As part of the Community Partnership Exhibition Program THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM–GRAND OPENING (On View September 13 – October 4), a panel of artists and scholars will be convened to address the topic of institutional critique, which expresses and comes up against the limits of the institution. How are activist artists borrowing the vocabulary of the museum and in so doing extending the political potential already dividing the institution from within? We will consider projects such as Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil.
ABOUT THE PRESENTERS
Hans Haacke is a German-American conceptual artist whose controversial works expose the interconnectivity of culture, politics, corruption, and greed. Spanning a range of mediums and drawing upon a variety of contemporary art strategies, from Conceptualism to Land Art, Haacke’s muckraking work often throws back the curtain on the culture industry, probing the shady dealings of museum trustees or other officials who control what is promoted and displayed. As a result of his work, Haacke–who has said he intends his art to “convict” its subject–is regarded as a forefather of an artistic approach known as institutional critique. He has been awarded many prizes, which include the 1993 Golden Lion of the Biennale di Venezia.
Mark Dion is known for making art out of fieldwork, incorporating elements of biology, archaeology, ethnography, and the history of science, and applying to his artwork methodologies generally used for pure science. His art uncovers the structures that govern the natural world, dissolving the boundary between nature and culture; in his view, “nature is one of the most sophisticated arenas for the production of ideology’. Traveling the world and collaborating with a wide range of scientists, artists, and museums, Dion has excavated ancient and modern artifacts from the banks of the Thames in London, established a marine life laboratory using specimens from New York’s Chinatown, and created a contemporary cabinet of curiosities exploring natural and philosophical hierarchies. Dion has a longstanding interest in exploring how ideas about natural history are visualized and how they circulate in society. Dion’s work has been presented at many U.S. and international museums and galleries.
Gavin Grindon is a post doctoral researcher at Kingston University and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum. His research is located within the history and theory of modern and contemporary art, with a particular focus on activist-art and its theoretical contexts. He is currently preparing a monograph on this topic, and has previously published in The Oxford Art Journal, Third Text, Art Monthly, Radical Philosophy and the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest. Grindon is a co-curator of the exhibition Disobedient Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2014. He also organized the conferences The Politics of the Social in Contemporary Art at Tate Modern, 2013; Art”¦What’s the Use at Whitechapel Gallery, 2011; and Revising /Revisiting the Avant-Garde at Kingston University, 2009.
Steve Lyons is an artist and PhD student in the Inter-University Doctoral Program in Art History at Concordia University. He is currently studying the history of alternative art spaces in New York, with a particular focus on the ways in which recent articulations of the “alternative” depart from earlier twentieth-century examples. His writing has been published in C Magazine and Border Crossings, and his artwork has been exhibited at venues including Espace Electra, Fondation EDF in Paris, Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography in Toronto, and Centre des arts actuels Skol in Montreal. In 2013, he conducted research at the New School for Social Research in New York with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
ABOUT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM–GRAND OPENING
On View September 13 – October 4
The Natural History Museum is a new museum that does exhibitions, expeditions, educational workshops and public programming, but includes the social and political forces that shape nature, yet are left out of traditional natural history museums.
The Natural History Museum borrows from the legitimating aesthetics, pedagogical models, and presentation forms of natural history museums in order to support a perspective on nature as a commons. From this perspective, it lifts up the work of socially engaged artists and climate activists so that their interconnections appear.
The museum is a new ongoing project initiated by arts collective Not An Alternative. Members of the collective perform as anthropologists in the museum and as museum anthropologists, interrogating the influences that affect both the atmospheric climate on Earth and the political climate within natural history museums.
Like many of the collective’s previous projects, this one will employ the strategy of mimicry”originally a scientific process among animal species, now powerfully deployed by activists to exert pressure on predatorial actors. In this case, they will mimic traditional natural history museums with an aim to politicize the aesthetics of the re-presentation of nature.
The Natural History Museum will have its grand opening at the Queens Museum September 13th – October 4th. It is timed to coincide with the People’s Climate March, an historic march through the streets of New York City, with an anticipated hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate justice.
To celebrate the launch, a series of panels, workshops, and performances with artists, activists, scientists, anthropologists, historians, and theorists will introduce the public to the historical and theoretical framework that informs The Natural History Museum’s programs. Presenters include authors Christian Parenti and Astra Taylor, scientist Michael Mann, artists Mark Dion and Liberate Tate, historians Fred Turner and Stuart Ewen, media/political theorist Jodi Dean, activists Eddie Bautista and Elizabeth Yeampierre, and others.
In tandem with the museum’s opening will be the launch of The Natural History Museum’s online museum, (to be found at http://thenaturalhistorymuseum.org), and The Natural History Museum’s mobile museum, a 15-passenger tour, expedition, and action bus.
Curation: Not An Alternative
Exhibition Design: Not An Alternative
Design: Not An Alternative and The Public Society
Event Production: Paul Amitai
ABOUT NOT AN ALTERNATIVE
Not An Alternative is a ten year-old Brooklyn-based arts collective and artist-run non-profit organization with a mission to affect popular understandings of events, symbols, and history. Through engaged critical research and design, the group curates and produces interventions on material and immaterial space, bringing together tools from architecture, theory, exhibition design, and political organizing.
All of these efforts are enacted with an eye toward social change and strategies for creative political intervention that involve creating participatory points of entry for arts audiences and everyday citizens alike”not through a typical head-on (or head-butt) approach, but through the co-optation of popular vernacular, semiotics, and memes.
Not An Alternative’s creative actions, installations, and presentations have been featured within art institutions such as Guggenheim (NY), PS1/MOMA (NY), Tate Modern (London), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), and Museo Del Arte Moderno (Mexico City), and in the public sphere, where they collaborate with community groups and activist mobilizations.
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