The american vicarious and the Invisible Dog Arts Center follow up their socially distanced Static Apnea with Negative Liberty / Positive Liberty, an immersive performance installation for one audience member at a time. The piece explores Latvian-born British philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s Oxford lecture delivered on Halloween 1958, “Two Concepts of Liberty: Negative & Positive.” while also incorporating Anthony Barboza’s 1966 photograph, Pensacola, Florida, of a neon sign depicting the word Liberty with a broken “E” and dangling “R,” revealing the fragility of freedom, as they both relate to current events. Berlin writes:
“To coerce a man is to deprive him of freedom – freedom from what? Almost every moralist in human history has praised freedom. Like happiness and goodness, like nature and reality, the meaning of this term is so porous that there is little interpretation that it seems able to resist. I do not propose to discuss either the history or the more than two hundred senses of this protean word, recorded by historians of ideas. I propose to examine no more than two of these senses – but those central ones, with a great deal of human history, behind them, and, I dare say, still to come. The first of these political senses of freedom or liberty (I shall use both words to mean the same), which (following much precedent) I shall call the ‘negative’ sense, is involved in the answer to the question ‘What is the area within which the subject – a person or group of persons – is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?’ The second, which I shall call the positive sense, is involved in the answer to the question ‘What, or who, is the source of control or interference, that can determine someone to do, or be, one thing rather than another?’ The two questions are clearly different, even though the answers to them may overlap.”
Conceived and directed by Christopher McElroen (Debate: Baldwin vs Buckley, Static Apnea), the installation features performers Sarah Ellen Stephens and Olivia Gilliatt, with scenography by Troy Hourie, video design by Adam J. Thompson, sound by Andy Evan Cohen, and lighting by Lucrecia Briceno. Admission is free to each eight-minute session but must be reserved in advance; slots are already filling up, so you’d best sign up fast. In addition, Barboza is included in the Whitney exhibition “Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop,” which continues through March 28.
Who: Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset), Nicholas Baume
What: Public Art Fund live discussion
Where: The Cooper Union on Zoom
When: Thursday, March 11, free with RSVP, 1:00
Why: On January 1, Moynihan Train Hall opened to the public with much fanfare, highlighted by site-specific commissions from Stan Douglas (Penn Station’s Half Century), Kehinde Wiley (Go), and Elmgreen & Dragset. The Hive, E&D’s inverted cityscape on the ceiling of the Thirty-First St. midblock entrance, has dazzled visitors, who stare up at ninety-one miniature buildings that contain seventy-two thousand LEDs and weigh more than thirty thousand pounds, part mysterious metropolis, part cave stalactites. The duo of Denmark-born Michael Elmgreen and Norway-born Ingar Dragset, who have been combining art, architecture, performance, and installation for more than a quarter of a century, will discuss the construction and meaning of The Hive in a free Public Art Fund conversation hosted by the Cooper Union on Zoom, straight from their Berlin studio. The event will be moderated by PAF director and chief curator Nicholas Baume. To catch Baume’s January 28 talk with Douglas, go here.
GRIEF AND GRIEVANCE: ART AND MOURNING
235 Bowery at Prince St.
Special online events free with RSVP
Exhibition runs through June 6, $12-$18
The New Museum exhibition “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America” is an extraordinary collection of nearly one hundred works by thirty-seven artists taking on racism and violence in Black communities. The show was conceived by Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor prior to the coronavirus crisis and the BLM protests and scheduled to open around the time of the presidential election, but it was delayed because of the pandemic lockdown and Enwezor’s death in March 2019 at the age of fifty-five. Completed by Naomi Beckwith, Massimiliano Gioni, Glenn Ligon, and Mark Nash, the exhibit includes new and older painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation by such artists as Terry Adkins, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Garrett Bradley, Theaster Gates, Arthur Jafa, Rashid Johnson, Simone Leigh, Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Lorna Simpson, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, and Carrie Mae Weems exploring how we deal with loss.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the New Museum is hosting weekly live online conversations and virtual tours, featuring an all-star lineup of participating artists. All programs are free with advance RSVP; click on each title for more information.
