IMMA opens Scene of the Myth, a major solo exhibition by artist Sarah Pierce

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IMMA opens Scene of the Myth, a major solo exhibition by artist Sarah Pierce
Sarah Pierce, Lost Illusions / Illusion perdues, 2014, video still.

DUBLIN.- IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art) is presenting Scene of the Myth, a major solo exhibition by artist Sarah Pierce that opened on Friday 24 March 2023. Guest curated by Rike Frank and the European Kunsthalle, this expansive exhibition consists of performances, videos, large-scale installations, and archives.

Sarah Pierce, who lives and works in Dublin, relocated to Ireland from the US in 2000. Rike Frank has brought together 12 works, spanning 20 years, to highlight patterns of making and thinking that define Pierce’s art practice. Borne out of relationships between narratives we reproduce and those we wish to leave behind, Scene of the Myth, asks what it means to gather, reflect and act in community.

The title of the exhibition stems from one of Pierce’s essays in which the artist describes social infrastructures, such as academies and museums, as moments through which the narratives and conventions of a historical past are re-constituted in the present. The scene of the myth is not an actual location; it is an occasion where knowledges, both inherited and invented, come to play. The exhibition is one such occasion.

A key to the curatorial work is the potential for open doorways and unblocked windows to mark out specific “scenes” in and around Pierce’s practice: Institutes and Protests, Legacies and Exercises, Communities and Migrations.

The exhibition features a significant selection of projects with students, who appear as performers, demonstrators, and interlocutors, including An Artwork in the Third Person (2009), a set of interviews made with the Dutch Art Institute; Campus (2011), a performance that mirrors communal acts such as teaching, learning, and political protest; and The Square (2017), an experimental “play without a script” that uses Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstück – or learning play – as a starting point. Pierce will involve student groups in the re-learning and re-staging of key performance works at intervals throughout the exhibition.

Over the last years, Sarah Pierce has developed a concept she names the “community of the exhibition” to describe how exhibitions have a particular ability to hold us, and works of art, in community. We enter the exhibition with others – other audiences, across generations, geographies and times. The exhibition includes artworks that bring to the fore this ongoing and discerning interest in community’s tenuous and unavowable bonds, whether it is the community of dementia in No Title (2017), the community of diaspora in Pathos of Distance (2015), or the community of translation in The Question Would Be The Answer To The Question, Are You Happy? (2009-12).

Since 2003, Sarah Pierce has used the term The Metropolitan Complex to describe her project, characterised by forms of gathering, both historical examples and those she initiates. The processes of research and presentation that she undertakes demonstrate a broad understanding of cultural work and a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art, the potential for dissent, and self-determination. Pierce works with installation, performance, archives, talks and papers, often opening these up to the personal and the incidental in ways that challenge received histories and accepted forms. Her interests include radical pedagogies and student work, art historical legacies and figures such as El Lissitzky, August Rodin, and Eva Hesse, and theories of community and love founded in Maurice Blanchot and Georges Bataille.

Pierce’s work has shown widely in the EU, US and Canada with major exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2016), CCS Hessel Museum & CCS Galleries, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson (2016 and 2012), and Tate Modern and MuMOK Vienna (2010). In 2014 she presented a major solo exhibition in three-parts, Lost Illusions/Illusions perdues, developed jointly with Walter Phillips Gallery Banff AL, Mercer Union Toronto ON, and SBC Galerie Montreal QB. Other solo presentations include: No Title at the Centre of Contemporary Art, Derry (2017); The Meaning of Greatness at Project Arts Centre (2006). She has participated in major international biennials including Glasgow International (2018), Eva International (2016, 2012), Lyon Biennial (2011), International Sinop Biennial (2010), Moscow Biennial (2007), and in 2005, Pierce represented Ireland in a group exhibition at the 51st Venice Biennale.

Publications on her work include No Title, co-edited with Sara Greavu, published by CCA Derry, and designed by Kaisa Lassinaro with essays by T.J. Clark, Karl Holmqvist, Mason Leaver-Yap, and Claire Potter; and Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors, edited by Rike Frank, published by Book Works, London and designed by Peter Maybury with essays by Melissa Gronlund, Tom Holert, Barbara Clausen, Declan Long, and Padraíc E. Moore. Pierce regularly writes and has chapters in many publications, most recently in, Of(f) Our Times: The Aftermath of the Ephemeral and other Curatorial Anachronics (Sternberg 2019).

Pierce was born in Connecticut in 1968 and grew up in Ontario before attending university in Los Angeles. In 1994, she completed her MFA at Cornell University in the School of Architecture, Art and Planning, and in 1995 she attended the Whitney Program in New York. In 2000 she moved to Dublin where she continues to work and live.

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