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Published Time: 01.06.2024 - 08:06:38 Modified Time: 01.06.2024 - 08:06:38

Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich’s Too Bright to See, 2023–24, and Tourmaline’s Pollinator, 2022, are likewise devoted to revisiting the lives of intellectual and cultural forebears, paying homage to the negritudetheorist Suzanne Césaire and the trans activist and Stonewall pioneer Marsha P. Johnson, respectively, while Sharon Hayes’s moving documentary Ricerche: four, 2024, a two-channel video presented amid a circle of mismatched chairs, comprises roundtable conversations with three groups of queer elders from different parts of the country (Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and rural Tennessee). The piece—the latest entry in a decade-long project—was inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 documentary Comizi d’amore (Love Meetings), for which the Italian director conducted interviews attempting to capture attitudes sex and sexuality among a wide cross section of Italian society. In contrast to Hayes’s film, with its vérité approach, Diane Severin Nguyen’s feature-length In Her Time (Iris’s Version), 2023–24, takes the form of a stylized mockumentary shot at the massive Hengdian World Studios, whose permanently installed film sets cover the gamut of Chinese historical epics, following an aspiring actress as she prepares for her breakout role in a period film the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.   Whitney


This is perhaps an odd thing to say a show with so many exceptional—and exceptionally well-installed—moving-image works, a rarity in this type of sprawling survey. But even these almost uniformly look backward, probing the past as it refracts into the present. Isaac Julien’s five-channel film installation Once Again . . . (Statues Never Die), 2022, the title of which alludes to Chris Marker and Alain Resnais’s 1953 indictment of colonial plunder, reconstructs a dialogue between New Negro philosopher Alain Locke (played by actor André Holland) and art patron and collector Albert C. Barnes (Danny Huston) on African art and modernism, interwoven with scenes imagining an intimate encounter between Locke and the Harlem Renaissance sculptor Richmond Barthé (Devon Terrell). “There’s nothing more galvanizing,” Locke tells Barnes, “than the sense of a cultural past,” expressing a sentiment that doubles back onto Julien’s film in its recuperation of the queer relationships often omitted from histories of the Harlem Renaissance. 

Instead of offering an explicit of representation, the works here are often conspicuously withholding.

Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich’s Too Bright to See, 2023–24, and Tourmaline’s Pollinator, 2022, are likewise devoted to revisiting the lives of intellectual and cultural forebears, paying homage to the negritudetheorist Suzanne Césaire and the trans activist and Stonewall pioneer Marsha P. Johnson, respectively, while Sharon Hayes’s moving documentary Ricerche: four, 2024, a two-channel video presented amid a circle of mismatched chairs, comprises roundtable conversations with three groups of queer elders from different parts of the country (Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and rural Tennessee). The piece—the latest entry in a decade-long project—was inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 documentary Comizi d’amore (Love Meetings), for which the Italian director conducted interviews attempting to capture attitudes sex and sexuality among a wide cross section of Italian society. In contrast to Hayes’s film, with its vérité approach, Diane Severin Nguyen’s feature-length In Her Time (Iris’s Version), 2023–24, takes the form of a stylized mockumentary shot at the massive Hengdian World Studios, whose permanently installed film sets cover the gamut of Chinese historical epics, following an aspiring actress as she prepares for her breakout role in a period film the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.  

As the show’s curators Chrissie Iles and Meg Onli acknowledge in the catalogue, the specter of the 1993 Biennial inevitably hangs over this one, not least in its prioritization of Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, and trans artists. But instead of offering an explicit of representation, the works here are often conspicuously withholding, self-evidently informed by (if not explicitly invoking) a lived experience of marginalized identity while resisting any expectation of clarity, fixity, or disclosure. In her essay, Iles cites the work of Martinican philosopher Édouard Glissant, whose theories of opacity and the archipelagic are conceptual touchstones for the exhibition and, I suspect, many of its artists, evident in the overriding emphasis on strategies of withdrawal, illegibility, and obfuscation. (This is perhaps best exemplified by Demian DinéYazhi’s now infamous flickering neon we must stop imaging apocalypse/genocide + we must imagine liberation, 2024, through which they smuggled in the message FREE PALESTINE under the noses of the curators.) 

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