1985, Amman, Jordan. Lives and works in London, UK) niv Acosta (b. 1988, New York, NY, US. Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, US) Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983, Enugu, Nigeria. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, US) Sophia Al-Maria (b. 1983, Tacoma, WA, US. Lives and works in Doha, Qatar, and London, UK) Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili (b. 1979, Tbilisi, Georgia. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany) Ed Atkins (b. 1982, Oxford, UK. Lives and works in London, UK) Olga Balema (b. 1984, Lviv, Ukraine. Lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Berlin, Germany) Frank Benson (b. 1976, Norfolk, VA, US. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Sascha Braunig (b. 1983, Vancouver Island, Canada. Lives and works in Portland, ME, US) Antoine Catala (b. 1975, Toulouse, France. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Asl? �avu?o?lu (b. 1982, Istanbul, Turkey. Lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey) Jos� Le�n Cerrillo (b. 1976, San Luis Potos�, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico) Onejoon CHE (b. 1979, Seoul, South Korea. Lives and works in Seoul, South Korea) Tania P�rez C�rdova (b. 1979, Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico) Verena Dengler (b. 1981, Vienna, Austria. Lives and works in Vienna, Austria) DIS (Founded 2010, New York, NY, US) Aleksandra Domanovi? (b. 1981, Novi Sad, SFR Yugoslavia. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany) Casey Jane Ellison (b. 1988, Los Angeles, CA, US. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY, US) Exterritory (Founded 2009, the Extraterritorial Waters) Geumhyung Jeong (b. 1980, Seoul, South Korea. Lives and works in Seoul, South Korea) Ane Graff (b. 1974, Bod�, Norway. Lives and works in Oslo, Norway, and Amsterdam, Netherlands) Guan Xiao (b. 1983, Sichuan Province, China. Lives and works in Beijing, China) Shadi Habib Allah (b. 1977, Jerusalem, Palestine. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Eloise Hawser (b. 1985, London, UK. Lives and works in London, UK) Lena Henke (b. 1982, Warburg, Germany. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Lisa Holzer (b. 1971, Vienna, Austria. Lives and works in Vienna, Austria, and Berlin, Germany) Juliana Huxtable (b. 1987, Houston, TX, US. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Renaud Jerez (b. 1982, Narbonne, France. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany) K-HOLE (Founded 2010, New York, NY, US) Shreyas Karle (b. 1981, Mumbai, India. Lives and works in Mumbai, India) Kiluanji Kia Henda (b. 1979, Luanda, Angola. Lives and works in Luanda, Angola, and Lisbon, Portugal) Josh Kline (b. 1979, Philadelphia, PA, US. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Eva Ko?�tkov� (b. 1982, Prague, Czech Republic. Lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic) Donna Kukama (b. 1981, Mafikeng, South Africa. Lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa) Firenze Lai (b. 1984, Hong Kong, China. Lives and works in Hong Kong, China) Oliver Laric (b. 1981, Innsbruck, Austria. Lives and works in Berlin, Germany) Li Liao (b. 1982, Hubei, China. Lives and works in Shenzhen, China) Rachel Lord (b. 1986, Washington, DC, US. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, US) Basim Magdy (b. 1977, Assiut, Egypt. Lives and works in Cairo, Egypt, and Basel, Switzerland) Nicholas Mangan (b. 1979, Geelong, Australia. Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia) Ashland Mines (b. 1982, Pittsburgh, PA, US. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, US) Shelly Nadashi (b. 1981, Haifa, Israel. Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium) Eduardo Navarro (b. 1979, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lives and works in Buenos Aires, Argentina) Steve Roggenbuck (b. 1987, Harbor Beach, MI, US. Lives and works in Brunswick, ME, US) Avery K. Singer (b. 1987, New York, NY, US. Lives and works in New York, NY, US) Daniel Steegmann Mangran� (b. 1977, Barcelona, Spain. Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Martine Syms (b. 1988, Los Angeles, CA, US. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, US) Lisa Tan (b. 1973, New York, NY, US. Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden) Luke Willis Thompson (b. 1988, Auckland, New Zealand. Lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand, and Frankfurt, Germany) Peter W�chtler (b. 1979, Hannover, Germany. Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium, and Berlin, Germany)
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