2015 Triennial: Surround Audience at the New Museum
A kitchen island unit remodeled to resemble a tomb. A swan sculpture that’s no ceramic antique. A long shower curtain with realistic blood cells painted on for decoration. A small white room in which it is possible to see the rainforest through 3D binoculars.
The neglected, underrepresented, ignored, and ordinary are re-examined at the New Museum’s Triennial Surround Audience. As stated in the exhibit’s manifesto, the theme “explores the effects of an increasingly connected world both on our sense of self and identity as well as on art’s form and larger social role”. This ambitious goal is achieved. The participation of 51 artists from over 25 countries creates a global rather than a local outlook, further buoying the Triennial’s objectives. Surround Audience has something to interest – and provoke – viewers of all ages. Indeed, the Triennial is attracting a large, diverse and enthusiastic crowd.
There is a lot to take in. Several works are worthy of mention because they truly surround an audience. They, along with other Triennial art, are also best appreciated after reading their accompanying descriptions.
Chinese video-performance artist Li Liao’s Consumption documents his “project” as an electronics inspector at Shanghai’s Foxconn Factory. Foxconn has a long history of health violations, failed safety inspections, and worker suicide. He displays one of the circuit boards he inspected, ID badge, plastic lab coat, safety goggles, and official-looking documents. Their neat arrangement conveys order, but the coat’s graph-paper design has a forced cheerfulness and the documents are left untranslated. Are they safety guidelines? Pages from the employee handbook? Liao’s project ended after 45 days when he obtained enough money to purchase an iPad mini.
Onejoon Che was a photographer for the South Korean police. Mansudae Master Class is a multi-media presentation documenting diplomatic relations between North Korea and Africa. The Mansudae studios manufactured (as opposed to designing) public monuments, for they are derivative of Soviet monumental art. Onejoon’s photo of the Tiglachin Monument in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a prime example of this bulky propaganda. Soldiers are carved on the base, the Communists’ Heroes Medal is affixed to the middle with the red star on top. No people are in the photo, symbolic of the monument’s isolation and decay. On a video, images of North Korean and African mass rallies and military training are juxtaposed: the state’s identity is the only identity.
American Martine Syms’ S1: E1 is a video documentary about the Black sitcom. Given the recent controversy surrounding the recent Academy Awards’ snubbing of black actors/filmmakers, it is also timely. Yet many black presenters at the ceremony were primarily from television. Syms’ video is concise and does not ignore The Cosby Show – whose creator is making headlines about everything but TV. Bill Cosby’s off-screen behavior is not discussed, but the show’s impact on 1980s America is. Syms offers her own pilot, She Mad.
All of New Museum is devoted to Surround Audience – except The Sky Room. The top floor offers a panoramic view of Lower Manhattan, which is undergoing its own identity crises. Still, even on a snowy afternoon, the view is as vivid as any photo or video.
2015 Triennial: Surround Audience is at the New Museum until March 25th 2015, for further information visit here.