Softly singing “Songs for Sabotage”

Tiril Hasselknippe, Balconies (støp i meg, støp), 2019, welded steel in three parts with colored light treatment

Contributed by Sharon Butler / “Songs for Sabotage,” the 2018 iteration of the New Museum Triennial, curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Francesca Altamura of the New Museum, and Alex Gartenfeld of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami, features elegantly installed, dimly-lit work by an international group of artists. Many of them have interdisciplinary practices comprising performance, installation, and more, but the work selected privileges making over technology, performance, or readymade objects. Perhaps this turn away from first-world approaches that leverage funding and tech acknowledges that, at some point, like Puerto Rico, we may face a post-technological, non-electrical future. The power grid may not be forever.

Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, If you want to help us you need to understand, Part 1, 2019, oil on canvas

At the same time, the curators have put together a show in which the notion of protest is wittingly slippery. Rather than announcing a belligerent call-to-arms, political ideas tend to lurk below beautiful surfaces and materials – as they must when risk of punishment and retribution is real. In the NYTimes, art critic Holland Cotter suggests that the show looks great but plays it safe, and that seems to be the point. Political artists enduring autocratic and dictatorial regimes are compelled by self-preservation to hide radical ideas behind skill and craft. In this country, artists have long enjoyed free speech hampered only by market forces and marginal hate-speech prohibitions; they have rarely faced serious consequences for overt political engagement. “Songs for Sabotage” is a primer on how to explore political disruption in a genuinely repressive environment, without seeming at first glance to challenge the status quo.

Lydia Ourahmane, Finitude, 2018, ash, chalk, steel, and looped sound
Anupam Roy, Surfaces of the Irreal, 2018
Anupam Roy, Surfaces of the Irreal, 2018
Tomm El-Saieh, 2017-2018, detail, acrylic on canvas
Tomm El-Saieh, 2017-2018, detail, acrylic on canvas
Dalton Paula, Boiadeiro, 2017, silver foil and oil on canvas
Manuel Solano, I Don’t Know Love, 2018, acrylic on canvas
Janiva Ellis, Curb Check Regular, Black Chick, 2018, oil on canvas
Claudia Martínez Garay, Cannon Fodder / Cheering Crowds, 2018, acrylic on wood
Claudia Martínez Garay, Cannon Fodder / Cheering Crowds, 2018, detail, acrylic on wood
Hardeep Pandhal, Black By Day, Red By Night (Mood Board), detail, 2018, graphite and paint markers
Violet Dennison, M.O.O.P., 2018, seagrass collected in the Florida Keys, resin, and electrical metallic tubing conduit
Chemu Ng’ok, In Denial, 2016, oil on canvas
Cian Dayrit, Civilized Society, 2017, oil on canvas
Zhenya Machneva, Project: Landscape #1 @ “On/Off”, 2012, woven cotton and linen

2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage,” curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, Kraus Family Curator at the New Museum, and Alex Gartenfeld, founding Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, with Francesca Altamura, Curatorial Assistant. The New Museum, LES, New York, NY. Through May 27, 2018.

Related posts:
An artist’s legacy
Web world: The New Museum’s 2015 Triennial
VERNACULAR: A painterly conversation about abstraction

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