Cassandra Guan, Women's Times, 2014, cyanotypes, dimensions variable (detail)

As We Were Saying: Art and Identity in the Age of “Post”

September 12th – October 25th, 2014
Opening Reception: September 12th, 6 – 8 pm

EFA Project Space, located on the 2nd floor of EFA Center, 323 W. 39th Street in Manhattan

 
Participating Artists: A.K. Burns and Katherine Hubbard, Josh Faught, Nikita Gale, Cassandra Guan, Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden, Josh Kline, Ignacio Lang, Simone Leigh, Suzanne McClelland, The Filmballad of Mamadada*, Shelly Silver, Jason Simon, and Michael Wang

Curated by Claire Barliant

Does "identity politics" still matter? Maybe a better question would be: does difference still matter?

Since the mid-nineties, when interest in identity-centric issues began to wane, traditional categories based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, have been in question. Identities are now considered relational and fluid rather than inherent and fixed, and it is often stated that we have entered the age of “post”—post-racial, post-critical, post-AIDS. Passive retrospection has replaced active debate.  

The artists in this exhibition wrestle with the question of what identity and difference mean today. Works by A.K. Burns and Katherine Hubbard, Josh Faught, and Cassandra Guan reflect on the erosion of community by considering past moments when identity was a cornerstone of political change. Other artists, including Ignacio Lang, Suzanne McClelland, and Jason Simon, examine the way media shapes and constructs identities in a nuanced way, while Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden's The New York Times Feminist Reading Group is a public forum that encourages frank discussion about women’s rights. The question of what identity means now is
taken up by Josh Kline and Simone Leigh, who both explore new ways of representing the “other” through figuration; Nikita Gale, whose prints simultaneously pay homage to the legacy of identity politics while protesting being pigeonholed as an artist of color; and Shelly Silver, whose video gives a diverse group of New Yorkers a chance to air their views on subjects ranging from existence to economics. Michael Wang theorizes that difference still matters—and comments on the complications of hybridity—with a sculpture that encourages interaction between domestic and feral pigeons, the latter free to come and go as they wish through one of the gallery’s windows.  

Though these artists all have very different strategies and styles, each of them share a sense of responsibility to the past and the legacy of identity politics. If “the work of the past [is] incomplete,” as Walter Benjamin wrote in Theses on the Philopsopy of History, then, instead of blithely accepting the perturbingly neat category of “post,” the artists in this exhibition continue a conversation begun some thirty years ago.  

Related events:


Wednesday, October 8th, 6:30 PM:

The Unknown Play Project, led by Alexis Clements, involves a cross-country journey to explore shifting identities and politics among lesbians and queer women through the lens of a handful of lesbian & queer spaces. This project combines community-based play readings and documentary filmmaking. Join us for a discussion about the project and an informal reading of the play, UNKNOWN, that inspired it. Members of the EFA community, along with some of those who show up for the reading, will read the play aloud. Inspired by the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, NY, UNKNOWN asks how we come to know a person as something more than the role they play in our lives or the labels society applies to them.  
 
Saturday, October 18th, 3:00 PM:

Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden lead The New York Times Feminist Reading Group—a public forum that encourages frank discussion about women’s rights. Since 2009, Kennedy and Linden have been organizing periodic reading groups, free and open to all, dedicated to examining that day's issue of The New York Times. Reading groups have been held all over New York City and beyond, including at DISPATCH, P•P•O•W Gallery, the New Museum, and Murray Guy.
 
* The Filmballad of Mamadada is a collective production. For more information please visit www.mamadada.info

EFA Project Space and Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, programs of the Elizabeth Foundation of the Arts, present two companion exhibitions: As We Were Saying: Art and Identity in the Age of "Post" and Talking.

For press inquiries, please email Lauren Bierly, Assistant Director, EFA Project Space at lauren@efanyc.org.