If we consider an artwork a thing that inherently contains various sets of relationships, constellations of ideas, ways of making, and genealogies, then my work here is to suggest a few connecting threads that weave through these already overlapping and interconnected worlds. My selection of works for FIAC doesn’t follow an overarching theme, logic, or historical narrative, but there are a few running themes that connect different artist practices and strands of thinking with each other.
One of these threads is abstraction, but not a hard-edge, historically modernist approach to form and function. In this case, abstraction is intimately related to body politics. Artists like Sadie Benning, Yang Jiechang, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Lucy Skaer engage in abstract ways of making and offer counter-narratives to historically modernist approaches. For other artists like Deborah Segun, Pamela Rosenkranz, Suki Seokyeong Kang, non-figurative representation becomes a way to sensorially navigate issues of identity, and present a transfeminist poetics of the body through movement, curve, and color.
Another trail through this selection is focusing on artworks that more directly with the politics of representation and bodily visibility. Works by Lyle Ashton Harris, Haegue Yang, and Liliana Porter explore alternative representations of the body as a means to intervene, reclaim, or hijack ideologies that oppress alterity or “otherness.” These works task us to interrogate how identity is constructed through our relational experiences with others, and artists like Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Julien Creuzet, and Anne Imhof particularly consider how life is animated through movement and performance.
A third thread that weaves through this constellation of works is an interest in “fringe” intellectual movements, mysticism, and schools of thought that operate outside of mainstream intellectual history like academic philosophy and other Europeanist disciplines. Drawing inspiration from alternative histories of spirituality, ritual, and magic, artists like Gertrude Abercrombie, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Guo Fengyi evoke symbolic representations of the body as shadow, gesture, vocal utterance, and vessel. In doing so, these artists also interrogate the politics of cross-cultural contact, exchange, and consumption from the perspective of the fringe or subaltern.
I hope you enjoy my selection and have a great visit at FIAC Online Viewing Rooms.
Prior to joining the Guggenheim Museum in 2014, they were part of the curatorial team for the 14th Istanbul Biennial SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms and held curatorial positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Sullivan Galleries and the Hyde Park Art Center. They hold a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 2018, X Zhu-Nowell has collaborated with the musicologist Frederick Cruz Nowell as Passing Fancy, a curatorial and artistic research duo.