Martha Colburn's "Myth Labs"

Martha Colburns "Myth Labs"

Site Santa Fe Biennial of 2010, Described

Site Santa Fes eighth biennial, “The Dissolve,” harkens a glorious return to the imaginal the retinal and the animated –via a show being nimbly co-curated by Sarah Lewis and Daniel Belasco. Lewis is being vetted for a new post as deputy director of the NEA; Belasco is a curator at the Jewish Museum. Both worked with Robert Storr on Our Grotesque, the SITE Santa Fe painting show-biennial of 2004. Lewis is now at Yale, where Storr (who curated the 2007 Venice biennial) heads the art department.
In discussing their proposal for “The Dissolve” with Santa Fe media on October 16, the curatorial pair unveiled a list of 26 artists and 4 historical animations that reflect, said Lewis, “a desire to stay connected to the body, the organic;” “a vernacular or homespun aesthetic;” and a deliberate interpretation of art history that considers early 20th-century technological breakouts that contemporary artists are referencing and reinventing.

Ezra Johnson. "Still from What Visions Burn". 2006.

Ezra Johnson. "Still from What Visions Burn". 2006.

The organizational logic, the curators said,  is being envisioned in three parts:  A “Nickelodeon or Flipbook space”; A “Cinemascope” space featuring painterly panoramas that galvanize visuality much like Technicolor movies of the 1950s and 60s did; and finally, a “YouTube situation” of intimate encounters with video — such as you might have, for example, reading this post (except, with this biennial, even intimate space is public space).

To design the exhibit sections the curators and SITE  have commissioned British architect David Adjaye (who designed MCA Denver and has the commission to design the National Museum of African-American history on the Washington mall). In 2d renderings from Adjayes office, shown at the press conference, diaphanous spaces employ translucent fabric scrims that both shape image transfer and convey a permeability of images throughout. In response to an audience question, the curators allowed that sound bleed has to be addressed via new speakers and techniques to ensure that the exhibit space does not become a cacaphony.

“We didnt discover the animating impulse,” said Belasco, who noted that previous exhibitions have focused on the flipbook, the puppet and the slideshow in contemporary art practice. “But what Sarah and I have been doing is to bring it all together under one roof in a context that is itself an animation.”

Explicit in much of the selected video is the performative element, which, the curators suggested (and I would like to forward this rumor), may include a commissioned  performance during opening weekend (June 20, 2010) by the choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones. Participating artists include Martha Colburn, who currently has work up in Times Square and at an Ottawa gallery timed with the Ottawa Animation Festival. Kara Walker will collaborate with Wynton Marsalis on “Bureau of Refugees,”  which she exhibited in Venice in 2007. Big contemporary art names contributing to the biennial include Cindy Sherman, William Kentridge, Thomas Demand, Maria Lassnig, Raymond Pettibon, Oscar Munoz (whose video drawings were included in Los Desaparicidoes). And absolutely getting me going in the best of all possible ways was the revelation that Ezra Johnson, an animator whose work I discovered at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in 2006, has also been selected in the group (What Visions Burn and What Birds Remember If They Do Remember, were the works I saw at Klagsbrun.) Jennifer and Kevin McCoy and Joshua Mosley, along with French artist Christine Rebet (and others), attended a roundtable the curators held in New York shortly before the press conference, at which they spoke about animation media and artistic process. The historical animation group includes Edison Manufacturing Companys 1900 “Enchanted Drawing,” as well as works by Fleischer Studios, Lotte Reininger and Dziga Vertov.

The artist list rounds out with: Robert Breer, Paul Chan, Brent Green, George Griffin, Mary Reid Kelley, Avish Khebrehzadeh, Laleh Khorramian, Jacco Olivier,  Robert Pruitt, Robin Rhode, Hiraki Sawa, Berni Searl, and Federico Solmi.

Asked by another audience member about Marshall McCluhans remark that what is often lost in media understanding is that TV is a tactile medium, Lewis allowed that the questioner and she were having “mind melt” as she is now writing an essay about sculptural form, animation, and how those two forms meet or diverge. “To revel in an inventive process,” appears to be the promise of this next biennial at which, it appears, viewers will also be able to revel – in seeing.

Top photo: Martha Colburns “Myth Labs”
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