Not to Eat But to Think: The 2022 Whitney Biennial

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Barker’s piece gains a further more pressure in its use of translucent plastic, which grants it a type of spectral top quality. And it gains from the ghostly footprint of Liza Lou’s beaded “Kitchen” (1991-6), which was not too long ago shown at the Whitney as element of Creating Knowing—and which is widely witnessed as arguing for the dignity of domestic (and presumably woman) labor. Barker’s piece calls awareness, by distinction, to indignity: a sensation created manifest in a close by stack of additional than 7,000 sheets of paper comprising 6 months’ of health care records and costs relevant to Barker’s hospitalization next a spinal wire injury. The tidy stack of paper is a wasteful index that speaks damningly of the numbing forms and curt inhumanity of our health care procedure.

But can rigid administrative logic perhaps be deconstructed, or reimagined? Rayyane Tabet’s intelligent “100 Civics Queries,” an set up scattered all through the Whitney, implies that it can be. Born in Beirut and now an applicant for US citizenship, Tabet was struck by the phrasings of some of the queries in the formal examine guide for the US naturalization check. Some of them go through, the artist realized, pretty much like concrete poetry, even though many others contained an unintentionally open up-finished component. Encountered in a stairwell, the problem What did the Emancipation Proclamation do? appears to be both equally rudely confrontational and wildly unanswerable.

The unexpected abruptness of the inquiries works as a type of parody of the test—which relies on the fiction that there is a pat, proper reply to just about every question. But Tabet’s piece also delivers a powerful lens by way of which to contemplate the unfolding current. In the wake of the leaked Supreme Court selection regarding abortion rights, the issue What stops 1 branch of federal government from turning out to be far too impressive? acquires a poignant factor. And, finally, the way in which the queries pop up throughout the Whitney conveys a provocative indifference to common geographies. If boundaries are simply common, and seemingly basic issues about countrywide identification transform out to be gnomic, what could it really necessarily mean to be American?

Boiling a demonstrate of this scale down to four is effective is a always reductive physical exercise, and it ignores many other is effective of benefit. I’m imagining, for instance, of Danielle Dean’s watercolors that includes landscapes extrapolated from outdated Ford advertisements, with the cars and trucks excised and occasional references to Amazon inserted: the resulting scenes are a beguiling mashup of Thomas Hart Benton, extraction capitalism, and industrial imagery. Jane Dickson’s affected person paintings of signage from Moments Square in a seedier, 1980s incarnation are effectively truly worth a appear in their gratifying mix of textual content, impression, and memory. And Rose Salane’s show 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 evidence of the sheer ingenuity of metropolis-dwellers, and a concrete visualization of an improvised world-wide circulatory program.

This is an emphatically various exhibit, with entries that span a vast range of media and tonal registers. But if you’re looking for a form of thesis or revealing punctum, I’m not positive you can do any improved than a remark by the sculptor Charles Ray, in a wall text accompanying his three sculptures. “I go to Burger King each working day,” promises Ray, “not to take in but to feel.”

It is a cryptic, willfully contrarian remark. But it is also a astonishingly crisp summation of the thoughts driving this display. In its everyday art historic allusiveness (Warhol: “I employed to have the same lunch just about every day”), its neat privileging of the cerebral above the bodily, and its inventive repurposing of a bureaucratic composition, it is in tune with many of the other functions in the Biennial. And then, last but not least, there’s the reality that even moving into a Burger King was flatly impossible for substantially of 2020 and 2021. Ray so summarizes a sort of COVID-induced vertigo that powers this clearly show. Even as it is unnerving to understand that the mere likelihood of sitting in a fast-food stuff restaurant might be a bring about for celebration, it’s even extra jarring to recognize that undertaking so repeatedly may possibly yield visions of a earth preferable to the a person that we know.

 

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