The New Museum has just extended its hours to include Tuesdays from 11a – 6p, offering another opportunity to check out the current triennial exhibit, “Surround Audience.” We spoke with co-curator Lauren Cornell last month about the challenges of putting on a show with so many different artists from around the world. Here’s our story from the April magazine:
The New Museum triennial, “Surround Audience,” offers up an overwhelming array of artistic commentary on what it means to live and communicate in a digital world. Co-curated by the New Museum’s Lauren Cornell and video/performance artist Ryan Trecartin, the show features 51 early career artists from more than 25 countries.
The exhibition inhabits all five floors of the building and encompasses a variety of artistic practices, including sound, dance, comedy, poetry, installation, sculpture, painting, video, an online talk show and an advertising campaign.
Highlights include Josh Kline’s larger-than-life installation, “Freedom,” which presents a futuristic version of a Zuccotti-like plaza filled with a large monitor projecting President Obama’s 2009 inaugural address the way the artist wishes it had been written; a SWAT team of Teletubbies with TV monitors in their bellies, and plain-clothed police officers reading texts from various forms of social media.
The young online poet Steve Roggenbuck’s short Youtube videos, on display in the basement of the museum, are a rallying cry to take action and experience our lives immediately, with titles like, “make something beautiful before you are dead,” “Somewhere in the bottom of the rain” and “LIEF IS BEAUTIFUL (2011) TRULEY WATCH THIS VIDEO IT CAN CHANGE YOU’RE LIFE!!”
Casey Jane Ellison’s web talk show, Touching the Art, on Ovation TV satirizes art-world insider conversations on topics like art criticism, queer art, violence and the disposable nature of some art.
We spoke with Lauren Cornell, who traveled the world to find the artists represented in the show, about “Surround Audience.”
What are you most proud of about this show?
We had the privilege of time with this show: there was a 2.5-year run-up to the opening. This allowed us not only to do extensive research but also to fundraise for and facilitate major new works by artists. If I’m to isolate one thing I’m ‘most proud of’ about the exhibition, it would be the strength of the new commissions, including works by Exterritory, Martine Syms, Lena Henke, Shadi Habib Allah, Nadim Abbas, Juliana Huxtable, Asli Cavusoglu, Jose Leon Cerrillo, Josh Kline, Antoine Catala, Daniel Steegmann Mangrane, Aleksandra Domanovic, K-HOLE, DIS, among many others.
The commissioning process also allowed us (the curatorial team: Ryan and I, with Sara O’Keeffe and Helga Christoffersen) to get close to the process of making the work and to get deep in conversation with the artists. That is a really valuable and enjoyable process. By the time the show opened, I felt we had traveled rather epic journeys with many of the artists involved.
How do you define “emerging artist” in the scope of this show?
These categories are always very complex and elusive and encourage kicking up against. Ryan and I chose “early-career” as a parameter instead of “emerging,” partly because emergence can happen at any point of an artist’s life (you could emerge and then re-emerge multiple times!). I may be stating the obvious here, but by early-career we meant artists who were, relatively, still at in the beginning stages of their careers but already having significant influence on other artists or an art public.
As I traveled, I looked not only for artists whose work felt original and important—and mapped to our themes—but also those who were clearly having an impact. The artists in the show are all over the early-career map, from those whose practice has just crystallized in the last five years to those who’ve been working for well over a decade but have not yet been fully appreciated, at least within New York and by a museum.
How did you decide on the final number of artists featured in this triennial?
We felt we couldn’t add any more or we could compromise the individual installation areas given to each artist!
How would you advise people who are not totally immersed in the art world (and may not have awareness or context around the work these artists are doing) to experience this show?
I would say they should try and experience it just like anyone else. Give the works time, and if you want to dig deeper, see our lengthy wall texts or the catalog. I don’t think art requires context to be experienced, but if people want it (I do!), it’s easily available. You can also watch Casey Jane Ellison’s show Touching the Art, specifically her episode on “Biennials and Triennials,” for a comedic introduction. It’s online and playing in the lobby of the museum.
The 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience runs through May 24, 2015, at 235 Bowery (at Prince St.) Hours are Tues.–Sun. 11a.m.–6p.m. General admission is $16. On Thursdays, the New Museum stays open until 9 p.m. and from 7 p.m.–9 p.m. General admission is “Pay-What-You-Wish.”