Melvin Moti, Eigenlicht_2012, 35 mm film, TRT: 18 mins, silent, film still. Image courtesy of the artist.
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center is proud to present Unquiet Objects, a group exhibition that includes work by Melvin Moti (born 1977), a Dutch contemporary video and media artist who examines neurological, scientific and historic processes in relation to visual culture. His work explores ideas of human experiences of spirituality, space, time and consciousness. Participating arists further include Morehshin Allahyari, Noah Angell, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Stephanie Dinkins, Kristan Kennedy, Aram Lee, Christine Miller, Lorraine O’Grady, and Itziar Okariz.
This is the second show in Turnstones, Lucy Cotter’s season as Curator in Residence 2020-21 at Disjecta. This exhibition will be open to the public March 12 through May 2, 2021.
Unquiet Objects foregrounds the naturalized but uneasy separation of cultural objects from human life and social reality. The exhibition explores what greater accountability towards cultural objects might look like, highlighting the value of objects as symbolic and material placeholders for subject positions, for cultures and their histories, and competing conceptions of the world. Works by ten artists and cultural producers engage with a range of related questions, encompassing the foundational complicity of art’s notion of discrete objects with an imperialist agenda, the agency of objects as portals into alternate worldviews, genders and subjectivities; issues of institutional restitution and reparations, as well as Quantum, metaphysical and supernatural understandings of objects. This reflection is extended by looking to the future of cultural objects in a world saturated by datasets and AI technology.
Lorraine O’ Grady’s iconic photographic works from Miscegenated Family Album refuse the disenfranchisement of cultural objects, insisting on the human lineages so-called artifacts embody. Christine Miller fabricates museological displays that draw out the racialized logic of mass-produced household objects from the recent past. Ariella Aïsha Azoulay’s film Undocumented: Unlearning Imperialism draws parallels between the forced migration of peoples and plundered objects, pointing to this imperial violence as the ideological basis of contemporary museological and curatorial practices. Itziar Okariz talks back to Modernist sculptures on display in an art museum, whose manifestations of dominant subject positions occlude other possibilities. Collectively these works test continuities between our categorization and treatment of (art) objects and the cultural, racial, and gendered modalities that sustain hierarchies in our social structures and institutions.
Unquiet Objects also seeks to make space for alternate conceptions of objecthood manifesting multiversal, Quantum, and spiritual understandings of being in the world at odds with post-Enlightenment rationalism. Testaments from Noah Angell’s oral history project Ghost Stories of the British Museum suggest that objects might have the power to contest the conditions of their display. Accounts of unnatural occurrences invoke modes of being that exceed the limits of sanctioned knowledge. The supernatural female/queer subjectivities of jinn creatures in Morehshin Allahyari’s She Who Sees the Unknown re-figure Middle Eastern myths as a portal to possibilities that exceed Western narratives. Melvin Moti’s film Eigenlicht evokes belief systems that insist on the living nature of so-called objects, as well as the findings of Quantum Physics, affirming the intelligence of matter and its internal systems of organization. Kristan Kennedy’s clay sculptures seem to arrest the return of objects to their fluid material origins.
The exhibition goes on to address the intersection of cultural objects and new technologies. Stephanie Dinkins’ ongoing project Conversations with Bina 48, teases out the AI-driven racial imaginaries of a “social robot” that claims to conflate subjecthood and objecthood. Morehshin Allahyari’s lecture-performance Digital Colonialism asks whether digital preservation is a conduit to the private ownership of cultural heritage. Aram Lee’s digitalized 3D rendering of an “unknown” object from an ethnographic display seeks to circumnavigate the transhistorical temporality of the object, activating new inscriptions to its body.
Lucy Cotter’s multidisciplinary practice explores aesthetics, politics, and the unknown through writing, curating, ficto-theory, and performance. Her curatorial projects include being the curator of the Dutch Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), and, most recently, The Unknown Artist at the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture, Portland (2020). A regular contributor to journals such as Flash Art, Frieze, Mousse Magazine, and Third Text, her latest book Reclaiming Artistic Research was published in 2019. She is currently working on an experimental play entitled The Entangled Museum, which circles around issues of restitution, cultural beliefs, and the limits of acceptable knowledge. Cotter holds a PhD in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam and currently lectures for the Portland State University Art and Social Practice Masters Program.
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Robert & Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, VIA Art Fund and Wagner Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Arts and Culture Emergency Fund, Oregon CARES, Oregon Community Foundation, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Other businesses and individuals provided additional support.
The 2020-21 Curator in Residence Season 10 is supported by the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, Oregon Cultural Trust, The Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation, The Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, The Mondriaan Fund, and the North Portland Trust Fund.