The international, multigenerational group exhibition 9 Artists, on view at the Walker Art Center
through February 16, 2014 provocatively considers the mutable role of the artist in contemporary culture. Featuring artists with expansive practices, the show examines how artists today approach questions of biography and identity while negotiating an ever more complex and networked world. Showcasing roughly 40 works, both past and new, 9 Artists features a range of sculpture, painting, installation, video, and ephemera by Yael Bertana, Danh Vo, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Renzo Martens, Bjarne Melgaard, Hito Steyerl, Liam Gillick, and Nástio Mosquito.
Yael Bartana (b. 1970) is an Israeli artist who lives and works in Berlin. The exhibition features her dynamic video installation, and Europe will be stunned, which has received considerable international attention. The work tells the story of the rise of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, a quasi-fictional political group that calls for the return to that country of 3.3 million Jews. Ultimately, in a European context that has seen a resurgence in nationalism in recent years, the group becomes home to all who feel that citizenship should be organized around more than national, ethnic or religious identity.
A recent addition to the Walkers collection is artist Danh Vos (Danish, b. 1975, Vietnam, lives and works in Basel) absolute-granite sculpture, Tombstone for Phùng Vo, currently installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The work will leave Minneapolis upon the death of the artists father to adorn his grave in Copenhagen. 9 Artists also features a new presentation of Vos recent Guggenheim Museum/Hugo Boss Prize exhibition, I M U U R 2, based on the personal archive of deceased Lower East Side painter Martin Wong that was developed over many years in collaboration with his mother Florence Wong.
Natascha Sadr Haghighian abjures biography altogether, for instance she sees the artist résumé as a shorthand simplification that rates the individual according to past institutional affiliations, or regulates them according to conventional markers of identity (age, nationality, and so on). The exhibition features key works from
the last several years, and a newly commissioned work still in development, that
arises from a challenge by the artist to the website ArtFacts.net to stop collecting
her exhibition history and ranking her for an international art audience.
Dutch artist Renzo Martens (b. 1973), who lives and works in Brussels and Kinshasa,
is known for his satirical and disturbing video documentaries in which he travels to
war-torn countries and places himself narcissistically at the center of the action,
demonstrating how Western spectators consume distant trauma. For the Walker he
presents the work of the Institute for Human Activities, an organization he has
founded dedicated to the transformation through gentrification of a former
Unilever plantation 800 miles north of Kinshasa on the Congo River.
New York-based artist Bjarne Melgaard (Norwegian, b. Australia, 1967) produced
a newly commissioned work that dispenses with his usual immersive and
expressionistic installations in favor of a photographic memoir of his movements in
New York City. The cinematic quality of the presentation is accompanied by a
dance music soundtrack developed with artist Marie Karlberg.
9 Artists features the latest work by Berlin artist Hito Steyerl (b. 1966) How not
to be seen. A fucking didactic educational .MOV file, which debuted at the most recent
Venice Biennale and continues her long meditation on the nature of the image in
the digital age. Additionally a number of works on view by the artist have recently entered the Walkers permanent collection, including Steyerls famous Red Alert
(2007), which is composed of three-computer monitors with monochromatic red
glowing fields with which the artist claims to have reached the logical end of the
Though rarely discussed in relation to biography, at key moments in his 30 year career the New York-based artist Liam Gillick (b. 1964), raised in an Irish family in England in the 1970s and 80s, has turned to his own personal history to explain his particular abstract approach to language and art-making. The exhibition presents a series of projects from the last 20 years of the artists productionfrom graphic
vinyl wall texts, to giant Bloody Marys to glitter carpets.
Artist Nástio Mosquitos approach (b. 1981 in Angola, lives and works in Luanda)
finds form in his music, performances and videos, and the exhibition presents a
range of moving image works (including a newly commissioned piece) by one of the
artists alter egos Nástia, a Russian accented prognosticator, who discourses about
the world with a mixture of crude cliché, insight and satirical self-help dogma. In a
recent work, Mosquito declared, I do represent, if you are willing, the army of the
individuals. This statement could serve as a guiding motto for every artist included
in the exhibition. Their loyalty is to the individual, but not the individual who exists
in isolation, rather one who acts within a community, even if this community has
yet to be invented.