Two gold chains hang on steely colored pins. They fall perpendicularly, intersecting to form a cross, a compositional reference that is further bolstered by the small golden crucifix linked to the bottom-most tip. A few feet away, a milky marble-like slab rests upon half an egg shell, which sits atop three similar stones, atop an ever-so-slightly warped poster-sized sheet of paper. Mere inches above the egg-stone composition, a family of six porcelain pitchers each hold the protruding twig of a tree branch, each vessel connected to the other by their respective arboreal link. These are simply three examples of the elements that make up Rosario-based Mariana Telleria's Dias en que todo verdad. The work presents a tableau of objects on a series of shelves, which the catalogue describes as “intervening in an object’s conventional use and character.” To characterize Telleria’s work as an intervention is appropriate, and lends itself to summarizing the New Museum’s second triennial at large. Dias serves as a microcosm for the exhibition: The Ungovernables presents careful -- if adamant interventions -- works that raise monuments to dissonance, leaving any semblance of convention behind.
Detail of Mariana Telleria's Dias en que todo verdad, 2012. Photo by Hannah Daly.
“These are artists who are actors in their context, not just commentators,” said curator Eungie Joo to a early morning crowd at press preview for the show. Joo called the team of artists, each sporting a lanyard alerting their status, to the front of the lobby. An impressively international set, the representatives of the cast of contributors could simply stand and smile, as New Museum director Lisa Philips declared their collective work “a paradigm shift.” Looking at the handful of participating artists, I was impressed by the very energy of a room full of young, highly attractive and talented artists. Yet, there’s more to the work, and the show, than the vibrancy inherent to pretty young artists and their practices. The shift in focus from the New Museum’s inaugural triennial, Younger Than Jesus, to this year’s second installment is significant. Rather than a simple exaltation of youthfulness, and the general air of sanctity the show brought to its work, The Ungovernables hails dissonance and resistance. In varying conceptual and methodological ways, each work insists: don’t take this sitting down.
It is telling that many of the works held physically on the five floors of the New Museum are mere testaments to a greater process that cannot be contained within a still, unchanging exhibition. The collective behind Invisible Borders, a trans-African photography collaboration based in Lagos, presents a wall of images and additional documentary material, but the true weight of the work lies miles away: their effort disrupts the flow of image-making and circulation of West Africans, a cultural sphere still drenched in the inequities of colonialism.
In Time Exchange, José Antonio Vega Macotela presents various objects: a bin of DVDs, a platform of plastic bags filled with smuggled substances, a triptych of neatly organized cigarette butts. Yet, the substance of the piece resides within the walls of Santa Martha Acatila prison in México City. Macotela’s work is the result of a durational collaboration with inmates, through which both the artist and incarcerated exchanged assigned tasks. Time Exchange is at its core a global, border-crossing collaborative effort, a characteristic of The Ungovernables as a whole. The triennial presents an intervention, led by a cadre of insistently active artists.
Image top right: Julia Dault, Untitled 20 (1:00 pm - 5:30 pm, February 5, 2012), 2012. Photo by Benoit Pailley.