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The following article was written in response to a call for submissions by CAA’s International Committee. It is by Inesa Brasiske, a Lithuanian art historian, lecturer, and recent graduate from the program in Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies (MODA) at Columbia University, New York.

Figure 1. Sun & Sea (Marina), opera-performance by Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte at Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo: © Andrej Vasilenko

Upon entering the former shipyard in the secluded Marina Militare complex located a few steps from the Arsenale, one finds a beach. More than a dozen sunbathers lie drowsily on pastel colored towels among their absentmindedly-scattered stuff, preoccupied with the usual holiday business (Fig. 1). One by one they sing out their monologues, occasionally growing into undulating choruses. The performers chant their personal dramas, complaints, and joys alongside sunscreen instructions and deadpan morning routines as viewers peruse the scene from above (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Sun & Sea (Marina), opera-performance by Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte at Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo: © Andrej Vasilenko

An opera-performance for thirteen voices, Sun & Sea (Marina) was selected to represent Lithuania at this year’s Venice Biennale, winning the country its first Golden Lion for best national pavilion. Noted by the jury for its experimental spirit and site-specificity, the work was created by three Lithuanian artists: filmmaker and director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, writer Vaiva Grainytė, and composer and artist Lina Lapelytė. It is the second time the all-female trio united their forces in this genre. Their debut work, the opera Have a Good Day! (2013), focused on the inner lives and work routines of cashiers in a shopping center. With this follow-up, the artists continued to tap into the subject of reckless consumerism, accompanied by the same physical and emotional exhaustion that framed their first work, this time taking their exploration in an eco-critical direction.

The libretto is a set of individual, discrete stories stitched together by Grainytė who, with a poet’s economy, delivers a memorable spectrum of characters, including a wealthy mother recounting her son’s travel adventures, a workaholic engaged in self-analysis, and twins envisioning a 3D-printed biosphere. The text is charged with humor and absurdist juxtapositions in a surrealist vein; viewers witness an uneasy morphological sisterhood of floating jellyfish with plastic bottle caps, disturbing scenarios of picking chanterelles in the midst of winter, or drinking piña coladas at a barrier reef. These evocative narratives unfold through a minimalist score for synthesizer and voice composed by Lapelytė and sung by a group of performers with divergent musical backgrounds. Catchy melodies with repeating pulsing patterns running through high pitched arias and dreamy lullabies are responsible to a large extent for luring viewers into this ambiguous zone of relaxation and oblivion in the face of looming ecological disaster.

One of the most striking aspects of Sun & Sea (Marina) is the atypical positioning of the viewers vis-à-vis the scene, as they experience the opera-performance while looking down from the mezzanine which frames the sandy seaside into a horizontal tableau peppered with human and, occasionally, other-than-human bodies (Fig. 3). The director and scenographer, Barzdžiukaitė, brings a filmmaker’s eye to the work; the most recent of her own films is itself calibrated on an aerial perspective of a cormorant colony at the Lithuanian seaside. In the opera, the specific viewpoint works as a conceptual device aptly playing into the ecological theme of the piece. The non-human perspective that the audience embraces points to the limits of the anthropocentric view and suggests something alarming and at the same time slightly comical about the human species in all its flatness.

Figure 3. Sun & Sea (Marina), opera-performance by Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte at Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo: © Andrej Vasilenko

The opera was first shown in Lithuania in 2017. Arranged in the atrium of the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, the Lithuanian version was a slightly longer piece, repeated as a series of performances throughout one day. After its premiere, the work traveled to Germany, where it was shown in a former movie theater as part of the Staatsschauspiel Dresden theater’s repertoire. It is in Venice, however, that the work has been given its most complex treatment, fully exposing its eco-critical and social potential. The opera turned into an endurance performance-cum-installation, running continuously for eight hours at a time, with no beginning or end, once (and more recently twice) a week, while for the rest of the time it is presented as a (post-apocalyptic?) sound installation devoid of any living bodies or voices.  The authors did not limit their open-ended approach to experimenting with new formats alone; they also responded to local resources and communities. Under the curatorship of Lucia Pietroiusti, Curator of General Ecology and Live Programs at the Serpentine Galleries in London, the artists invited Venetian residents to perform the piece during the long run of the Biennale, commissioned the last existing printing house in the city to print the exhibition catalogue, and, together with Benjamin Reichen from the Åbäke design collective, collaborated with inmates of a local prison in a silkscreen workshop to produce the cover of the opera’s LP.

