June 4–September 6, 2019

Paperwork: Administrative Practice in Contemporary Art 

Opening Reception: Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 6–8pm

In focusing on administrative systems, procedures and codes, Paperwork: Administrative Practice in Contemporary Art reflects on artists’ attention to the ways we are all immersed in bureaucracy in everyday life. Emphasizing notions of emancipation and playful resistance, as opposed to disempowerment, artists intervene into the frameworks of contracts, corporate practices, operation research and automation, among other tools of administrative management and production.

Conceptual art of the late 1960s and 1970s often produced an “aesthetics of administration,” a de-personified approach to looking at daily bureaucracy. The Conceptual artists’ turn towards information-gathering, as a dematerialized way of making art, fed into the rise of institutional critique, in which artists challenged the social, economic, and political systems of art institutions.

Artists in Paperwork include Jesse Chun, Sandra Erbacher, Tali Keren, Amalia Pica and Pilvi Takala, whose work interrogates bureaucratization of this political and cultural moment, in ways that resonate loudly with Theodor Adorno’s assertion of a “totally administered world.” They insert themselves into real-life systems as artistic strategies, often as organizers or performers. Ranging from video to research-based and archival installations, the works in the exhibition together form a cogent overview of the bureaucratic procedures all around us, which are so pervasive they often go unnoticed.

Sandra Erbacher foregrounds a series of desks produced in the 1980s by Ensslin, a German company, given names such as Euroform, Euroboss and Euroflex, conveying optimism and cultural hegemony of the European project. She juxtaposes images of the “Eurodesks” with images and texts that depict the current reality of Europe in the throes of Brexit, the migrant crisis, and the strengthening of neoliberal market economies. Erbacher questions Europe’s hegemonic ideology and interrogates the idea of truth in the context of corporate and government administrations.

Also included in the exhibition are selections from Amalia Pica’s Joy in Paperwork (2016) series. Numbering more than 1,000 pieces, these works on A4 paper incorporate bureaucratic stamps from all over the world. Pica had difficulties travelling while in the process of securing a British passport, and Joy in Paperwork is informed by her own hurdles to obtain citizenship. Using repetitive gestures to mark the paper—sometimes forming recognizable shapes—Pica subverts the tools of bureaucracy to produce lighthearted works.

Jerusalem City Council is the site for Tali Keren’s New Jerusalem (2015), a “bureaucratic musical performance.” The artist was interested in the city’s twenty-first century municipal plan, which was never officially authorized but nonetheless implemented. A “united Jerusalem” is outlined in the plan, as the capital of the “Jewish-democratic” state. Keren commissioned a cantor to sing the plan at city hall, and this video is presented with a second video of text documentation of responses by key objectors to it. This performance gives a renewed platform to the plan, and creates a different medium by which to consider bureaucratic legal language.

Pilvi Takala has often intervened in work environments to reveal their power dynamics. In Stroker (2018), Takala reenacts the two weeks she spent posing as a wellness consultant in a London co-working space, where she was hired to literally provide touching services to employees to boost their mood and productivity. This personal gesture amid an otherwise bureaucratic environment confuses the workers and underscores the absurdities of trying to solve social issues by administrative means.

Through digital manipulation of various passports and immigration documents—largely drawn from her family archives—Jesse Chun appropriates and reinterprets the imagery and language of administration. In Landscape (2019), the watermarks of various passport pages are transformed into large-scale landscapes of unidentifiable lands. Pixelated and re-contextualized, and devoid of the national markers and traveler’s data, they are shown alongside Forms (2016), a series of works in which Chun’s personal collection of immigration forms are reimagined into erasure poetry, thereby subverting the power and function of bureaucratic language.

This exhibition is curated by Kari Conte, Director of Programs and Exhibitions.

