The Protest and The Recuperation
|When||12 Jun 2021 - 14 Aug 2021|
|Where||Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery
615 West 129th Street
New York, NY 10027
Artists: Khalid Albaih, Lara Baladi, Sharon Chin, Chow Chun Fai, Rachael Haynes, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Oliver Ressler, Josué Rivas, Hank Willis Thomas, and Eugenia Vargas-Pereira
The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts is pleased to open The Protest and The Recuperation curated by Betti-Sue Hertz, the Gallery’s director and chief curator. It is the Wallach’s first exhibition to open to the general public since March 2020.
A survey of artistic perspectives on, and responses to, the global phenomena of mass protest and the recuperative strategies of resistance, the exhibition focuses on art that reveals the visual and performative aesthetics of progressive protests. Further, it is an exploration of what art can contribute to our understanding of the necessity of public gathering as a strategy for effecting change. Through participation, observation, interpretation, representation, and appropriation, the ten artists present nuanced perspectives on the value of protests as aggregate expressions of thousands, even millions, of individual participants.
Conceptually, the exhibition begins with the Arab Spring’s outburst of dissent and local organizing networks in 2011, which put pressure on authoritarian regimes, and continues with resistance movements that followed that year, including Occupy Wall Street. From 2011 to 2020 the world witnessed an extraordinary period of revolt that spread quickly from site to site through social media. The works on view, broadly speaking, are inspired by mass protests—as distinguished from activist art and activism, per se. The artists align themselves with the commitment, creativity, and ingenuity of the protestors and reformulate their actions into art forms that, after the fact of the temporality of street actions, maintain a purposeful, sustained “object-ness.”
The works in The Protest and The Recuperation highlight the aesthetic aspects of protest, weave cultural specificities into their tactics, and represent expressions of willfulness and determination. While not created expressly as acts of protest, they are an homage to the corporeal forms of collective advocacy emerging from the populace and to the importance of the call for action that each references. These works amplify actions and infuse them with poetics and the deepening potential of the slow viewing of art. The works share evidence that the artist who is immersed in the protest scene—an insider, a participant observer, a chronicler—is also someone who propels rights and values forward through the syncretic, thoughtful, and conscientious process of artmaking. Self-consciously inside history, these artists honor it and its legacies as building blocks for the future.
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Image courtesy of the event organizer.