Figure 4. The Marina Militare complex, where Sun & Sea (Marina) is installed. Photo: © Andrej Vasilenko

Where much of ecologically oriented art tends to amplify our sensations in order to enable us to hear more sharply and see more clearly the scale of the climate crisis and ecological collapse, Sun & Sea (Marina) operates on a rather different register. A condensed image of the status quo of the contemporary world and its dystopian future is communicated through the recognizable, the quotidian, the banal. The durational aspect of the work, which puts seemingly surplus non-scripted real-life experiences on view—performers eating their lunch, chatting, getting exhausted and resting, kids running free and playing around, dogs barking—strengthen this realistic effect as does the participatory element inviting viewers to spend some time on the beach among the singing performers.

In the end, there might be no sea in the shipyard, but the beach there is real, and it mirrors our own day-to-day needs and deeds enmeshed in the forces of late capitalism punctuated by the logic of efficiency and endless consumption of goods as well as experiences. The end of the world here is void of spectacular images and sounds, but rather presents itself as what environmental writer Rob Nixon terms a “slow violence,” wherein ecological catastrophe does not occur in a sudden blaze but in a gradual relentless deterioration. Representation of the latter, Sun & Sea (Marina) seems to propose, curiously lies between accurate account and eloquent visionariness.

Filed under: International — Tags:

News from the Art and Academic Worlds

posted by CAA — Jul 24, 2019

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A worker near an open part of Notre Dame’s roof. Some sections of the cathedral have since been exposed to rainfall and high temperatures that France has experienced. Photo: Patrick Zachmann—Magnum Photos for TIME

An Exclusive Look inside the Recovery Efforts to Save Notre Dame

Three months after the blaze, the cathedral’s chief architect Philippe Villeneuve leads us through the damage. (TIME)

It’s Not Just Sarah Milov. Female Academics Aren’t Credited in Media ‘All the Time.’

Original ideas from an academic, both journalists and academics agree, should have a name attached. (The Lily)

Colleges Fear Losing International Students over Visa Delays

Dozens of institutions have urged the government to expedite the approval process.(Education Dive)

I’m Emptying My Bank Account to Go to Columbia

“My hope has never been this fat, this wild. But my anxiety has never been this intense. I try to breathe. I smile when it gets unbearable.” (The Atlantic)

Ahdaf Soueif on Resigning from the British Museum’s Board of Trustees

“Will the museum use [their collection] to influence the future of the planet and its peoples? Or will it continue to project the power of colonial gain and corporate indemnity?” (LRB)

Filed under: CAA News

CWA Picks for Summer 2019

posted by CAA — Jul 16, 2019

CAA’s Committee on Women in the Arts selects the best in feminist art and scholarship to share with CAA members on a monthly basis. See the picks for July and August below.

Figure: Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock, born 1977), Adaptation II (2012), shoes designed by Christian Louboutin, leather, glass beads, porcupine quills, sterling silver cones, brass sequins, chicken feathers, cloth, deer rawhide, buckskin, 8 5/8 x 3 ¼ x 9 3/16 in. (each). Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bequest of Virginia Doneghy, by exchange 2012.68.1a,b

Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists

Minneapolis Institute of Art
June 2 – August 18, 2019

Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists is the first-ever museum retrospective of Native American and Canadian female artists. It is guided by three key themes: legacy, relationships, and power, and includes works by more than seventy women artists made in a variety of media, from textiles and bead work to digital arts. The show welcomes visitors with a parked customized 1985 Chevy El Camino fabricated by the mixed-media artist Rose Simpson. It pays homage to Maria Martinez, a potter and the first self-identified, non-anonymous Native artist. The car is outfitted with decals inspired by Pueblo ceramics often designed by women, yet typically unacknowledged. This work, among others on display in this exhibition, addresses the silenced narratives and forgotten, uncredited works of Native American women, offering multiple perspectives on othering, colonization, cultural appropriation, and victimization of practices considered feminine.

Amazonki

Galerie Gmurzynska Zürich, Switzerland
June 8 – September 8, 2019

The title of the exhibition, Amazonki, refers to the Russian word for “Amazons,” in Greek mythology a tribe of women warriors known for their courage. Benedikt Livshits, a poet and a writer, first used this term to address the female Russian avant-gardes, who were described as “real Amazons, Scythian riders.” This exhibition features a selection of remarkable works across different media by women artists of the Russian vanguard, including Maria and Xenia Ender, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Nadezhda Udaltsova, and Varvara Stepanova. Their pioneering works from the early 20th-century Russia were significant to the formation of new art movements and redefined the status of female artists.