Paperwork: Administrative Practice in Contemporary Art is supported, in part, by Greenwich Collection Ltd.; Hartfield Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF); and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Opening Reception: Jun 04, 2019, 6–8pm
Open Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12–6pm
Download Press Release (PDF)

Participating Residents

June 4–September 27, 2019

Entanglements: Before and After NAFTA

Opening Reception: Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 6–8pm

In the wake of the recent and tense renegotiation of the three-way North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, the growing humanitarian immigration crisis, and new draconian United States border policies, Entanglements: Before and After NAFTA presents a critical and transhistorical analysis of economic exchange in North America through the lens of contemporary art practices. The featured artists explore a range of issues including links between Canadian mining interests and organized crime, the effects of Big Sugar on the post-NAFTA diet, the necropolitical instrumentalization of populations in service to drug trade, and other entangled undercurrents that are related to this pact. Currency and exchange value, resource extraction, oil trade, raw materials and shifts in agricultural patterns and food sources, are addressed by eleven artists in a complex interrelated multi-media installation marked by objects, symbology, appropriated imagery and audiovisual narratives.

Entanglements: Before and After NAFTA is organized by resident curator Bárbara Perea Legorreta.

Artists in the exhibition are Alejandro Gómez Arias, Gina Arizpe, Patricia Carrillo Carrera, Virginia Colwell, Arcángel Constantini, Iván Edeza, Fritzia Irizar, Jason Mena, Roy Meuwissen, Yoshua Okón, and Miguel Rodríguez Sepúlveda. Of the eleven artists, eight are from Mexico, two from the United States, and one from Canada.

Highlights from Entanglements: Before and After NAFTA include:

Virginia Colwell’s rendering of police chief Arturo “El Negro” Durazo’s mansion provides a point of entry to the intricate relationship between Mexico’s corrupt power structure and the illicit drug trade with the United States, which began in the late 1970s. During the Reagan administration, the CIA brokered several covert gun-running and drug-trafficking operations to bolster guerrillas fighting in Central America for which it relied on Caro Quintero, one of the key operatives in this scheme, who in turn was closely linked to his protector and business associate, the then chief-of-police of Mexico City, “El Negro” Durazo. Durazo amassed a fortune from his illicit dealings, allowing him to build a home modeled on the Parthenon. Incidentally the artist’s father was the FBI agent responsible for Durazo’s eventual capture in Puerto Rico.

Miguel Rodríguez Sepúlveda offers a glimpse into current government structures linked to criminal activity. Using die-stamp letters, he inscribes the aspirational phrase “I do deserve abundance” on one peso coins. The phrase was handwritten hundreds of times in a notebook by the wife of the now jailed former governor of Veracruz and found among their seized possessions, making national headlines. The coins used for the work were issued between 1970-1983, a period roughly corresponding with the presidency of José López Portillo. Under his administration, the peso suffered the first of many devaluations, essentially marking the end of the so-called Mexican Economic Miracle.

Jason Mena’s large canvas composed of bags used by American banks to transport currency and purchased via the informal market, acquires the auratic quality of a shroud imbued with the essence of money. The indexical marks on the raw cotton, evidentiary and quasi-forensic, reconstruct the trajectories of each individual bag, establishing a narrative recounted through stains, creases and seals. The canvas, literally ‘rubbed by money,’ also makes an explicit commentary on value and the art market by creating a metaphor and palimpsest of use-value versus exchange-value through the materials employed.

Roy Meuwissen’s newly commissioned work borrows formal cues from the European Union flag to propose a NAFTA banner emblematic of North America’s three trading partners. It further pairs each country in the block with the Freudian psychoanalytic concepts of Id, Ego, and Superego by playing up the stereotypical associations of each country’s national identity as well as their interrelation laid bare through this association.

Alejandro Gómez Arias’ insignias and crests combine the logos of Canadian-owned mining companies operating in Mexico with the symbols used by cartels they collaborate with for enforcement, protection and other security tasks. The pendant bears a logo designed using imagery from the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and Amarium Minerals Inc., emulating heraldry to signal the marriage of two ‘houses’ in the lucrative resource extraction business.

Entanglements: Before and After NAFTA is curated by Bárbara Perea Legorreta, ISCP Jane Farver Curatorial Resident. She is an independent Mexico City-based curator and writer. Her practice focuses primarily on media and sound art and is grounded in the concept of exhibition making as a platform for critical thinking. Core aspects of her practice include transdisciplinarity and fostering dialogues between media art, contemporary practices and audiences. She is interested in listening practices and perceptual phenomena in relation to art.

This program is supported, in part, by Greenwich Collection Ltd.; Hartfield Foundation; Jane Farver Memorial Fund; Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Opening Reception: Jun 04, 2019, 6–8pm
Open Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12–6pm
Download Press Release (PDF)

Participating Residents