Guggenheim presents a new film installation by Wu Tsang

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Guggenheim presents a new film installation by Wu Tsang
Wu Tsang, Anthem, 2021. Color video, with sound, with fabric and carpet, dimensions vary with installation. © Wu Tsang. Rendering by Lucie Rebeyrol.

NEW YORK, NY.- Wu Tsang: Anthem is on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. It is the final project in Re/Projections: Video, Film, and Performance for the Rotunda, a series of four distinct presentations that reimagine the Guggenheim’s rotunda as a space for navigating tensions between collective and individual experience.

Wu Tsang: Anthem is organized by X Zhu-Nowell, Assistant Curator. The exhibition text is written by X Zhu-Nowell, in collaboration with musicologist Frederick Cruz Nowell.

A new work by artist Wu Tsang commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum, Anthem (2021), was conceived in collaboration with the legendary singer, composer, and transgender activist Beverly Glenn-Copeland and harnesses the Guggenheim’s cathedral-like acoustics to construct what the artist calls a “sonic sculptural space.” This site-specific installation revolves around an immense, eighty-four-foot curtain sculpture suspended from the oculus. Projected onto this luminous textile is a “film-portrait” Tsang created of Glenn-Copeland improvising and singing passages of his music, including original a cappella melodies and his rendition of the spiritual “Deep River.” Conjuring an alluring and reverberant aura, Anthem weaves Glenn-Copeland’s music into a larger tapestry of other voices and sounds placed throughout the museum’s circular ramp, building a soundscape that wraps around the space. Working in collaboration with the musician Kelsey Lu and the DJ, producer, and composer Asma Maroof, Tsang developed this arrangement of sounds as a series of improvisatory responses inspired by the call of Glenn-Copeland’s voice. Visitors are encouraged to traverse upward from the bottom of the museum to the top of the building, and vice versa, and explore how Anthem ascends and descends along the spiral path.

The title of this exhibition, Anthem, draws from lesser-known histories of the word, which then meant antiphon, a style of call-and-response singing associated with music as a spiritual practice. Unlike a conventional anthem, which amplifies the power of a song through loudness and uniform sound, this installation enhances the call of Glenn-Copeland’s voice by combining it with ambiguous vocal timbres, changing tints of ambient sound, and other heterogeneous sonic and visual textures. Within this lush yet complicated auditory environment, Tsang’s Anthem also cultivates moments of quiet, rest, and reflection, reimagining the rotunda as a compassionate atmosphere for collective listening and looking.

Wu Tsang: Anthem is part of Re/Projections: Video, Film, and Performance for the Rotunda, a 2021 series comprising In Between Days: Video from the Guggenheim Collections (March 19 to April 19), organized by Nat Trotman, Curator, Performance and Media; Christian Nyampeta: Sometimes It Was Beautiful (April 30 to June 21), organized by Xiaoyu Weng, former Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Associate Curator; and Ragnar Kjartansson: Romantic Songs of the Patriarchy (July 2 to July 5) organized by Nat Trotman, with Terra Warren, Curatorial Assistant, which was originally commissioned by C Project and curated by Tom Eccles, and premiered at the Women’s Building, San Francisco, in 2018.

Each of these four varied presentations draws on the building’s unique capacity for distanced gathering to create frameworks for dialogue and mutual care. The experimental approach behind Re/Projections is designed to privilege multiple voices while remaining nimble in a moment of economic and public health crises. With its focus on video, film, and performance, the series also celebrates acts of embodiment, storytelling, and interpersonal connection.

Wu Tsang (b. 1982, Worcester, Mass.) has presented at museums and film festivals internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Tate Modern, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunsthalle Münster; Gropius Bau, Berlin; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Nottingham Contemporary; Berlinale Film Festival, Berlin; SANFIC, Santiago; Hot Docs Festival, Toronto; and South by Southwest Film Festival, Austin. She has received grants from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She is currently an artistic director in residence at the Schauspielhaus, Zurich.

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