PRESS RELEASE (PDF):
(n)either (n)or to open at the margins of the Chazen Museum of Art on May 1, 2015: the Curatorial Lab of UW-Madison’s Department of Art History explores liminality as a persistent condition in contemporary art practices.
Madison, WI, April 27, 2015 – The Curatorial Lab of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Art History is pleased to present the group exhibition (n)either (n)or, on view May 1 through September 10, 2015. The exhibition brings together eleven artists living and working in diverse contexts, whose works in video, photography, and painting address liminality as a persistent condition in contemporary art practices. The artworks, selected from over 300 submissions, resonate with the concrete and porous boundaries of the Curatorial Lab’s space. “Given that the exhibition operates within the museum’s building but is not subject to its curatorial authority, we wanted to invite people to think in creative ways about marginality,” said Simone Doing, curator. To celebrate (n)either (n)or’s opening, the Curatorial Lab will host a public reception during the city-wide Gallery Night, on Friday, May 1, from 5 to 8pm.
Within the Curatorial Lab’s white cube gallery, each wall pairs works that explore liminality as a persistent state, but depart conceptually from specific binary distinctions. The exhibition is organized as a palindrome to further emphasize the multiple, complex readings of the works and their resonances. On the north wall, Leigh Merrill’s The Palm Tree (Dallas TX, 2014), and Eleen Lin’s The Wall (New York NY, 2014), reconfigure our sense of depth and surface with puzzling and delicate juxtapositions between “wish-landscapes” and inert walls. In a parallel investigation of surface and depth, Annelies Kamen’s photographic replica of a road formerly marking the border between Germany and the Netherlands stretches across the floor. Titled Plot: Enschede Knalhutteweg Defunct Border Road Median (Berlin, 2014) the piece required onsite assembly of individual paper prints of each paving stone, sent from Kamen’s studio in Berlin. Using the “flat” quality of copy paper, Kamen evokes the deep “plot” of controlling structures that, in her words, “persist, in hushed tones, to mark Europe’s internal borders.”
The west wall explores the relationship between language and experience through categories that racialize, value, and gender persons and objects. Brittney Leeanne Williams’ oil painting, Tape Smiles and Peace Signs (Chicago IL, 2011), delves into the conflicting emotions sparked by misrecognition and otherness. In this piece, Williams draws from her experience as an African American attending a Chinese immersion school in Alhambra, California. In Auction Blocks (Milwaukee, WI, 2015), Daniel Fleming questions the unstable standards and institutional categories that determine the changing values of art. Following a similar conceptual path, Re-ordering the Museum: Polyvalent Gender Cultures in Traditional Asian Statuary (Berlin, 2015) by art historian Isabel Seliger presents the body as a “non-fixated place” rather than a set of binary gender differences.
Works on the south wall explore the interdependence between death and birth. Two videos, Offering (Steuben, WI, 2013) by Mandy Cano Villalobos (co-directed by Aaron Henderson), and Death Tourist Rising (Chicago, Switzerland, 2014) by Vanessa Gravenor, face us with the rupturing and quotidian labors of care demanded by the newborn and the dying body. The dialogue between two photographic images introduces the transformative nature of the flesh – the countless rebirths and metaphorical deaths experienced during a single life span. Carly Zufelt’s Self-Medication (Tucson AZ, 2011) doubles her body as both therapist and patient in a single photograph, inhabiting both female and male characters. Corey Dunlap’s Gak Series: Blue (Los Angeles, 2014) captures the fleshy and unstable appearance of gak, an elementary school polymer that seems to melt the material differences between the corporeal and the synthetic. In a related theme, the east wall explores the relationship between creation and destruction. Giang Pham’s Nation’s Burden (Gainesville FL 2014) superimposes rice over archival photographs from the Vietnam War to compare the body’s relationship to food and conflict – highlighting how sources of nourishment for some are intrinsically tied to the suffering of others.
(n)either (n)or is double sided; it establishes a link that is also a limit. The exhibition simultaneously enunciates a comparison (either inside or outside), and a negative conjunction (neither self nor other), to explore the productive difference of inhabiting the permeable and shifting boundaries that constitute binary distinctions, material limits, and social margins. As highlighted by curator Fernanda Villaroel, “rather than closure, resolution, and certainty, the selection of works foregrounds infinite variations and iterations that take form through the repetitive, mediating labors of the day by day.”
The Curatorial Lab is currently formed by Katherine Berggruen, Simone Doing, Patricia Edmunds, Lynne Harper, Carolyn Hoffelt, Lauren Miller, and Fernanda Villarroel. With the guidance and experience of Visiting Associate Professor and Artist in Residence Anna Campbell, the curatorial team developed a call for art and designed postcards, catalogues, and a website while coordinating with artists to receive and mount the artwork. “Key to the selection process was identifying provocative resonances among the works; the logistic of receiving them from Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, and so on, was yet another challenge working with such a tight timeline,” said Lynne Harper, curator.
In this collaborative project, the Curatorial Lab functions as a site for pedagogical experimentation and critical inquiry for Art History students. The lab space first became available with the opening of the new wing of the Chazen Museum in 2013. Though the space has hosted exhibitions before, (n)either (n)or is the first event to take place after the Department of Art History’s significant investment in lighting, infrastructure, and technology, in its ongoing efforts to develop the University’s nascent program in curatorial studies.