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Indianapolis Museum of Art to Host Video Exhibition Examining the Practice of Adaptation in Contemporary Video Art

INDIANAPOLIS, IN.- The Indianapolis Museum of Art announced that it will host the exhibition Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan, and Sussman & The Rufus Corporation, an exhibition organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago. In six video installations adapted from source material, the exhibition addresses questions of fidelity and creativity while generating new understandings of the use of adaptation in contemporary art. Adaptation will open May 8, 2009 in the IMA’s McCormack Forefront Galleries and the Carmen & Mark Holeman Video Gallery, and continue through August 16, 2009.

While adaptation is a common practice in popular culture—familiar to moviegoers and booklovers who debate endlessly whether the film version is superior to the novel—it is perhaps less well known as a practice in contemporary art. This exhibition looks at the use of adaptation in the recent work of four leading artists: Guy Ben-Ner, Arturo Herrera, Catherine Sullivan, and Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation. These artists have transformed source material to make their own adapted works of art, re-envisioning classic literature, film, ballet, e-mail and painting as new video installations. The exhibition includes Sussman’s The Rape of the Sabine Women and Les Noces, Herrera’s first video installation, both of which made their U.S. museum premiere at the Smart Museum of Art in 2008.

“Artists have practiced adaptation throughout art history, primarily through painted or sculpted depictions of historical, biblical or mythical accounts,” said Sarah Urist Green, assistant curator of contemporary art at the IMA. “With this exhibition, we have the remarkable opportunity to observe this practice alive and well in the contemporary medium of video, which is especially suited to the subject of malleability and translation.”

Adaptation is a tightly focused exhibition: Each of the four artists is represented by one or two significant video installations. The works include Guy Ben-Ner’s Moby Dick (2000) and Wild Boy (2004), respectively adapted from Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel and François Truffaut’s film L’enfant sauvage (The Wild Child, 1970); Arturo Herrera’s Les Noces (The Wedding, 2007), an animated adaptation of the ballet of the same name by Igor Stravinsky; Catherine Sullivan’s Triangle of Need (2007), developed in collaboration with composer Sean Griffin and choreographer Dylan Skybrook, as well as a smaller-scale new work developed in collaboration with students from the University of Chicago; and Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation’s The Rape of the Sabine Women (2006), inspired in part by Jacques-Louis David’s 1799 painting, The Intervention of the Sabine Women. Together, these works offer a complementary range of source materials, methods of presentation, and approaches to adaptation. Building on familiar notions of adaptation—and a substantial body of scholarship in the fields of literature, theater and film—the exhibition generates an interdisciplinary conversation about use of adaptation in contemporary art.

Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan, and Sussman & The Rufus Corporation is organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago. The exhibition is curated by Stephanie Smith, Smart Museum Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Contemporary Art. Adaptation is supported by the Office of the Provost and the Arts Council, University of Chicago, the Feitler Family Fund, Larry and Marilynn Fields, Susan and Lewis Manilow, Dirk Denison, and the members and friends of the Smart Museum.

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