Tuesday, March 2, 5:00
Melvin Edwards in Conversation with Massimiliano Gioni
Wednesday, March 3, 4:00
Virtual Tour: “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America”
Friday, March 12, 7:00
LaToya Ruby Frazier in Conversation with Margot Norton
Thursday, March 18, 4:00
Kerry James Marshall in Conversation with Massimiliano Gioni
Tuesday March 23, 4:00
Dawoud Bey in Conversation with Gary Carrion-Murayari
Thursday, April 1, 7:00
Adam Pendleton in Conversation with Andrew An Westover
Thursday, April 8, 7:00
Hank Willis Thomas in Conversation with Margot Norton
Thursday, April 15, 7:00
Rashid Johnson in Conversation with Massimiliano Gioni
Thursday, April 29, 2:00
Jennie C. Jones in Conversation with Gary Carrion-Murayari
Monday, May 3, 2:00
Tiona Nekkia McClodden in Conversation with Margot Norton
Thursday May 13, 7:00
Okwui Okpokwasili in Conversation with Massimiliano Gioni
Thursday May 20, 4:00
Howardena Pindell in Conversation with Margot Norton
Tuesday, June 1, 4:00
Sable Elyse Smith in Conversation with Margot Norton
Thursday, June 3, 7:00
Tyshawn Sorey in Conversation with Gary Carrion-Murayari
Who: Alfredo Jaar, Koyo Kouoh
What: Livestreamed conversation
Where: Galerie Lelong & Co. online
When: Thursday, February 25, free with RSVP, 1:00
Why: Chilean-born, New York-based artist, architect, photographer, and filmmaker Alfredo Jaar specializes in sociopolitical interventions and installations, such as The Skoghall Konsthall, Culture = Capital, Shadows, and Lament of the Images. On February 25 at 1:00, he will discuss his sixteen-year work The Rwanda Project 1994-2010 with Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa executive director and chief curator Koyo Kouoh, kicking off the new series “Galerie Lelong: Dialogues.” The talk, “Making Visible the Invisible,” will focus on his investigations and photojournalistic field research done in Rwanda over six years, resulting in twenty-five works he calls “exercises in representation.” The Zeitz Museum, located in Cape Town, South Africa, is currently home to “Alfredo Jaar: The Rwanda Project,” on view through May 23, consisting of photographs, mounds of slides, black file cabinets, and a neon sculpture that declares, “So much to do today / kill memory / kill pain / turn heart into a stone / and yet / prepare to live again,” documenting the Rwandan genocide that occurred while the world watched and did nothing. “Galerie Lelong: Dialogues” will continue with conversations with Mildred Thompson, whose “Throughlines, Assemblages, and Works on Paper from the 1960s to the 1990s” runs at the gallery through March 27, and Tariku Shiferaw, who will have his first show with the gallery in the spring.
416 West Forty-Second St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Through February 28, free
Theaters around the country are facing severe financial hardships as a result of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, but the enormous dollar bill in the window facade of the shuttered Playwrights Horizons building on West Forty-Second St. is only partly about money; it’s primarily about the cost of death, specifically the ultimate price paid by hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from Covid-19. The piece is titled With Great Power Comes No Accountability, and it is by Jilly Ballistic, who has been decorating the subway and subway platforms for decades. The title of this aboveground work was previously used by Ballistic on an L train platform on January 31, 2020, before the full nature of the health crisis was known. The giant note of legal tender is signed by then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Ballistic initially wrote on it, “IMAGINE 352,464 of these. Now imagine they’re bodies,” in a word bubble being spoken by President George Washington. Ballistic has returned to the bill several times, using a Sharpie to cross out that number and write in 399,053, then crossing that out and adding 427,626. The coronavirus crisis is costing America in multiple ways, each and every day.
