1. Darren Almond Artist Talk

    May 9, 1999

    Summing up the work of British artist Darren Almond is difficult. He is a sculptor and a video artist whose work by all outward appearance, even when grouped by medium, remains incredibly disparate. What distinguishes it as a body of work, however, is his fascination with time. Time, whether addressed directly or indirectly, is the content of artists far too many to mention. As for Almond's investigation into the subject, his work neither aspires toward the purity of mathematics nor the poetry of metaphysics. Instead, Almond aspires toward the existentialist mechanics of man-made time. It hardly matters if time is systematically differentiated into seconds, minutes, hours and days, or subjectively undifferentiated as in the process of waiting or forgetting.

    The subject of Almond's work -as monumental as the holocaust or as ineffable as boredom- all fall before the clock's indifference whether the clock is as small as one found on a hotel nightstand or as large as the one we call history. According to Almond's work, time is the ultimate institution whether it is captured through a video portrait of an inverted, floating train as in Schwebebahn (1995) or the sculptural works using digital clocks and ceiling fans or his real-time, live-feed videos - A Real Time Piece (1996) set in his vacated studio and H.M.P. Pentonville (1997) set in an empty prison cell.

    For his exhibition at the Society, Almond will present a group of videos and sculptures from the past few years and will feature the debut of Traction, a new video work starring the artist's parents. The title is a play on the two meanings of the word -to grip and to suspend one's limbs following an injury. The video features an interview the artist conducted with his father while his mother listens in a separate setting. Son asks father: When was the first time you saw your own blood? This frightening question begins a recounting of Almond Senior's injuries acquired through work and play, reflections that recall Sartre's famous statement from Being and Nothingness that the body is not so much the place of being as it is the alienated property of being. With a thick, northern England, working-class brogue, Almond Senior relives each scar on his body as the site of an event, the body becoming a kind of geography. Traction is ultimately a mixture of tender mercies and hard knocks as tales involving breaks, fractures and missing teeth are transmitted from father to son while a mother listens at times astonished and at times amused. Although Almond Senior's sounds like a hard life, Traction does little to undermine the life-as-game metaphor. The final impression is that it just happens to be one along the lines of a very harsh rugby match. After listening to Almond Senior it is not a question of whether there are winners or losers against the game-clock of life, but whether there are days when one ought to count oneself amongst the players or instead consider oneself the ball.

    # vimeo.com/16566837 Uploaded
  2. Shahzia Sikander Artist Talk

    March 8, 1998

    interviewed by Homi Bhabha, cultural critic and Professor of English at The University of Chicago.

    The Renaissance Society presents the midwestern museum debut of Pakistani artist Shahzia Sikander. Trained in the art of the Indian and Persian miniature, Sikander uses traditional materials and techniques such as vegetable dyes, tea stains, burnished wasli papers, and watercolor to address issues of gender and heritage. Exploring new formats and scale, her unorthodox self portraits investigate the personal and psychological spaces between cultures. Her exhibition at the Society features a few dozen of her innovative miniatures as well as large-scale wall paintings.

    # vimeo.com/16566608 Uploaded
  3. Mark Manders
    Artists Talk

    September 13, 2003

    The Art Institute of Chicago and The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago will co-present a single, ambitious exhibition of new sculptures and drawings by Amsterdam-based artist Mark Manders this fall. The project, entitled Isolated Rooms, will be on view at the Art Institute from September 13, 2003 to January 4, 2004, and at The Renaissance Society from September 14 to November 2, 2003. This two-part exhibition is the Dutch artist's first one-person museum exhibition in the United States. It also marks another remarkable collaboration between the Art Institute and The Renaissance Society following the Thomas Hirschhorn exhibition in 2000 two venues that share a commitment to bring the very best in international contemporary art to the city of Chicago.

    Born in 1968, Manders belongs to a generation of post-minimal sculptors whose work is unabashedly grounded in narrative. In this respect, his significant precursors include Robert Gober, Juan Munoz, Kiki Smith, and Miroslaw Balka, to name a few. Manders, however, uses the figure sparingly, relying instead on alterations and configurations of everyday objects and architectural fixtures to create disturbingly quizzical tableaux and installations that evoke the feeling of absence rather than presence. Subjectivity and identity are questioned rather than asserted through naturalistic rendering of the human form. Although interested in narrative, Manders’ generation has inherited, via figures such as Bruce Nauman, a healthy skepticism regarding the time-honored creed of breathing life into inert materials. Stripped of such noble sentiment, sculptors no longer partake in a positivist anthropomorphism, converting objects into organisms; instead organisms are rendered as objects.

