If you’ve been paying attention, the questions posed by The New Museum’s third triennial “Surround Audience” won’t come as a surprise. Can we opt out of a society that feels increasingly commodified and corporatized? What visual metaphors and poetics can we use to make sense of digital realities, accelerated cycles of consumption, and expanded surveillance? How is art circulating outside institutional spaces?
What is maybe a bit unexpected is the agile way the show’s curators Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin have knit together a familiar sense of post-internet pastiche with a politically-charged and earnest core. Police violence, trans politics, government surveillance, and gender inequality are all explicit subject matter of some of the works.
For such a diverse show with artists from all over the world working in so many different mediums, Cornell and Trecartin have managed to thoughtfully select works that create a conversation with one another. Sometimes the links between works are more obvious, driven by personalities and communities. A 3D sculpture by Frank Benson, made in the image of and in collaboration with Juliana Huxtable is presented a few feet away from Huxtable’s self-portraits and poems, which are imbued with a feeling of both defiance and possibility. Huxtable also shows up as a guest in Casey Jane Ellison’s all-woman TV show “Touching the Art,” which plays on a loop a few floors below in the museum’s lobby.
Other times, the works talk to each other in more implicit ways. DIS’s sense of humor rubs up against poet Steve Roggenbuck’s sense of sincerity—but, ultimately, it’s apparent both are playfully striving to avoid disillusionment while acknowledging its specter.
Much of the works in the exhibition share a sense of surrealism and absurdity, yet still Cornell and Trecartin weren’t afraid to get serious too. I was introduced to South Korean artist Onejoon Che’s work. Formerly a photographer for the military police, Che’s photos today continue to explore power, space, and knowledge. On display are several photographs of monuments and military buildings as well as a three-channel video.
Ultimately, the show was more cathartic than I anticipated. The works not only explore subjects like post-digital commodification and surveillance on an analytical level, but they are concerned with questioning how we should feel and how we should respond in the wake of these radical changes.
The 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience opens to the public tomorrow at 11am and will be on view at The New Museum, 235 Bowery through to May 24.