The first ever Condo New York is on at galleries around the city, running June 29 to July 29.
The collaborative exhibition acts as a space of collaboration and exchange: founded in London in 2016 by Vanessa Carlos of Carlos/Ishikawa, the project was set up to offer international galleries an opportunity to show in London-based galleries. This year, New York opens its gallery doors to host 36 visiting galleries across 16 spaces and is organized by Nicole Russo of Chapter NY and Simone Subal of Simone Subal Gallery.
The project “arose from a reevaluation of existing exhibition models, a desire to pool resources and act communally, and the need to activate the gallery space in a different manner, ” with a strong focus on experimental exhibitions.
Lena Youkhana’s current exhibition, curated by Puppies Puppies and running at New York’s Queer Thoughts from March 12 to April 9, consists of three videos taken from user upload websites. Two of them, ‘An apartment for sale next to Hotel Beirut and Hurrya Mall on Baghdad Street Cairo’ (2016) and ‘A house in Dora for Sale, Baghdad’ (2016) appear to be made on cell phones by estate agents to sell homes. The third video, displayed in a separate room behind the main space, is infrared night vision footage of an Iraqi man raping a donkey. Because of the grainy quality of the green and black film it is only possible to decipher what is happening in the video via the racist and abusive narration of the cameraman, who the viewer presumes must be an American service man. What view of the ‘Middle East’ does America have, what can we see from here?
In an email from the Iraqi-born, Chicago-based artist, Youkhana says she finds “sincerity and specificity to be intrinsic characteristics of a lot of found-videos.” Media archaeology is the theoretical term that describes a depth-model of analysis of new and digital media; it is a materialist theoretical framework that finds clues to meaning in the historic relationships of different technologies. It is hard to know where the access point to sincerity and specificity would be in the exhibition. This is not to say that Youkhana’s work is insincere, or lacks commitment to the unique contexts she borrows footage from, but that the meaning of the show runs on a chain of deferrals that produces a sense of estrangement. As Youkhana described in her email, “For me, it is about how you navigate through the space/collection of medias given.”
Puppies Puppies’ involvement in the exhibition is clearly billed in the press release and in the title of the exhibition, so the show is read under the banner of the better-known artist. Youkhana confirmed that he selected the three videos and the framing of the show was largely up to him. In this guise, Puppies Puppies appears as an interventionist curator; while simultaneously, across town, he is participating in the Whitney Biennale as an outsider provocateur, where he is conducting a daily performance dressed as the Statue of Liberty. The Chicago-based artists’ curatorial strategy doubles the appropriative approach of Youkhana multiplying authorship and diversifying potentials for meaning in an associative constellation. In these curatorial and artistic practices, the displacement and re-insertion of signs and objects create critical disturbances in meaning.
So far, so post-modern, but it would be doing the show a disservice to leave its interpretation at that. The stakes of the matter and meaning of documentary material are currently high in the United States of America. Youkhana and Puppies Puppies’ show is not an exhibition about the Trump administration, or about the warmongering of Obama and Bush that preceded him, but it does bring forward the issues of access and visibility to a region that has been the fulcrum of US foreign policy for over two decades. In the video of the donkey ‘ass, an ass, and the ass’ (2014) the chain of abuse, that passes from the soldier-narrator, to the bestiality of the rapist, to the animal, is deeply uncomfortable and painfully familiar, recalling the Western media’s incessant reproduction of images of suffering and humiliation from the Iraq conflict. The epizeuxis — close repetition of words — in the title of the work is a hint at a reckoning with these linear chains of subjugation.
However, there is no clear political ‘correction’ in the show. Both the videos and the curation circumnavigates didacticism, beginning and ending with the oblique videos of real estate. Furnished but unpopulated, the properties are homes not just houses. Youkhana has mentioned that in Arabic the plural of the word ‘home’ means to go round and circles, stating, “That’s perhaps what led to look at and collect these house tour videos in the first place.” We need technology to see from a distance, but proximity does not necessarily clarify vision. In Youkhana’s work,sight and the act of looking are a form of intervention in meaning-making, separating the question from what we see from the question of what we know.**
The press release comes in the form of a story by artist Maliea Croy that tells of a woman that “was a child in that way—guilty for things she didn’t cause”, a woman who would “grab at things and unintentionally crush them”.
Mexico City’s darkarts.international is bringing a group show to its space this weekend, titled Under a Thawing Lake and running from February 4 to 8.
The show runs simultaneously with Mexico City’s Material Art Fair 2015, celebrating its second season, and, not surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of overlap in the list of participating artists between the two shows. Dora Budor is included in the list, alongside Nico Colón with whom she is exhibiting at the fair with Paris’s New Galerie.
The fair is bringing 40 different international exhibitors exploring emerging arts, as well as a public programme of conferences organized by the New York magazine and non-profit organization Triple Canopy and a video series programmed by South London Gallery Associate Curator Anna Gritz.
Tabor Robak is one of the artists in a group show curated by Samuel Leuenberger called Constructed Culture sounds like Conculture in Dublin, Harm van den Dorpel has another solo show in Berlin, Caroline Ongaro is curating Exquisite Collapse and Finnish performance group Vibes is presenting a site-specific installation at Helsinki’s SIC.