June 27–August 24, 2012

Secondary Witness

Secondary Witness is curated by Maayan Sheleff, recipient of ISCP’s 2012 Curator Award, which offers the opportunity for a curator or curatorial collective to present a new group exhibition. This award was established in 2010 for participants in selected curatorial studies programs, as a response to the lack of opportunities for emerging curators to present institutional exhibitions in New York City. Participating artists include Lana Čmajčanin, Dor Guez, Adela Jusic, Juan Manuel Echavarria, Avi Mograbi and Michael Zupraner.

The video works in Secondary Witness touch upon the notion of testimony and explore the artist’s position as mediator. Various personal stories are presented in the included works, which reflect societies in a constant state of conflict and trauma. The artists in Secondary Witness, natives to countries of conflict, examine their place as secondary witnesses and their relationship to protagonists and their testimonies.

Some of the artists choose to blur the boundaries between documenter and documented by entering the photographic frame, or handing the camera to the subjects themselves. One prominent example of this is Michael Zupraner’s Snow Tapes, in which he worked with materials shot by a Palestinian family, who documented their violent encounter with a group of neighboring Jewish settlers in Hebron. A more subtle example is Dor Guez’s (Sa)mira, in which he acts as an invisible yet heard presence, re-examining  his protagonist’s point of view by making her repeat her story, in which she recalls a traumatic moment when her Arab background is exposed, and she is asked to change her name to a Jewish one by her boss. Avi Mograbi is a prominent character in his work Z32, where he debates (and sings) about the difficulty of recording an Israeli ex-soldier recounting a war crime he has committed.

At times the artists literally take the voice of their protagonist: Lana Čmajčanin stands at a podium, reading the testimony of a Bosnian woman who was raped during the Bosnian War, while Adela Jusic reads her grandmother’s memories as she washes her hair repeatedly. These acts of over identification also externalize a mode of control and manipulation over the protagonists. Like Čmajčanin and Jusic, many of the artists search for a performative testimony that will reflect a subjective feeling. This performativity is evident in Juan Manuel Echavarria’s Mouths of Ashes, where survivors of massacres in sequestered villages in Colombia put their traumatic experiences into music and sing them in front of the camera.

The subjective, performative and poetic testimonies reflect an abandonment of the need to represent the real, and an attempt to construct a new reality, as a critical act. With many moments of humor and grace, they reject the commonly accepted notion of truth, question definitions of victim versus perpetrator, and challenge preconceptions. The undermining of the customary power relations between documenter and documented, with regard for the resulting internal contradictions and complexities, is a call to alter the existing balance of power between strong and weak, heard and silenced. It calls upon the viewer, as a third witness, to add their own memories and experiences, to reconsider his/her passive position in power relations, and to take a more active position in their realignment.

A publication with a newly commissioned text by Maayan Sheleff will be available.

Maayan Sheleff is a curator at the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, and Assistant Director and faculty at the International Curatorial Studies Program of the Kibbutzim College of Education and the CCA. In recent years, she has curated many exhibitions and projects in a variety of institutions and in the public sphere, including co-curating ARTLV, the first Tel Aviv-Yafo Biennial (2009).

The Agency, Saturday, June 30th, 3-5pm at Independent Curators International, 401 Broadway, Suite 1620, New York, NY 10013

Speakers will engage with the idea of “the agency” through various projects, debating the possibility of art as a vehicle for social change, and the shift in the roles of both artist and curator on the border between art and activism. Participants include Maayan Sheleff and Chelsea Haines, Public Programs Manager, ICI, amongst others.

ISCP thanks the following contributors for their generous support: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Brooklyn Arts Council, The Greenwich Collection, National Endowment for the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Opening Reception: Jun 27, 2012, 7-9pm
Download Exhibition Catalog

Participating Residents

June 19, 2012

Salon: Meiya Cheng & Vessna Perunovich

Meiya Cheng will discuss her current work and research which focuses on issues facing cultural production including conditions of exhibitions, the role of existing art institutions and cultural policies that shape the envrionment surrounding this work. Cheng is an independent curator and cultural organizer based in Taipei and previously worked at MOCA.

Toronto based artist Vessna Perunovich will focus on her performance work. She will discuss this site-specific work and address boundaries and potentials of cultural and social interactions. An interdisciplinary artist, Perunovich started her performative practice almost a decade ago, and developed it as one of the most prominent components in her work. Her talk will highlight some of her key  performances including I Hug the World and the World Hugs Me Back, which has been performed in a number of cities around the world since 2003 and will be presented in New York City in late May 2012. 

Participating Residents

June 5, 2012

Salon: Simone Martinetto & Linarejos Moreno

Simone Martinetto presents an interactive talk and an installation of his project, Without memory, a series of photographs and installations of the artist’s grandmother who lost her memory and subsequently fills her home with reminder notes.

From the starting point of her last exhibition (FotoFest 2012 Biennial), Linarejos Moreno introduces the audience to her practical and theoretical research, “From ruins  as  an  object  to   ruins  as  a  process.” She will also discuss the experimental printing process of her photographs, that are in between pictorial and photographic traditions.