Weinberg/Newton Gallery presents All That Glows in the Dark of Democracy with ACLU

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Weinberg/Newton Gallery presents All That Glows in the Dark of Democracy with ACLU
Aram Han Sifuentes, Official Unofficial Voting Station: Voting for All Who Legally Can’t, 2020.

CHICAGO, IL.- Weinberg/Newton Gallery is partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to present All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy, July 29 – October 1, with the opening reception taking place July 29, 5 - 7pm. The exhibition will kick off the ACLU of Illinois’s 2022 Engagement Series on Democracy titled “We the People” and will feature artworks that present a range of perspectives on democracy as a concept both in theory and in practice. Rather than presuming a universal definition of the term, these artists offer entry points into a dialogue via various media and modes of sensory engagement. Interactive installations, sculpture and video, including newly commissioned site-specific works, invite viewers to think critically about elections, monuments, public and private space, and national symbols. The artists featured are Alejandro T. Acierto, Kandis Friesen, Hannah Givler, Aram Han Sifuentes, Ariana Jacob and Aay Preston-Myint.

All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy is curated by Weinberg/Newton Gallery Director Kasia Houlihan and presented in partnership with the ACLU of Illinois.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of related programs, including youth-focused family days, storytelling events, and a panel discussion on civic engagement. WNG Family Days feature hands-on art making activities for all ages, created and led by artists, educators and activists. Free and open to the public, the All That Glows in the Dark of Democracy Family Day event will take place Sunday, July 31, from 1-3 pm. Attendees will be able to learn about the ACLU of Illinois and make buttons and handheld fabric flags inspired by the work of exhibiting artist Aay Preston-Myint. All
materials, as well as refreshments and snacks, will be provided, and the event
will utilize WNG's indoor and outdoor spaces. Advanced registration is required
via this link.

"All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy has been a true collaboration with each of the artists since our first conversations about this unwieldy word, Democracy,” said Houlihan. “Their ideas for new pieces as well as an interest in revisiting previous work through a 2022 lens have shaped the exhibition into what it has become – a space that incites attunement, offering tangible ways not only to reflect, reconsider, and respond, but also to listen to a diverse range of viewpoints with diligence and
care. I hope that the questions posed by the artworks will continue to reverberate outside the gallery's walls and lead to messy, productive conversations around dinner tables across Chicago and beyond.”

The ACLU of Illinois’s 2022 “We the People” Engagement Series on Democracy serves as a response to the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the January 6 insurrection, and the increasing polarization of people across the country.
It will serve as a tool to: (1) investigate the collective feeling of “democracy in crisis,"(2) provide a platform for the ACLU and its partners to share their efforts around the issue and (3) inspire others to take action and promote societal change. In an effort to counter the “us versus them” mentality that has permeated the current climate, the campaign asks– “do not tell us what you are against; tell us what you are for.” In conjunction with All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy, the Engagement Series will launch in July, run through the duration of the exhibition and extend through November’s midterm election with a series of additional events and actions.

“In recent years, authoritarian-leaning forces, including white nationalists, have attacked the fundamental principles of our democracy, including the right to vote,” said Colleen K. Connell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois.“We are pleased to join with Weinberg/Newton Gallery to explore how each of us can use art and activism to strengthen our democracy. We look forward to expanding our partnership through this vital exhibition.”

Featured Works

In Alejandro T. Acierto’s performative sculpture, you, the murmur in the air (2016), visitors are encouraged to step on a raised platform and speak through a powered-on megaphone, a common utilitarian object that, when used in a specific context, acts as a symbol for political protest and a call to action. Placed away from the public sphere and within the confines of a closed-off gallery space, the piece questions accessibility—who is given a “soapbox” to voice their concerns, and who is left out of the conversation entirely?

Filmed across Ukraine in 2016, Kandis Friesen’s video Monuments / Monumental (2017) shows a series of tableaux vivants focused on the empty bases of former Lenin monuments. With their figures removed over the last thirty years–from the era of 1990s post-independence to the beginning of the controversial 2015 decommunization laws–they exist as public architecture in public space, as monuments to their own monumentality.

In a site-specific commission by Hannah Givler, a large-scale gabled roof structure adorned with sound-dampening fabric will span the width of the gallery. Givler’s piece will create a space hospitable to listening, and in turn, conducive to dialogue. The installation also points to the presence of politics in the domestic realm.

In Aram Han Sifuentes’s interactive installation, Official Unofficial Voting Station: Voting for All Who Legally Can’t (2016 - ongoing), four voting stations will occupy a portion of the gallery space that has been transformed with neon, black light and glow
in the dark embellishments. Visitors may submit “unofficial” ballots in ballot boxes and the vote tallies will be displayed on the gallery wall. Sifuentes’s piece speaks to disenfranchisement and eligibility within the American voting system, questioning who and who does not have a say in the country’s political future. In particular, Official Unofficial Voting Station: Voting for All Who Legally Can't addresses immigrant minority populations and others who experience obstacles and barriers in the voting

Ariana Jacob’s The American Society for Personally Questioning Political Questions Newspaper (2012/2022), a decade-old work, will be revisited for All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy. In 2012, Jacob spent time across the United States interviewing people of both conservative and libertarian political beliefs, questioning them about what they considered irrational about left-wing or liberal viewpoints. The project was an attempt to understand the growing political divide taking place in the United States, culminating in a limited-run black and white newspaper composed of written descriptions and images taken from interviews. For this exhibition, Jacob will present a portable campaign office for The American Society for Personally Questioning Political
Questions, featuring campaign fliers, a banner and the 2012 newspaper, which
will be available for visitors to take.

In Weinberg/Newton Gallery’s courtyard, Aay Preston-Myint will install Proposal for a new flag for the United States of America (2010), a lavender-colored flag made of satin. Preston-Myint’s practice employs both visual and collaborative strategies to investigate memory and kinship, specifically within the context of queer identity and history. Proposal for a new flag for the United States of America subverts the traditional iconography of the American flag by imagining a new version using a color
associated with the LGBTQ+ community, which has been historically excluded and
persecuted by the United States government.

Together with the ACLU of Illinois’s 2022 Engagement Series on Democracy, All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy demonstrates an unflagging commitment to hope fueled by an insistence on action. It reminds us that progress takes many forms, that it is ongoing, and it occurs on a number of planes–from the living room to the city block, the national and the global stage, both on the ground and in the collective imagination.

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