CHF: The Subversive Artist

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Naomi Beckwith

MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith. Photo by Paul Mpagi Sepuya.

Siebren Versteeg in conversation with Naomi Beckwith
part of the Richard Gray Visual Art Series

Artist Siebren Versteeg, whom New York Magazine called “every Harry Potter–loving/Hackers-watching/anti-capitalist computer geek’s idol,” writes his own software code, avails himself of online media and commercial databases, and creates high-tech works that critique the very sources he uses. In a way, his art shows us that our digital reality is not so real. So far his approach has resulted in works such as Dynamic Ribbon Device, which renders the Associated Press’s Internet feed in the shape of the Coca-Cola logo. He discusses his work and the role of the artist in the digital age with Naomi Beckwith, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

The Dialogue 2011

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The Dialogue

The Dialogue: The MCA Chicago’s annual conversation on museums, diversity, and inclusion; September 15, 2010. Photography © Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Photographer, Jacob Boll.

On Wednesday, September 7, the MCA hosted the fourth iteration of The Dialogue, our seminal fall event that turns the MCA Theater into a live chat room. Together we delved into pressing issues of diversity and inclusion facing museums today. This year we focused on Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and the early 1990s that is changing the way we experience everything. As this generation comes of age, values related to self-identity, including notions of race and culture, are shifting profoundly. Museums and cultural organizations must attempt to understand these profound changes and their implications to develop a new sense of where and how people produce and engage with art. This might mean that organizations, such as the MCA, should not only rethink who and what we present but also the very ideologies that underlie our collecting, presentation, and interpretive activities.

Grounded in new ethnographic research of Chicago Millennials, the preliminary findings of which were shared by the Museums in the Park Marketing Committee, this dynamic evening featured Hennessy Youngman, YouTube’s most followed art theorist; Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Michelle T. Boone; and our newest curator, Naomi Beckwith, formerly of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Recorded Sept 7, 2011, 6 pm.

Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson: 1957 / 2009 (detail), 2009. Courtesy the artist and Salon94, New York.

Renowned for photographs, videos and text-works that challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history, and memory, Lorna Simpson discusses her process and her most recent work, placing it in context within the larger span of her practice. Over the last five years, Simpson has been creating works that draw from an archive of photographs from the 1950s, complicating the historical images by creating her own replicas of these, posing herself to mimic the originals. The MCA Chicago organized Lorna Simpson’s first traveling museum exhibition in 1992, and most recently featured early works by the artists in the exhibition Rewind 1970s to 1990s: Works from the MCA Collection. Her work is included in the upcoming 2012 MCA exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s. Recorded Saturday, April 2, 2011, 3 pm.

Sarah Thornton: Artists at Work

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Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton. Photo: Lou Keating.

Sarah Thornton writes about art, the art world, and the art market. Renowned for her book Seven Days in the Art World, she discusses her new research project about the working lives and identities of contemporary artists. Michael Darling, MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, interviews Dr. Thornton. Recorded Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 7 pm.

Susan Philipsz

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Susan Philipsz

Susan Philipsz. Photo: Taavetti Alin; Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Scottish artist Susan Philipsz, winner of the 2010 Turner Prize, shares the ideas and processes that generated We Shall Be All, a new sound installation that draws from Chicago’s political and labor history. Commissioned for the MCA Collection, it will be presented beginning February 26. Philipsz frames this new piece within the context of her previous work and describes her interest in the sculptural properties of sound and the power of songs. Recorded Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 6 pm.

Elizabeth Francis: Architecture and the Environment

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Elizabeth Francis

Elizabeth Francis. Photo: Mattia Candiotti.

How does where we live affect our understanding of our environment? Elizabeth Francis, an architect keenly interested in architectural research and sustainability, takes us on a journey to explore this question. She discusses examples of integrated design from her work with the firm Mario Cucinella Architects and her current projects under atelierFrancis, which incorporate research, architecture, and art. She brings the question of environment home as she reflects on the realities of being a working woman in Italy today. Recorded Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 6 pm.

Home Base: Michael Darling, Michelle Grabner, and Lane Relyea in Conversation

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Drew Heitzler

Drew Heitzler at The Suburban, May 2009. Photo credit: The Suburban.

What does it mean to characterize an artist by where they live and work? And similarly, what does it mean for a collection to be of a place — to reflect a museum’s history and artistic community, to be shaped by the dynamics of a city, to be used by and be seen as part of the locale where it lives? The MCA’s new James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling, artist and writer Michelle Grabner, and critic Lane Relyea delve into these questions, looking at examples from the United States and internationally. Recorded Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 6 pm.

Helen Molesworth on Luc Tuymans

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Helen Molesworth

Helen Molesworth. Photo Credit: John Kennard.

Helen Molesworth, co-curator of the exhibition Luc Tuymans, discusses Tuymans’s work. She helps us contextualize it and consider how the mechanisms he uses intentionally establish a psychically charged relationship between the viewers, his subjects, and the paintings themselves. Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 6 pm.

Calder and Contemporary Art II: Sculpting with Air

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Martin Boyce

Martin Boyce, Fear Meets the Soul, 2008. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Modern Institute/Toby Webster, Ltd., Glasgow. Photo: Jean Vong

Modern master Alexander Calder treated air as material, mobility as strategy, and sculptural form as carefully balanced prop. In this closing conversation, UCLA professor and art historian George Baker, and Glasgow-based artist Martin Boyce, look at the roots of these approaches in Calder’s sculptures and in Boyce’s own work, and help us consider their current relevance in an increasingly provisional, weightless, and contingent world. Recorded Saturday, October 16, 2010, 3 pm.

History, Violence, Disquiet

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Luc Tuymans

Luc Tuymans, Leopard, 2000; Collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; © Luc Tuymans; photo by Ben Blackwell; courtesy David Zwirner, New York

How do we reckon with modern history’s traumas? How do the arts confront the fragmented and distancing narratives of violence presented in mass media? And how does art today conjure a psychic state that allows us to sense, question, and re-envision the collective stories of the present and past century?

This afternoon symposium explores these questions through literature, experimental theater, and visual art. Opening with an introduction by MCA Pritzker Director and Luc Tuymans co-curator Madeleine Grynsztejn, the program features a reading by writer Aleksandar Hemon; a conversation with members of the performance group Superamas; and a conversation with artist Luc Tuymans led by curator and writer Hamza Walker.

Recorded Saturday, October 2, 2010, 1 pm.