Filipa César. Quantum Creole

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
May 31 – September 2, 2019

Filipa César’s installation and essay documentary film are featured at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and raise issues about colonialism and gentrification on the Bissagos Islands. The project explores the dynamics of Creolization and the subversive dimension of linguistic codes. César’s moving images are characterized by tensions between oppositions: reality and fiction, present and past, stillness and motion. In this exhibition her cinematographic language concerns poetics of resistance within colonial occupation. It is used to investigate notions of weaving and acts of writing in relation to new digital economies. She engages various spatialities and agencies to investigate a subversive potency of quantum weaving against the engineering of binary extractive epistemologies.

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

Barbican Art Gallery
May 30 – September 1, 2019

Figure: Krasner, Self-Portrait, c. 1928, The Jewish Museum, New York. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York

“To whom shall I hire myself? What beast must one adore? What holy image attack? What hearts shall I break? What lie must I maintain? In what blood must I walk?” These ferocious lines from Arthur Rimbaud’s poem A Season in Hell were transcribed on Lee Krasner’s (1908-1984) East Village studio wall at 51 East Ninth Street in Manhattan and still pack a punch.  They demand our attention just as the formidable career of this legendary Abstract Expressionist artist. The Barbican’s Lee Krasner: Living Colour is the first traveling retrospective on the US artist organized in Europe, curated by Eleanor Nairne. Krasner’s first survey presentation was at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1965. The accompanying exhibition catalogue, edited by Nairne with essays by Katy Siegel, John Yau, and Suzanne Hudson, brings further attention to Krasner’s multifaceted personal history, education, and artistic relationships. While significant art historical scholarship was previously established in publications on Krasner, including Ellen Landau’s catalogue raisonné (1995) and Joan Marter’s Women of Abstract Expressionism (2016), this catalogue assesses broad connections and cuts a swath through the artist’s extensive oeuvre, consuming discourse, and marriage to Jackson Pollock. Krasner was renowned and likewise criticized for her perpetual desire to change artistic styles (a problematic issue highlighted in Abstract Expressionist criticism) and tendency to recycle earlier works in the process of remaking new ones. Living Colour is an ambitious curatorial enterprise and offers that there is always room for periodic review and assessment of the depth of women’s creativity and tenacity negotiating the modern male environment of New York in the mid-1940s and 1950s. As much as Krasner looked to the past to clarify her vision, Living Colour affords us the chance to appraise her vast development, rethink her vernacular and personally direct expression, repetition of cycles, utilization of collage, and influences of language and narrative.

Filed under: CWA Picks — Tags:

New in caa.reviews

posted by CAA — Jul 12, 2019

Kelli Wood reviews the V&A exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/DisruptRead the full review at caa.reviews.

Amalia Ramírez Garayzar discusses Jennifer Jolly’s Creating Pátzcuaro, Creating Mexico: Art, Tourism, and Nation Building under Lázaro CárdenasRead the full review at caa.reviews.

Oscar E. Vázquez writes about The Americas Revealed: Collecting Colonial and Modern Latin American Art in the United States by Edward J. Sullivan. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

    

Filed under: caa.reviews

News from the Art and Academic Worlds

posted by CAA — Jul 10, 2019

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Frank Bowling, Elder Sun Benjamin (2018), recently purchased by SFMOMA. Courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Katherine Du Tiel, via artnet News

SFMOMA Sold a Rothko for $50 Million to Diversify Its Collection. Here’s What They Bought With the Proceeds

Work by Alma Thomas, Lygia Clark, and Mickalene Thomas are among the new additions to the museum’s collection. (artnet News)

Blindsided by a ‘Devastating’ Veto, Alaska’s University System Pleads for a Lifeline

The University of Alaska system—which serves more than 26,000 students—is bracing for a 41% funding cut after Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a $130 million line item in the state’s budget. (New York Times)

Rethinking the “Bigger Is Better” Museum Model

Is it possible to rethink the “grow or die” museum mentality of the 1990s and 2000s? (Hyperallergic)

State of Massachusetts Investigates Reported Racism at the MFA Boston

The Civil Rights division of the Massachusetts attorney general’s office is now investigating. (The Art Newspaper)

Opinion: San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History

Last week, the San Francisco school board decided the thirteen murals that make up “The Life of Washington” will be destroyed. (New York Times)

Filed under: CAA News

One of thirteen The Life of Washington murals by Victor Arnautoff, George Washington High School, San Francisco. Image courtesy George Washington High School Alumni Association.

On June 25th, the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to destroy an important series of murals by artist Victor Arnautoff, which he painted as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program inside George Washington High School in 1936. The series of 13 murals, entitled The Life of Washington, includes imagery of dead Native Americans and imagery of slaves working at Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, which the school board determined was offensive.

