Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A is the first survey exhibition of Polish-born artist Goshka Macuga whose work interweaves two popular new trends in contemporary art: an interest in historical and archival research, and the dialogue between artistic and curatorial practice. Presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago
from December 15, 2012 to April 7, 2013, Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A features a selection of large-scale sculptures, tapestry, and a participatory installation, emphasizing the medium of collage as the governing principle of her art. The exhibition is curated by Dieter Roelstraete, Manilow Senior Curator at the MCA Chicago.
Many of Macugas research-intensive installations are collaborative, often incorporating the work of other artists, both living and dead. Initially, her projects addressed overlooked traditions in art history, but more recently her work has taken a political turn, featuring post-Soviet Poland or the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a backdrop. Many of these recent projects question arts relationship to the world and to larger power structures.
The title of the exhibition, Exhibit, A, refers to Macugas interest in the history of exhibition design and strategies of display, as well in the idea of proof and legal evidence. It also highlights the curatorial viewpoint that informs many of her artistic choices. Among her internationally known installations on view is The Nature of the Beast (2010), which incorporates a reproduction of Picassos famous painting Guernica, which was hung in the United Nations as a deterrent to war. It was notably covered up during Colin Powells 2003 speech to the Security Council on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Macugas interpretation of these events incorporates a war room-like layout, with Guernica framing a round table filled with archival images and documents, along with a bronze sculpture depicting Powell during his address. MCA Chicago visitors and local groups may schedule meetings and discussions around this table during the run of the show, bringing life to the installation, and challenging traditional notions of gallery behavior.
Much of Macugas work relies on the cumulative effect of association. Her projects often involve assembling a range of works, images, facts, and figures from disparate sources to produce a densely woven fabric of visual clues. This method takes shape, for example, in a faux-concrete monument, Model for a Sculpture (Family), and Notice Board, a vast expanse of documents copied from the original site in Poland.
Macuga has become especially interested in the tradition of tapestry -- a literal incarnation of the art of weaving together different elements to generate new meanings. Macuga has produced two large-scale tapestries which have their US debut during Exhibit, A: Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not 1, on display at the MCA Chicago, and Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not 2, on exhibit at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. The two-part work was commissioned for the recent dOCUMENTA (13), and the two photo-based black-and-white tapestries are meant to be exhibited simultaneously but not together in the same place. Part 1 depicts a diverse crowd of Afghans and Westerners in front of Darul Aman Palace outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, while Part 2, originally exhibited in Kabul, shows an art-world crowd and protesters gathering outside of the Orangerie in Kassel. Both scenes are conceived as complementary halves of an elusive truth. This is the first time the diptych has been shown in separate art institutions within one city.
Born in Poland in 1967, Macuga has been based in London since 1989. Her work was included in the 2006 Liverpool Biennial, the 5th Berlin Biennial (2008), the 53rd Venice Biennial (2009), and Documenta (13) (2012). She was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2008 and has had solo exhibitions at Tate Britain (2007), Kunsthalle Basel (2009), Whitechapel Gallery in London (2010), the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (both 2011).