Speak, Memory, an exhibition in two-parts, offers a provocative exploration of the subject of memory in art that spans the past 45 years. In his autobiography, Vladimir Nabokov likens memories to glimmers of light that shoot up in a vast darkness without warning or explanation. Focusing on each glimmer of memory as it appears, associatively and in a non-linear fashion, the author gradually constructs his identity. The exhibition Speak, Memory draws upon Nabokov's questioning of time and personal history in order to examine the ways in which memory is constructed and represented in contemporary art.
The exhibition is curated by Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies graduate students, Tamar Margalit and Beau Rutland. Margalit and Rutland each address the subject of memory in different ways. Margalit's section examines the reactivation of personal and collective memory in art from the past two decades. The represented artists evoke an array of places and episodes in recent history through such mnemonic devices as the construction and mining of archives, animation, re-enactment, photomontage, and interventions in the commemorative public space. These serve as a way to interrogate moments of social rupture that inform their life experiences. Seen together, the works posit the continual resuscitation of the past as a way to digest and respond to drastically changing socio-political realities—or as a means to assert the futility of such attempts. Altogether, the exhibition reveals, as Margalit notes in her curator's text, the "folds in which past and present co-exist." The artists are: Maja Bajevic, Yael Bartana, Irina Botea, Dor Guez, Iman Issa, David Maljkovic, and Walid Raad.
Rutland notes that the everyday surrounds us; in today's world, it is continually documented through social media. Yet the artworks selected, made between 1970 and the onset of the Internet era, represent the ways in which artists used daily life as a starting point for pre-digital artistic production and experimentation. His grouping attempts to depict the quotidian in a manner that is neither critical nor nostalgic. The artworks evoke thoughts and feelings experienced. Oscillating between the personal and the opaque, the works comprise three themes: portraiture of the everyday, studies of the ephemeral, and the daily life of the artist. Brought together, they reflect, not only the literal everyday stuff we might think of as part of our quotidian environment, but also what Rutland calls "interruptions from the ordinary," ranging from the clutter in a studio to unanticipated illness. The artists are: Lutz Bacher, Alex Bag, Peter Cain, Michael Hurson, Jane Kaplowitz, Mike Kelley, Karen Kilimnik, Liz Larner, Glenn Ligon, Kim MacConnel, Ree Morton, and Jack Whitten.
Speak, Memory is the inaugural presentation of the MODA Curates series—an annual opportunity offered by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery and the MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies Program (MODA) for outstanding curatorial proposals related to students' theses.