1989: The Postcollapse in Art and Culture
Cerritos College Art Gallery, Norwalk
through October 6, 2022
Written by Austin Janisch
As a year whose mark upon not only contemporary society, but also the art world is well established, 1989 continues to function as a fount for the problematization of those both novel and recurrent issues enmeshed within contemporary artistic discourse. Presaging the dawn of a new epoch, the ensuing period acts as a critical framework for contextualizing contemporary art and practice. 1989: The Postcollapse in Art and Culture at the Cerritos College Art Gallery explores the prospect of the unknown envisioning the world to come by reflecting on that which has transpired.
Curated by the MinEastry of Postcollapse Art and Culture (MPAC), Ilknur Demirkoparan and Vuslat D. Katsanis, present the work of twenty-four international artists and art collectives. An artist-run space and think tank, MPAC is dedicated to exploring the global contemporary through postcollapse art and theory. Participating artists include: Silvia Amancei and Bogdan Armanu; Music X Habitat X Art (Amelie Jiang, Yaoyue Huang, Scott Lowell Sherman; Peter Christenson with Marta Stražičić and Tea Stražičić; Fung Yee Lick Eric; Lenka Holíková; Hagen Klennert; Vladan Kuzmanović; Naomi Middelmann; Esra Nesipoğulları; Frank Lahera O’Callaghan; Stas Orlovski; Kasia Ozga; Nathaniel C. Praska; Rodrigo Prian-García; Hamed Shafie; Monica Sheets; Maciek Stępniewski; Anna Syarova; Valdrin Thaqi; Igor Vaganov; Kate Walker; Charles Edward Williams; Klara Woźniak; and Keoni K. Wright.
Divided into two parts, 1989: The Postcollapse in Art and Culture features both art exhibition and video screening. Prominently displayed is the Postcollapse Manifesto. Functioning as a plinth, the manifesto states, “it [postcollapse art] recognizes the disappearance of meaning, the erasures of citizenships, exiles of people, and the paralyzed landscape as a reality to be reckoned with.” Foregrounded by the problematization of the emergent era, the presented artists act as both catalysts and skeptics of the massive changes unfolding around them.
Naomi Middelmann’s piece Memory Skins Series (a selection) (2021) explores both the formation and the retention of identity when its link to place is ever shifting. Recalling the American flag with its four horizontal red stripes and bracketed off uppermost left section, the Swiss artist’s multilayered piece features contour lines embedded into stretched gauze. An allusion to geographic place, the interwoven landscape combines with the national symbol to speak to the connection between space and identity when comprising one’s portrait of themselves. The flipping of the canvas to reveal the stretcher bars further frames the work as a portrait driving home the narrative of existent fluctuations between both personal and perceived identity.
A display of six photographs, Mexican artist Rodrigo Prian-García’s contribution Family Album Series (a selection) (2019) calls attention to the notion of erasure. Displayed within quotidian frames, the archival family photographs are sweetly familiar in that they recall those found within the home. Erasing figures to the point where only a silhouette remains, Prian-García showcases expunction as both process and product. Absence takes over for presence as the resultant images not only reflect upon loss and censorship, but also reveal the futility of deletion in both the face and resiliency of memory.
Fung Yee Lick Eric’s installation I Would Rather Hold My Breath Because Breathing You in Brings Tears to My Eye (2021) is an archival video on a flatscreen TV placed upon the gallery floor. Within a plastic bucket, a clunky television set is submerged in water collected from a dehumidifier. The set flickers through news broadcasts from Hong Kong based broadcasting company Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB). The installation critiques the legacy of censorship present in China while probing nascent issues surrounding media saturation.
As exhibitions dealing with both 1989 and the cascade of subsequent movements are aplenty, MPAC differentiates its presentation by providing an international array of perspectives as well as a contemporarily informed historiographical approach to the tempestuous year. Though temporally linked, the included artists stem from a multitude of cultural backgrounds and experiences that shape their perception of a postcollapse society. These artists function as interpreters translating their own experience of the absurd, the fragmented and definite into terms resonant with the perennially fluctuating boundlessness of contemporary society. Neither prescriptively hopeful nor pessimistic, the exhibition highlights a shared resiliency as works function as archive and agent.