Not to Eat But to Think: The 2022 Whitney Biennial


Barker’s piece gains a further more drive in its use of translucent plastic, which grants it a form of spectral high-quality. And it benefits from the ghostly footprint of Liza Lou’s beaded “Kitchen” (1991-6), which was just lately proven at the Whitney as component of Creating Being aware of—and which is commonly found as arguing for the dignity of domestic (and presumably female) labor. Barker’s piece calls focus, by distinction, to indignity: a feeling designed manifest in a nearby stack of extra than 7,000 sheets of paper comprising six months’ of professional medical information and bills relevant to Barker’s hospitalization adhering to a spinal twine damage. The tidy stack of paper is a wasteful index that speaks damningly of the numbing bureaucracy and curt inhumanity of our healthcare method.

But can rigid administrative logic possibly be deconstructed, or reimagined? Rayyane Tabet’s clever “100 Civics Queries,” an set up scattered throughout the Whitney, implies that it can be. Born in Beirut and at present an applicant for US citizenship, Tabet was struck by the phrasings of some of the issues in the official examine guideline for the US naturalization exam. Some of them read, the artist realized, just about like concrete poetry, whilst other folks contained an unintentionally open up-ended part. Encountered in a stairwell, the concern What did the Emancipation Proclamation do? appears to be both rudely confrontational and wildly unanswerable.

The unexpected abruptness of the queries functions as a form of parody of the test—which depends on the fiction that there is a pat, appropriate response to every single problem. But Tabet’s piece also delivers a powerful lens as a result of which to think about the unfolding current. In the wake of the leaked Supreme Courtroom conclusion regarding abortion legal rights, the concern What stops a single department of government from becoming too effective? acquires a poignant component. And, ultimately, the way in which the issues pop up all over the Whitney conveys a provocative indifference to conventional geographies. If boundaries are just traditional, and seemingly essential thoughts about nationwide id change out to be gnomic, what may possibly it in fact imply to be American?

Boiling a show of this scale down to 4 works is a essentially reductive training, and it ignores lots of other works of merit. I’m imagining, for occasion, of Danielle Dean’s watercolors featuring landscapes extrapolated from old Ford adverts, with the cars excised and occasional references to Amazon inserted: the ensuing scenes are a beguiling mashup of Thomas Hart Benton, extraction capitalism, and business imagery. Jane Dickson’s patient paintings of signage from Periods Sq. in a seedier, 1980s incarnation are well worth a glance in their rewarding blend of textual content, impression, and memory. And Rose Salane’s exhibit of hundreds of objects utilised to shell out MTA bus fares—from a penny flattened at the Burj Khalifa to casino tokens—is a lively proof of the sheer ingenuity of city-dwellers, and a concrete visualization of an improvised global circulatory system.

This is an emphatically various display, with entries that span a large selection of media and tonal registers. But if you’re looking for a form of thesis or revealing punctum, I’m not certain you can do any much better than a remark by the sculptor Charles Ray, in a wall textual content accompanying his 3 sculptures. “I go to Burger King each working day,” statements Ray, “not to eat but to think.”

It’s a cryptic, willfully contrarian remark. But it’s also a shockingly crisp summation of the suggestions guiding this present. In its everyday art historical allusiveness (Warhol: “I used to have the similar lunch each individual day”), its neat privileging of the cerebral more than the bodily, and its inventive repurposing of a bureaucratic structure, it is in tune with several of the other works in the Biennial. And then, eventually, there’s the actuality that even coming into a Burger King was flatly extremely hard for significantly of 2020 and 2021. Ray thus summarizes a type of COVID-induced vertigo that powers this demonstrate. Even as it is unnerving to notice that the mere possibility of sitting in a quickly-food items restaurant may be a induce for celebration, it’s even far more jarring to understand that doing so regularly may yield visions of a globe preferable to the just one that we know.



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