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A virtual comic show. Art as advertizing and vice versa. Mediated poetry museum texts take-overs. Art on an iPad. Art on an iPhone. Oculus Rift. The audience as window-licking zombies watching a “a SOHO-woman” (that’s how Lauren Boyle described the ‘performer’) who takes a horizontal shower in the schizophrenic kitchen-bathroom-stage environment behind glass as created by DIS. An undercover audience performance. Dancing on the skyline rooftop space or in the basement theatre. Speakers bounce Arab music. Plastic bags filled with aqua+. Thrilling sounds echo in a hallucinatory green leaden staircase. Online work #nowallsneeded. A 3-D scanned artist as a printed sculpture. Security camera style metal trees grow creditcards. Social media madness AKA a stage for art and of course a YouTube TV-cum-talkshow as a warm welcome to the Triennial.

At New Museum in New York, the 2015 edition of the Triennial has started with works by the 51 artists from 25 countries. An eminent collaboration between the ecstatic video artist Ryan Trecartin and former director of Rhizome, now New Museum curator Lauren Cornell, with assistant curators Sara O’Keeffe and Helga Christoffersen on the team. The Triennial can be seen as a bifurcated river which flows through all the galleries and the stairwell too. A river arm deviating from the mainstream and later flowing into one another again. In the year 2015 everything is transformation. The title of the show is ‘Surround Audience’. It’s a show that expands beyond the Museum hard white concrete walls. It bursts out with an intense shout.

Back home I’m watching the Ovation TV-channel on YouTube, in the subway I continue watching it on my phone. After I had checked in my coat, I found myself in front of a huge LCD screen, watching ‘Touching the Art‘, which Casey Jane Ellison, who came up with the idea, called "the first all-female, all-art talk show". Brave as hell, the deadpan black-lipped comedian talks to ‘solamente art-chicas’ about the why and the what-for-questions with which art and the art world is surrounded, in an attempt to get even "art haters" or "I’d-never-heard-of-art-creatures" involved with contemporary art. She is a sexy quirky hero-alike TV gift. A present as art.

In her show she asks questions like "Is everyone just a thieving plagiarist?" and she promotes her bi-sexuality as propaganda for a future all-bi-all-equal era. But in order to get there we need, for now, all-female. “Is there a male on this floor? (acting angry) I told u, I don’t want to have any males around”. Take this as a digital flirt; I dedicate the title and the idea of this review to the nutcase provocatrice who hangs in a limbo in between either loving or hating herself too much.

It’s all-female, no explanation.

By far the most spectacular work of the entire Triennial is the hand-painted 3-D printed sculpture Juliana, 2013 by a male artist. Juliana Huxtable is showing her own work in the exhibition too, but is on top of that immortalized as this 3D sculpture. Her photograph as an invitation. She is the icon of the Triennial, Afro-American and transgender. 2015 New York Correct. The future.

Juliana Huxtable Untitled (Psychosocial Stuntin) (Destroying Flesh) (Nibiru Cataclysm) (Casual Power), 2015

She is an incredibly beautiful and powerful, as well as a much talked-of, personality in the New York music and fashion scenes in recent years. She also writes poetry, in which she reveals her intriguing past and her transgender struggle. If you see her talking live, you yearn for her to read her touching poems out loud to you personally, with her beautiful voice, while admiring her appearance.

As part of the Triennial she presents four classic works on the wall. Two technically well-made photographs and two overtly designed poems (which barely could be read). All four equally framed works try to show that a poem (the mental inside) is equal is to the outside (easy eye candy self-portraits). “They are all self-imaginings.” Is what she calls them. It’s too obvious. I’d rather wish she would hand out printed screenshots of a Google Image-search for her name as “self-imaginings”. A print is a surface and this is exactly what her work represents. Her strong voice fails in the way she presents her art work here. Apparently occupying the well-deserved position as Triennial-icon isn’t the same as making good art.

Aleksandra Domanovic SOHO (Substances of Human Origin), 2015

Domanovic created a space within the exhibition space by hanging transparent foil sheets with printed images of ‘blood cells’, ‘krill’ and ‘krill capsules’, the last ones of which are used as a medicine for the treatment of, among others, cancer, heart diseases and high cholesterol. The sheets have a very strong plastic scent and the size of this room is one of a typical cell or standard emergency room in a hospital. It’s scary to enter, even more so because of the view toward the 3-D printed sculptures of prosthetic arms sticking out of the gigantic white museum walls, hopelessly begging for something we have no clue of. The sculptures draw inspiration from Yugoslav scientist Rajko Tomovic, who in 1963 developed the Belgrade Hand—one of the first artificial prosthetics capable of sensing touch for soldiers who had lost hands in World War II.

It made me think of that, once you have entered the room and touched the sheets, they start to move. Aleksandra herself talks about those plastic sheets moving like gills. Oxygen passing in and out. Breathing. Sensational. The gill coming to mind is calming and poetic, precisely balancing the harder realities and cold relationships that exist between technology, human biology and bodily functions (topics which the work also is about). The work forms a doom scenario with a sense of humor, it touches relevant issues, makes you think, and in its form is attractive in relation to the exhibition space. I see it as a kind of healing center for robots. The sculptures are imbued with different characters, all more or less busy: one becomes the dentist, the other is busy with something that could be a future replacement of cocaine, and another one is praying "Let’s prepare for a time without blood cells". Domanovic’s intricate work is strong as iron.

