Enacting Stillness

The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, New York / USA

September 21, 2016

September 21, 2016–January 13, 2017 

Opening: September 21, 6 to 8pm, RSVP required

The 8th Floor 
17 West 17th Street, 8th Floor 
New York, NY 10011 
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 11am–6pm 

info [​at​] the8thfloor.org

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The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation is pleased to announce Enacting Stillness, an exhibition that considers the political potential of slowing down and stopping as forms of resistance, protest, and refusal. An international group of artists engage time-based practices that challenge and upend our expectations for the continuity of performative compositions, movement, and thought. Working with choreography, theater, moving image, sculpture and performance, Enacting Stillness presents a multivalent reflection on political histories from the Americas to Europe and Asia, to question what unexpected ruptures like meditation, contemplation, and distortions of time mean to both artist and viewer. Collectively, the artworks reveal the double meaning of the word “movement,” underscoring the relationship between art and politics.

Bruce Nauman, Kirsten Justesen, and Joan Jonas consider how embodied movement impacts our understanding of the world. Nauman’s Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square (Square Dance), 1967-68, generates awareness made possible by performing a gesture to the point of fatigue. Exhausted by the sexist depiction of women in classical art, Justesen’s Sculpture II inverts the sculptural trope of a nude woman on a plinth by placing a black and white photograph of herself inside a cardboard box. Jonas’ celebratory and meditative video Songdelay (1973) is at once a piece of choreography and an earthwork that draws on movement, sound, and theatrical gesture, using lower Manhattan’s urban landscape as a stage. 

Repurposing the visual language of ballet and meditation, Brendan Fernandes and Roman Štětina slow movement down—both their own and that of other performers—to locate sites of activation in a variety of poses and gestures related to the labor of artistic production. A diagram of the dynamics of performative thought and action, Emily Roysdon‘s Ecstatic Resistance (2009–10) visually analyzes the interplay between intentionality and improvisation. Clifford Owens‘ enactment of performance scores provided by other artists (as part of his project Anthology, 2011) calls out the tensions and power relations negotiated between choreographer, performer, participant, and audience. Staged as a series of urban pilgrimages throughout the boroughs of New York City, Nicolás Dumit Estévez‘s For Art’s Sake (2005–07) links cultural institutions across the city in a durational, public, and interactive work of performance art that calls attention to the importance of art on its own terms. 

In Kimsooja‘s A Needle Woman and A Homeless Woman, the artist faces away from the camera, lying motionless against contrasting spaces: a busy street in Cairo and a solitary mountaintop in Kitakyushu. Through these exercises in relative stillness, Kimsooja demonstrates how a meditative stance can reflect the identity of a given place. Walking silently through her neighborhood, Alicia Grullón performs An Auto-Ethnographic Study: The Bronx (2008) where she is met with stories of displacement by the public she encounters. Yoko Inoue‘s durational project Transmigration of the SOLD (2006–2016) explores the connections between conditions of labor, immigration, and global politics by reversing the cycles of production of artisan crafts sold in underground economies. Working with text, Kameelah Janan Rasheed mines unspoken and invisible narratives to give voice to those whose histories are overlooked by official institutions.

Carlos Martiel stages endurance performances that test the limits of his own physical capacity and his audience members’ comfort with their role as witness, through gestures that question the construction of racial and national identity. John Ahearn‘s sculpture A Mirror for Andrew Glover (2014) pays homage to a social program that keeps sentenced youth out of jail through counseling, training, education, and job assistance. Ahearn’s frieze-like portraits capture the nuanced expressions of kids who have participated in his live cast sculptural process.

Elaborating on the long-term effects of historical trauma, Rehan Ansari and Claudia Joskowicz examine the aftermath of political upheavals experienced during the Partition of India and the Holocaust, respectively, using stillness as a narrative device. Ansari’s play Unburdened (2010) revisits a long-held secret between a husband and wife, survivors of Partition, while Joskowicz’s Sympathy for the Devil (2011) reenacts daily post-war relations between Nazis and Jews in Latin America.

About The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
The Foundation believes in art as a cornerstone of cohesive, resilient communities and greater participation in civic life. In its mission to make art available to the broader public, in particular to underserved communities, the Foundation provides direct support to, and facilitates partnerships between, cultural organizations and advocates of social justice across the public and private sectors. Through grantmaking, the Foundation supports cross-disciplinary work connecting art with social justice via experimental collaborations, as well as extending cultural resources to organizations and areas of New York City in need. www.sdrubin.org

For further information, members of the media may contact:
Mathilde Campergue/Tara Plath, Blue Medium Inc.: T 1 212 675 1800, mathilde [​at​] bluemedium.com / tara [​at​] bluemedium.com 
George Bolster, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation: T 1 646 738 3971, gbolster [​at​] sdrubin.org