“It’s difficult to conceptualize such large numbers, especially when those numbers are linked to something so tragic as these deaths. There’s a danger, though, if we don’t fully grasp the atrocity: we allow those in power to get away with murder. What better way for a politician to understand our pain than using money as a metaphor?” Ballistic says in her artist statement. She sees the piece as “a reflection on corruption, failure, value, and death in America.” The work is the inaugural installation in Playwrights Horizons’ Lighthouse Project, which is curated by artist, activist, and writer Avram Finkelstein, a founder of the Silence=Death Project, and two-time Tony-winning set and costume designer and activist David Zinn (The Flick, Circle Mirror Transformation). With Great Power Comes No Accountability will remain on view through February 28, to be followed by commissions from Ken Gonzales-Day, Dread Scott, and others.
“This year, this theater is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary under remarkably strange circumstances: a global pandemic, a historical reckoning, and a constitutional crisis,” artistic director Adam Greenfield explained. “In this moment, we want to rediscover the ways our building can be used, to expand the range of artists and disciplines we present, to create a culture of inquiry that pervades the entire building, inside and out, so that genuine artistic innovation can be met with genuine openness.” Zinn added, “I know a lot of things are happening quietly inside of theaters to meet both this racial and economic moment, but I also feel like theaters have a moral responsibility to communicate to the world outside the building. What we’re making is a vehicle for communication — for this need for our buildings to speak for this moment. Jilly's piece in particular addresses this moment with weight and a sense of political irony that is heartbreaking, and it’s responsive to current events in a very immediate way.”
The Lighthouse Project will also include online conversations, workshops, concerts, and other events addressing this dire moment in time. You can watch the first two talks, “Public Art / Public Space” with Greenfield, Ballistic, Finklestein, and Joy Episalla and “Theater and Society” with Natasha Sinha, Michael R. Jackson, Heather Raffo, Michael John Garcés, and Mimi Lien, here. Up next is “Profiled” on March 3 at 7:00 with Sinha, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Clint Ramos, and Gonzales-Day talking about Gonzales-Day’s Playwrights installation, which will consist of two large-scale digitally edited photographs, part of his long-term series that looks at portraiture through historical memory, race, museum display, moral character, beauty, and the body.
LET FREEDOM RING VOL. 2
BAM sign screen
Flatbush Ave. at Lafayette Ave.
February 12-15, free
Last month, as part of its thirty-fifth annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., BAM hosted “Let Freedom Ring,” a weeklong public art display on its sign screen at the corner of Flatbush and Lafayette Aves., featuring visual meditations on what freedom means by Derrick Adams, Alvin Armstrong, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Lizania Cruz, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Hank Willis Thomas, and Jasmine Wahi. Armstrong’s We Don’t Die We Multiply depicted two silhouetted bare-chested men bumping bodies. Adams offered MLK’s Tropic Interlude. Thomas asked, “Who Taught You to Love_?” Wahi’s On Visibility posits, “Do you see me for who I am or what you think I am” over an image of two large eyes. And Barrayn expllored beauty in Self-Portrait (Extension of a Woman) and Water Spirit (March on Washington 2020). The second iteration of “Let Freedom Ring” takes place February 12-15, with electronic billboard contributions from Jordan Casteel, Kevin Claiborne, Amy Sherald, Deborah Roberts, Cruz, Barrayn, and Wahi.
In a statement, BAM curator-at-large Larry Ossei-Mensah said, “After the first project’s success, I felt it necessary to continue the conversation and reflect on freedom as the nation observes Presidents Day and celebrates Black History Month. Working on ‘Let Freedom Ring’ has been a cathartic experience growing from a desire to ponder and imagine what freedom could look like in 2021 and beyond. It’s imperative that we share this thought-provoking work with the public and not relegate it to just a gallery exhibition. These are fundamental questions and concerns we all share as Americans, as human beings.” Commenting on the participants, he noted, “Naturally, as a curator, I look to artists who create work that inspires hope, proposes deep philosophical questions, and reminds us of our humanity for guidance on what is possible. I’m honored that these seven artists accepted my invitation and responded in a variety of ways. I was thrilled to see each artists’ perspective on freedom — from self-reflection, joy, and a reintroduction to Dr. King’s fight for economic justice with the Freedom Budget document.” BAM is one of the institutions I am missing the most during this pandemic lockdown, but this is a little taste of the kind of work it has been doing for decades.