The Hessel Museum of Art marks its tenth anniversary with a major exhibition of works from the Marieluise Hessel Collection curated by Lauren Cornell and Tom Eccles entitled Invisible Adversaries. The exhibition is inspired by the eponymous 1976 feature film by the radical Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT, and is built around its themes. The film presents a woman’s struggle to retain her sense of self against hostile alien forces that appear increasingly ubiquitous, colonizing the minds of all those around her.
Invisible Adversaries was chosen as a touchstone for the exhibition because the condition it describes, where a hostile force (what EXPORT in her film describes as “Hyksos”) circles around the protagonist and also infiltrates her mind, connects with the ways artists approach their adversaries: not as obvious enemies to overthrow but as complex relationships that are a profound part of our history and personal lives. The film is also embedded with a feminist psychology—EXPORT’s longstanding interests in confronting misogyny reaches delirious heights as Anna is psychically tortured by a patriarchal society, whose connection to Nazism is only thinly veiled. This seemed a fertile point of departure for a collection that is replete with works that powerfully address the social and political body.
The works in the exhibition range from the mid-1970s to the present day, including many recent acquisitions and major installations such as A Minute Ago by Rachel Rose, and Odradek Wall by Liam Gillick. The exhibition also provides the East Coast premiere of Factory in the Sun (2015) by Hito Steyerl, her work for the 2015 Venice Biennale. Often juxtaposing works from diverse artists and periods and persistently focusing on the social content of imagery, Invisible Adversaries aims to reintroduce the striking contentiousness of the Hessel Collection. Artists in the exhibition include Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Chantal Akerman, Kai Althoff, Janine Antoni, Ida Applebroog, Phyllida Barlow, Lynda Benglis, Barbara Bloom, Paul Chan, Patty Chang, Anne Collier, Rineke Dijkstra, Trisha Donnelly, VALIE EXPORT, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick, K8 Hardy, Rachel Harrison, Mona Hatoum, Roni Horn, Emily Jacir, Annette Kelm, Leigh Ledare, Nikki S. Lee, Sarah Lucas, Tala Madani, Christian Marclay, Helen Marten, Ulrike Müller, Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler, Philippe Parreno, William Pope.L, Seth Price, Magali Reus, Rachel Rose, Thomas Ruff, Ilene Segalove, Cindy Sherman, Stephen Shore, Diane Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Jo Spence, Hito Steyerl, Tunga, Gillian Wearing, Martha Wilson, and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Invisible Adversaries also features works on loan by Emily Jacir and Trevor Paglen; a major installation by Carrie Mae Weems; and a specially commissioned painting by Cheyney Thompson (in collaboration with Amy Sillman).
The exhibition is accompanied by a 300-page publication designed by Zak Kyes with original essays by nine influential writers, scholars and artists: Zach Blas, Johanna Fateman, Nav Haq, Vít Havránek, J. Hoberman, Alex Kitnick, Tavia Nyong’O, Lauren O’Neill-Butler, and Julian Rose. The catalogue also includes original interviews with VALIE EXPORT, Trevor Paglen, and Hito Steyerl.
The 1976 feature film Invisible Adversaries (1hr 52 mins) by VALIE EXPORT will be screened daily at two hour intervals beginning at 11:30 am.
Imponderable is an extensive research project, exhibition, film, and publication that investigates the personal collection of American artist Tony Oursler, a remarkable trove of more than 2,500 photographs, documents, publications, and unique objects, tracking a social, spiritual, and intellectual history dating back to the early eighteenth century. The actual objects within the archive will be shown for the first time in this comprehensive exhibition, extending the previous iterations of Imponderable commissioned by the LUMA Foundation in Arles and Zurich, where the 4D film and publication were originally presented in 2015. Concurrent with the presentation at CCS Bard, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York will exhibit a full-scale theater screening of Oursler’s Imponderable film (June 18, 2016 – January 2, 2017).
The project’s title, Imponderable, suggests the idea of something that cannot be determined with accuracy. Eighteenth-century scientists used the word to describe magnetism, electricity, and other unquantifiable energies, many of which are represented in Oursler’s archive. The ‘imponderable’ also suggests an area of open speculation populated by numerous conflicting belief systems. Additionally, Oursler is interested in how even the most incredible ideas can be presented in such a way that they convince the audience of their veracity.
The landscape of the archive covers numerous categories such as: stage magic, thought photography, demonology, cryptozoology, optics, Mesmerism, automatic writing, hypnotism, fairies, cults, pareidolia, the occult, color theory, and UFOs. Oursler’s initial research into these fringe practices of media histories and occult phenomenon led the artist further into ideas of speculative thought, the boundaries of science, the use of the spectacular, all of which resonate with contemporary pop culture. For Oursler, nested and mirrored within this archive, is also an intriguing family history that includes his grandfather, Fulton Oursler, Houdini, and the author Arthur Conan Doyle.
Originally commissioned by the LUMA Foundation for LUMA Arles in France, this project investigates new possibilities for archives and artistic production, which is one of its primary concerns. Imponderable translates the original archival materials into the form of a film, an installation, and a publication, providing new insight into both the material gathered by the artist over many years, and the trajectory of his own work.
The 4D film-based experience to be shown at MoMA explores the conflicting and overlapping belief systems implicit within his grandfather’s engagement with the debunking of paranormal activity. In addition to the exhibition of more than two thousand objects at CCS Bard, the broader reach of the archival material is presented in a six-hundred page, fully illustrated, publication that makes the archive available to the public for the first time. Alongside a substantial visual catalogue of Oursler’s archive, organized by the artist, this publication gathers a large number of newly commissioned texts by scholars, historians, and fellow enthusiasts for material that certainly lies outside the mainstream.
Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler was commissioned and produced by the LUMA Foundation for the Parc des Ateliers in Arles, France. Curated by Tom Eccles and Beatrix Ruf.
The exhibition Tony Oursler: The Imponderable Archive, curated by Tom Eccles and Beatrix Ruf is on view at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, from June 25 to October 30, 2016.
Tony Oursler: Imponderable, curated by Stuart Comer and Erica Papernik-Shimizu, is on view at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from June 18, 2016 to January 2, 2017.
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