City of Disappearances
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts will present the group exhibition City of Disappearances September 10 through December 14, 2013, in the Wattis Institute galleries, located on the San Francisco campus of California College of the Arts. The exhibition is free and open to the public, with an opening reception on Tuesday, September 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. After its appearance in San Francisco the exhibition will travel to the Zabludowicz Collection, London, under the title Infinite City, February 27–May 11, 2014.
City of Disappearances focuses on the city as material, site, and situation for the contemporary lived experience. It will feature works from two important collections: the Kadist Art Foundation (located in San Francisco and Paris) and the Zabludowicz Collection (located in London, New York, and Sarvisalo, Finland). The show is curated by Joseph del Pesco, director of the Kadist Art Foundation, and Elizabeth Neilson, director of the Zabludowicz Collection.
City of Disappearances involves three distinct but integrated elements: a solo display devoted to one artist from each collection, a new installation of works drawn from both collections, and a room in which artworks of different mediums are shown together. From the Kadist Art Foundation there is Berlin Remake (2005) by the New York–based artist Amie Siegel; this two-channel work juxtaposes preexisting films of Berlin with contemporary footage of the same locations, presenting a ghostly portrait of a city that has been a prominent protagonist in world conflict.
From the Zabludowicz Collection comes a selection of hard-hitting reportage captured by Enrique Metinides, a Mexico City–based photographer, between 1949 and 1995.
The show will include a newly configured sculptural installation by the Scottish artist Martin Boyce; the work is appearing for the first time in San Francisco. Boyce references architectural and modernist design and materials to create environments that blend functionality and aesthetics, to uncanny effect.
There will be video, painting, and photography by Slater Bradley, Yelena Popova, and Kelley Walker from the Zabludowicz Collection and Michel Auder, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and John Menick from the Kadist Art Foundation.
Co-curator Joseph del Pesco says: “Variously recognizable in the exhibition are corporeal vanishings, filmic echoes from the past dissolving in the present, and contaminated memories. The exhibition argues for the insubstantiality of the city as a concrete material and conceptual container, proposing instead that numerous cities live but are eventually forgotten in the minds of its inhabitants.”
“Does the city make the people, or do the people make the city?” asks co-curator Elizabeth Neilson. “Whether we observe the formation of cities by their inhabitants or the formation of inhabitants by the cities in which they live, we recognize the city as a primary dilemma, a tension that is prevalent in all the works on view.”
The physical and spatial experience of a city defines a language spoken around the world -- a language of skyscrapers, traffic, human density, technology, affluence, poverty, and noise. Since 2007, the majority of the world's population has been urban, making it increasingly urgent for us to think about what “the city” means. Whether we extol or condemn particular features of a certain city, there is no disputing that urban denizens play a more critical role than ever in determining the direction of global culture.
When the exhibition travels to the Zabludowicz Collection location in London it will appear with a different title: Infinite City. The underlying concept is that in each city, the show takes its title from a book relating to the other location; the intent is to highlight the ways in which the title of an exhibition, and by extension the context in which artworks are exhibited, influences the show’s local reception.
The two books that inspired these exhibition title choices are Iain Sinclair’s London: City of Disappearances (2006) and Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (2010). Sinclair calls his book an “anthology of absence”; it includes writings by more than a dozen authors, and the curators believe that it speaks broadly to the many “cities of shadows” in the exhibition. Solnit’s book is a series of color maps created in collaboration with artists, writers, and cartographers to illuminate diverse aspects of San Francisco, its history, and its inhabitants.
This exhibition exchange was initiated by Jens Hoffmann during his tenure as director of the Wattis Institute and advisor to the Kadist Art Foundation. It is the first in a series of exchanges organized by Kadist in collaboration with local and international partner institutions. The next exchange will occur in 2014 with the Times Museum in Guangzhou, China.