Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy is the Curator of Contemporary Art at Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Between 2009-2010, she served as the director of Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. Before then, she worked as curator at Art in General and earlier at Americas Society, both nonprofit arts organizations in New York City. She has curated independently: Autopsia de lo invisible at MALBA in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Archaeology of Longing at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris, France, where she was in residence for part of 2008; and together with Raimundas Malasauskas and Alexis Vaillant, the IX Baltic Triennial Black Market Worlds (a.k.a. BMW). Hernández Chong Cuy writes regularly for exhibition catalogues and art magazines, as well as for her blog, www.sideshows.org.
Having followed Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy’s curatorial practice for a decade now, I am very pleased to present to you our discussion on contemporary Latin American art and Hernández Chong Cuy’s current projects.
Georgia Kotretsos: You just held a seminar series at the Konshall, Spånga on “What Does an Art Institution Do?” The inquiring spirit of that program invites dialogue, so I would like to begin by asking you this very question – since thus far your name has always been closely linked to an art institution. I’d also like you to consider, what do art institutions do for you?
Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy: I think the title of the program is telling; simple but challenging. It titillates with the not-knowing. It doesn’t exactly invite a naïve albeit possibly-interested public that may want to learn about the role of art institutions, though it may, but rather, it is an invitation to reflect on art institutions’ commitments to a public. Since “doing” involves affect and effect simultaneously, it collapses motivation and end at once, at least in the title of the program. There are certainly many kinds of “doings” in the world, and thus many kinds of art institutions. I’ve worked in a variety of cities and institutions, and in each one, these so-called doings—whether you call it art or culture, niceties or politics—and their so-called institutions are very different from each other.
Tania Bruguera’s long and various career as an artist starts with a series of works made after, but mainly through, the Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta. I say “through,” because in Bruguera’s eleven year-long project devoted to Mendieta’s work, Tribute to Ana Mendieta, she does not just pay tribute to Mendieta, but channels the artist during a time before art historical appreciation of the Cuban-American artist’s work had taken shape in the United States —and before the popularization of re-enactment as a tool used to archive performance. In this series of performance and site-specific sculptural works, Bruguera undertakes reenactments of Mendieta’s performances in order to resurrect them for a Cuban audience. She also presents Mendieta as a kind of double (or alter ego), inasmuch as through her work, Bruguera seeks to situate Mendieta in a cultural context from which both artists emigrated, but only within which Bruguera was brought up.
Bruguera’s most recent work, an institution which intends to foreground the situations of immigrants in New York City and worldwide, called Immigration Movement International, extends the artist’s preoccupation with the situation of immigrant, emigrant, homeless, and other displaced people. As in her previous work after Mendieta, the new piece tracks a movement across cultural contexts, locations, and institutional sites in an attempt to make relationships between these places more visible, better understood (especially for those who could most benefit from understanding these relationships—those who are themselves displaced).
Immigration Movement International also extends two practices that Bruguera has pursued for the past nine years: Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art) and Arte Útil (Useful Art). Through the creation of Behavior Art works—works the artist relates through the performances of early Dada and Soviet Constructivists, as well as the 80s generation of artists in Cuba—Bruguera wishes to not only perform certain power relationships for her audience/viewer, but also to place him or her in a situation by which one may participate in the immanent expression of certain power dynamics as they unfold within institutions.
For an example of Bruguera’s Behavior Art works, you may watch a video online filmed at the Tate Modern in London of the artist’s Tatlin’s Whisper #5. Here, Bruguera employed mounted policemen to patrol the gallery, where they demonstrate various techniques of crowd control. Visible in the expressions of the audience is annoyance, if not also some anxiety. Many do not seem to know they are participating in an artwork; the revelation only comes afterwards, or in the process of their participation. Their behavior thus enacts how (state) power operates spatially to coerce groups and multitudes. As Bruguera tells scholar and curator RoseLee Goldberg in an interview from 2005, “I want to work with reality. Not the representation of reality. I don’t want my work to represent something. I want people not to look at it but to be in it, sometimes even without knowing it is art.” Distinguishing between “performance” and “gesture,” Bruguera relates the significance of her Behavior Art works through their ability to create actions within a set of power relationships, rather than through the representations of those relationships.
This President’s Day roundup begins with a hotly debated exhibition and ends with a divine duo:
- The New Museum has announced the details of their exhibition Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection. Curated by Season 5 artist Jeff Koons, this will be the first showing of the Athens-based collection in the United States. This will also be the first exhibition curated by Koons, whose early work is said to have inspired the evolution of the Dakis Joannou collection. Koons has selected over 100 works by 50 international artists spanning several generations, including Matthew Barney (Season 1), Janine Antoni, Kiki Smith, Kara Walker, (all Season 2), Mike Kelley (Season 3), Jenny Holzer (Season 4), Paul McCarthy (Season 5), David Altmejd, Nathalie Djurberg, Robert Gober, Terence Koh, Mark Manders, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Christiana Soulou, Jannis Varelas, and Andro Wekua, among others. The title of the exhibition alludes to notions of genesis, evolution, original sin, and sexuality. “Skin and fruit,” according to the press release, “evoke the essential tensions between interior and exterior, between what we see and what we consume.” The show will feature one work by Koons — One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (1985) — the first major artwork that Dakis Joannou acquired. Skin Fruit opens March 3.