CAA opposes the recent ruling by the San Francisco Unified School District and its Board of Education. By voting to destroy the murals, the Board is advancing an agenda of erasing history in order to appease contemporary critics. CAA firmly believes in the preservation of art historical records and works that serve to educate and inform the public. The murals should be viewed as an opportunity to examine history, to ask questions, and to create discussion around ideas, events, and facts that are woven indisputably into American history.

David Raizman
Interim Executive Director

Editor’s note (8/16/19): The views expressed above do not necessarily represent the views of CAA’s membership.

Further reading: San Francisco School Will Cover Controversial George Washington Murals (New York Times)

A Controversial WPA Mural Is a Litmus Test for the Longevity of Public Art (Hyperallergic)

Art Professor Dewey Crumpler Defends Victor Arnautoff’s WPA Murals (National Coalition Against Censorship)

Filed under: Advocacy, Art History, Education

New in caa.reviews

posted by CAA — Jul 05, 2019

         

Myriam Pilutti Namer reviews the two-volume book Reconstructing the Lansdowne Collection of Classical Marbles by Elizabeth Angelicoussis. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

Trevor Stark discusses the English translation of Sebastian Egenhofer’s Towards an Aesthetics of Production. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

Yukiko Kawamoto explores A History of Roman Art by Steven L. Tuck. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

Filed under: caa.reviews

News from the Art and Academic Worlds

posted by CAA — Jul 03, 2019

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Capitol Building, Arts Advocacy Day 2019. Photo: Joelle Te Paske

US House Passes Funding Bills with Increased Spending for the NEA and NEH

Great news for arts advocacy! On June 25th, the US House rejected the Trump administration’s budget request to eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by approving $167.5 million in funding for fiscal year 2020. This is an increase for both agencies of $12.5 million over the 2019 funding level of $155 million. The funding increase matches the 2019 Arts Advocacy Day ask, which CAA participated in. The Senate vote will follow after the July 4th recess. (The Hill)

One Museum’s Complicated Attempt to Repatriate a “Benin Bronze”

The RISD Museum has held a Benin bronze head in its collection for 80 years. “No one would have given it up unless under duress,” the curators say. But tracing its provenance and repatriating is no simple matter. (Hyperallergic)

Art Collector Agnes Gund Signs Letter in Support of Wealth Tax

Agnes Gund is one of 19 multimillionaires and billionaires calling for a wealth tax on the “fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans—on us.” (ARTnews)

British Doctors May Soon Prescribe Art, Music, Dance, Singing Lessons

“Social prescribing” will enable doctors in the UK to prescribe therapeutic art-based treatments. (Smithsonian)

Ten Proposals for a More Ethical Art History: An Undergraduate Perspective

“Higher education institutions seem to spend a lot of time talking about students, talking to students, asking things of students, but not necessarily talking with or listening to students.” (Material Collective)

Filed under: CAA News

New in caa.reviews

posted by CAA — Jun 28, 2019

   

Marta Zboralska explores the Cooper Hewitt exhibition Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

Dario Donetti discusses Peter Fane-Saunders’s Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

Elena Tiribilli reviews Pocket Museum: Ancient Egypt by Campbell Price. Read the full review at caa.reviews.

Filed under: caa.reviews

News from the Art and Academic Worlds

posted by CAA — Jun 26, 2019

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Installation view of 60 Years at Tate Britain. Photo: Naomi Polonsky for Hyperallergic

POWarts Releases the Results of Its Art-World Salary Survey

the nonprofit POWarts recently released the results of its salary survey comparing compensation levels in the visual arts field at for-profit and nonprofit organizations. (POWarts)

Association of Art Museum Directors Calls for End of Unpaid Internships

While the AAMD resolution may be a small measure in the full context of museum operations, it could lead to helpful consequences for workers getting their start. (ARTnews)

Tate Britain Hangs a Diverse Display of Women Artists Out of Its Permanent Collection

The collection of sixty women artists from the museum’s permanent collection tackles the tricky terrain of museum representation. (Hyperallergic)

Survey: The Impact of Negative Supervisory Behaviors on the Graduate Student Experience

Are you a former graduate student who had negative encounters with supervisors during your studies? Share your experience in this anonymous survey about advisor-graduate student relationships. (via Twitter)

Artists Reflect on How Stonewall Changed Art

On Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, artists, writers, and activists share how that moment affected queer life in New York City, and their own creative practices. (Artsy)

Filed under: CAA News