    In Manders’s case, the organism is the self and the object is a series of rooms that amount to a building, or what he has dubbed Self-Portrait as a Building, an ongoing project that the artist has developed over the past 17 years. This project, a piece of purely imaginary architecture, represents a larger, perpetually unrealized whole. Dozens of rooms are designated to contain Manders's many handmade artifacts and objects. For the artist, small provisional ?oor plans reveal the locations of all objects and their precise juxtapositions within the context of the larger project. The framework provides the artist with a system of coordinates, an archive, an encyclopedia of references and meanings, and a forum for experimentation, all in one.

    Manders makes no distinction between the figure and the figurative, the figurative and the literal, the literal and the literary. His sculptural vocabulary can be read and its parts recombined with new work to form open-ended verse that change from one exhibition to the next, and are exhibited in fragmentary statesas is the case with Isolated Rooms. The work is driven by poetic narratives whose syntax consists of ideas and personal experiences rendered in discreet object form. It does not, however, function as hermetic, self-referential poetry as much as it does a rhetorical, bleak humor. Manders’s poignant object choices, with their references to office, factory, alley, laboratory, or cinderblock hut, conjure an all too familiar alienation, one that hints at Franz Kafka’s absurdist bureaucracy, George Orwell’s utterly instrumentalized humanity, or the humorous intellectual dry heaving characteristic of, say, Samuel Beckett. Manders’s rodent, a recurring motif, has assumed varying degrees of representation with his installations, from the inclusion of actual taxidermied rats to large, abstract, biomorphic rat-like forms. It recalls a line from the French poet Paul Celan that, “There are still songs to sing beyond humankind.” Likewise, Manders's vision suggests a post-humanist world in which questions of who we are, only be arrived at through a consideration of what we are, as gleaned through the settings and objects we make of ourselves and for ourselves.

    Mark Manders was born in 1968 in Volke, The Netherlands. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2000), Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (1998) and The Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1994). Important group exhibitions include Sonsbeek 9, Arnhem (2001), 49th Venice Biennale (2001), and XXIV Bienal de São Paolo (1999). His work was also included in Documenta 11, Kassel and Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at The Museum of Modern Art (2002).

    # vimeo.com/16512759 Uploaded
  4. Allora and Calzadilla
    Wake Up: Artists Talk
    March 04 – April 15, 2007

    Featuring new compositions by trumpeters:
    Jaimie Branch (USA)
    Stephen Burns (USA)
    Dennis Gonzalez (USA)
    Franz Hautzinger (Austria)
    Ingrid Jensen (USA)
    Leonel Kaplan (Argentina)
    Mazen Kerbaj (Lebanon)
    Paul Smoker (USA)
    Natsuki Tamura (Japan)
    Birgit Ulher (Germany)

    The collaborative artistic team of Jennifer Allora (b. 1974, USA) and Guillermo Calzadilla (b. 1971, Cuba) has been working together since 1995. A sense of play mixed with political critique exists in much of their work, which includes video, photography and sculpture, and occasional collaborations with activist groups. Allora and Calzadilla live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and many of their recent projects have centered on the nearby island of Vieques, which until 2003 was used by the United States as a bombing test site. With work that often directly involves viewers and local communities, as well as the exhibition location, the artists suggest new ways of confronting, responding to, and acting in the world. For this presentation, the artists will create a new work commissioned by The Society.

    # vimeo.com/16251010 Uploaded
  5. Allan Sekula: Polonia and Other Fables
    September 20 – December 13, 2009

    The Renaissance Society will present an exhibition of new work by photographer Allan Sekula. This new series, titled Polonia and Other Fables, critically documents and examines the social impact of global economics. Always aiming to position his work within an exhibition’s local community, Sekula will develop this project to focus on Chicago’s rich labor history, particularly on the large Polish immigrant population here.

    In addition to being outstanding documentary photography in its own right, Sekula's work is also a critique of the genre. Sekula's examination of the theory and practice of photography is as important as his inquiry into labor history and economics. Central to his work is an interest in documentation--as pictorial form, method of recording, narrative device, historical memory, and medium of social engagement. Sekula's work poses the rhetorical questions, "Is it possible to discuss photography as a medium separate from the thing being photographed?" Put another way, is a photograph in and of itself capable of being self reflexive while critiquing its subject? Sekula's answer is no. An integral part of his practice is writing, an activity he has maintained since the outset of his career 35 years ago. His writings expose the inherent limits of a documentary genre based purely on photographic imagery. Together, Sekula's images and text constitute a trenchant and rigorous photographic discourse on globalization.

    # vimeo.com/16102840 Uploaded

Artist/Gallery Talks at The Renaissance Society

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The Renaissance Society features artist talks and gallery tours accompanying each exhibition.

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