Niv Acosta DISCOTROPIC (2015)

I went to see Niv Acosta’s performance preview in The Skyline Room of the museum, and a few days later I saw the real performance in the basement’s theatre space. It made for a transcendental experience. DISCOTROPIC (2015) explores the relationship between sci-fi, disco, astrophysics, and the Black American experience, focused foremost on the role of black women in American sci-fi history. The room had been organized in such a manner that some rows of people could sit on “the stage” behind the curtains, whereas some of the usual theatre seats were covered in recycle-style brown paper on which colorful symbols were applied with glow-in-the-dark paint. If you wanted you could have a white arrow painted on your forehead, but only when seated in the back row. The arrow pointed leftward.

Furthermore, seats were placed along the sidelines, so the audience would literally be surrounded by the performance and the space. It made me think of what happens when artists are assignt to work on a piece which is informed by the statement of the Triennial. Perhaps artists adhere to the topic imposed, to the detriment of their autonomy. Acosta’s stage thus became too much of a forced reference to the title ‘Surround Audience’. Although the performance had it qualities. Light music transformed into heavier tones, while the four dancers (three men and Acosta, who is transgender) made uncomfortable moves, from frivolous to crawling, dragging, fighting and leaning towards transforming into atypical beings. The dancers’s attire are somewhat colorful at the start, but along the way only black rags of clothing remain, used as extensions of their arms, for long swings as if one waves a flag. A beautiful allegory in which the (trans)gendered body finds itself within an intensive state-of-display and an awareness of old-fashioned sci-fi as well as issues of race.

Ane Graff The Blow (YieldingThe Blow) (Joined by Tendons) (Tract), 2013

Pieces of marble chill around a few standard white sculpture pedestals, as if they had found a perfect spot for leisure, making them anecdotal creatures even in their abstraction. They might be better viewed on a platform as ContemporaryArtDaily since the loaded works surrounding them on the walls eat up all attention – I even saw some visitors hit the sculptures here and there -, it reinforces the anecdotal, as they become obstacles within the busy Triennial. Marble is one of the hottest materials for the trendy wave of sculptors and designers, although it is most known for its use for tombs and funerary monuments. But what we see here isn’t just marble.

Ane Graff carefully painted anthropomorphic veins, so to resemble bruised human skin. Bruises mark physical trauma, but are also signs of healing. Transferred to marble, with its air of permanence, they suggest the painful longevity of psychic wounds or of never-healing injuries. They allude to the vulnerability of our body and to our ultimate powerlessness: someday, we will fall apart. We might as well only be able to hang exhausted around some white blocks that can carry us.

Geumhyung Jeong Fitness Guide (2011)

Jeong made an installation and placed it in the corner of the space. It consists of a video on a LCD-screen and two exercise-machines modified with prosthetic heads. Those heads originate from CPR-dummies and transform the machine depending on taste and personal desire, though morphing into sex-machines stimulated by the aspect of the open mouths. Though the holes are usually meant to practice mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, here they empower the sexual charge of the objects.

Once you look at the video, you see Jeong dryly doing exercises on the machines. She tries to follow the rhythm of the machines, but it doesn’t always synchronize, it sometimes appears as if she can’t compete with its power and speed, then surrenders herself in a gesture of sexual power play between the machine and herself. It looks as if she likes it, because her movements become more sensual, erotic and even suppressed. In my view, Jeong questions the relationships between humans and humanoid creatures produced via technology. It balances on the question whether in the future love, desire and sex could be shared between humans and post-humans.


Kukuma presents a video work I hope people won’t miss. You need to be a Triennial-browsing-perfectionist to find it, because it’s placed in a staircase in between two museum floors. We see Kukama standing on a field and in the background something like a marketplace where people are coming from. It’s hard to see due to the low quality of the video, people faces become pixilated almost as a deliberate anti-face-recognition image, but I doubt if Kukuma meant it, since it has not much to do with the idea of this video. While people pass by, the artist stands still while putting on red lipstick not quite perfectly. She keeps on painting until her entire face, hands and arms become red, fat and shiny.

For Kukama, this performance in the public domain is a commemoration of the Mau Mau Rebellion against British rule that took place in Kenya between 1952 and 1960. I see her applying of red lipstick as a cry for attention. The people pass by without really paying attention to her, they actually seem not to care at all. This can be seen as a symbol for unresolved historical questions about the broader legacies of colonialism, processes of liberation, and acts of commemoration.

The way in which the Triennial is curated corresponds to how we use the internet. You need to regularly refresh your personal filtering system. You walk through the Triennial that adheres to the principle of the ‘survival of the loudest’. The more silent works using traditional media, such as the paintings by Sascha Braunig or Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili’s photographs will be blown away if you don’t pay attention. Only if you’re able to click away unwanted cookies and pop-ups quickly enough, you’ll fish the little, quiet jewels from the wild river’s waves. My experience at the Triennial was like swimming in that bifurcated river, that runs through a colorful tunnel towards a future transhuman place. My focus is forward and I prefer not to look back. An ominous, salient and inquisitive glance at the future!

If u hate ‘The Only All-Female All-Art Review’ check out those über-worth go-and-see works by the following male artists:

Lawrence Abu Hamdan – The All-hearing, 2014

Ed Atkins – Happy Birthday!!, 2014

Ashland Mines – Disembodiment promis, 2015

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané – Phantom, 2015

Antoine Catala – Distant Feel, 2015

José León Cerrillo – The New Psychology, 2015

Oliver Laric – Untitled, 2014-15

Anouk Kruithof is an artist, currently based in New York
Thanks to intern Selma Hengeveld, text-editor Mark Wainger text editor and translator (some parts) Taco Hidde Bakker

Surround Audience

The New Museum
25.2 t/m 24.5.2015

image homepage:male artist

Anouk Kruithof

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