- Art21 artists Louise Bourgeois (Season 1), Cai Guo-Qiang, Hiroshi Sugimoto (both Season 3), and Paul McCarthy (Season 5) will participate in the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Australia’s largest contemporary visual art event. Cai’s installation Inopportune: Stage One (2004), nine cars exploding and rotating in space, will dominate Cockatoo Island’s Turbine Hall. McCarthy will premiere his sound and sculpture installation Ship of Fools #2 (2010) at Pier 2/3. And Bourgeois will have a series of painted bronze sculptures on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Artistic director David Elliott says: “The aim of this Biennale is to bring together work from diverse cultures, at the same time, on the equal playing field of contemporary art, where no culture can assume superiority over any other.” The 17th Biennale of Sydney runs May 12 – August 1, 2010. Read more about the event in the Brisbane Times.
- Works by Season 5 artists Cindy Sherman and John Baldessari are on view in the exhibition Pop Art at the Havana Fine Arts Museum in Cuba. According to the Havana Times, the traveling exhibition (organized by Spain’s State Society for Foreign Cultural Action and the Valencian Institute of Modern Art) features nearly sixty works made by American and Spanish artists in the style/period of pop art. Works by John Chamberlain, Jasper Johns, Yves Klein, Claes Oldenburg, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, and James Rosenquist hang alongside works by Eduardo Arroyo, Equipo Cronica, Juan Genoves, Equipo Realidad, Josep Renau, Manuel Saez, Antonio Saura, Juan Antonio Toledo, and others. Pop Art continues through March 30.
- On February 22, Season 4 artist Alfredo Jaar will present his most recent short film Le Ceneri di Pasolini (The Ashes of Pasolini) (2009) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A tribute to the Italian filmmaker, intellectual, poet, critic, and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film incorporates footage from Pasolini’s films and rare interviews conducted prior to his sudden and mysterious death in 1975. The title refers to Pasolini’s own poem, Le Ceneri di Gramsci, itself a eulogy to the Italian left-wing intellectual Antonio Gramsci. In a separate unrelated event, Jaar will lecture in the Remis Auditorium of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on February 17. Both programs begin at 7pm.
- February is the last month that the Fundred Dollar Bill project by Season 1 artist Mel Chin will be at Arizona State University Art Museum (ASUAM). In addition to regular museum hours, ASUAM is holding three free events to give the public a final chance to contribute: On February 9, the museum will screen Chin’s award-winning animated film 9-11/9-11: A Tale of Two Cities, A Tragedy of Two Times. February 16, the Phoenix band Peachcake will give a free concert following a screening of Chin’s 2009 interview with Planet Awesome. February 25, an armored truck will pick up ASUAM’s Fundreds — free music and other festivities will lead up to its arrival. Read more about the Fundred Dollar Bill project in Huffington Post; Utah People’s Post; and The Tartan.
- On February 17 at 6:30pm, Roni Horn (Season 3) will be in conversation with John Waters at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Horn’s traveling retrospective exhibition Roni Horn aka Roni Horn opens at the ICA on February 19 and continues through June 13.
- The Miami Art Museum recently acquired Triangle of Need, a video installation by Catherine Sullivan (Season 4). Her piece is on view at the museum through October 11.
- A full room installation by Season 2 artist Kiki Smith is included in the exhibition Space-Time at the National Glass Centre in the UK. The artist’s three-dimensional astrological star chart, with cut-glass stars and animals of the zodiac scattered across a night-blue paper carpet, titled Constellation, is on display through September 6.
- The Times Online (in association with Saatchi Gallery) is asking readers to vote for their favorite artists of the 20th and/or 21st century. At present, Art21′s Louise Bourgeois (Season 2) and Alfredo Jaar (Season 4) are included in the list of leading artists. The Top 200 will be revealed on May 25. Cast your vote now.
- On April 16, Hubbard & Birchler (Season 3) will lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The talk is the second in a series ssponsored by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership in conjunction with Confluence: Points of View on Buffalo Bayou, a public art project on Houston’s historic waterway.
- A site specific piece by Mark Dion (Season 4) has been added to the outdoor sculpture garden at the The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Antiquarian Book Shop (2008), the artist’s life-size curiosity shop, is filled with hundreds of books and collectibles from around the world. Learn more about the installation here.
- Chelsea visits Havana, an exhibition presented by Fundacion Amistad in conjunction with the 10th Biennial of Havana, features work by Season 2 artists Walton Ford and Matthew Barney, among others. The exhibition is part of the Bridges to Culture initiative, which uses the power of art to surmount the cultural, political and social boundaries between the United States and Cuba.