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Ni’Ja Whitson, left, will perform “Meditation on Tongues” in September as a CCA Biennial guest artist.

2018 Biennial on 'Duration' to feature major artists

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

A still from Carrie Weems’ 2012 video installation “Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me.”

Internationally known artists Carrie Mae Weems and Xu Bing will join participants from across the university this fall in the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) 2018 Biennial.

With the theme “Duration: Passage, Persistence, Survival,” the Biennial opens Sept. 27-29 on campus with a conference, public lectures by Weems and Xu, and participating faculty members and students joining artist panels and leading gallery and installation site tours.

Most Biennial artwork and performances, from five invited artists and at least 11 Cornell collaborative projects, will be presented from mid-September through Dec. 1, with others “staggered throughout the semester,” said CCA Director Timothy Murray, the Biennial curator. Additional projects and programming will be presented in the spring, he said.

Weems is the featured Biennial artist. Her multimedia installation on the history and duration of violence opens Sept. 20 in a temporary structure on the terrace of Olin Library, facing the Arts Quad.

Carrie Mae Weems

“Carrie Mae Weems is is one of the most prestigious American artists there is; she will create new work for the Biennial,” Murray said. “What’s interesting is how receptive a vast number of Cornell participants and departments were to this theme. It seemed to speak to them. We have partnerships across the campus, which is very exciting for the Biennial and enhances the CCA’s mission.”

Xu is participating in conjunction with his A.D. White Professor-at-Large appointment. A three-channel projection of his animated film “The Character of Characters,” Aug. 11-Dec. 23 at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, will be installed alongside historic scrolls from the museum’s Asia collections.

The Biennial creates an environment for intersecting discourses, according to Murray.

“One is around persistence and survival, vis-a-vis contemporary issues of identity, immigration, migration and critical racial studies. Another is the crisis of sustainability, both cultural and ecological,” he said. “Passage and duration are fundamental structural elements of artistic representation and performance, so it worked out really well.”

Xu Bing

Invited guest artists include Ruby Chishti, Hans Baumann and Ni’Ja Whitson. Chishti, a fabric artist and sculptor, is a critic-in-residence this fall in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD), with a solo exhibition in October in Jill Stuart Gallery.

Baumann and Karen Pinkus, an Atkinson Fellow and professor of Romance studies and comparative literature, are collaborating on “Crystalline Basement,” an Engineering Quad land-art installation on deep heat geothermal energy, co-commissioned by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Prior to the opening weekend, Whitson performs “A Meditation on Tongues” Sept. 14-15 at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The piece is a live-dance and multimedia adaptation of “Tongues Untied,” Marlon T. Riggs’ groundbreaking 1989 film portrait of black gay identity.

The CCA’s annual grant competition for students, faculty and departments welcomed proposals for work “that would dialogue with the Biennial, so we would have a string of related projects,” Murray said. “That was the goal, to establish a conversation with the theme across the campus for the year.”

And a conversation with the creators. Some invited artists will be housed on campus with the undergraduate community, he said.

Biennial performances will include associate professor of creative writing Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon; Emilie Stark-Menneg, B.F.A. ’07; and graduate student Daniel Reza Sabzghabaei with the Cornell Contemporary Chamber Players.

Collaborative projects also include “Cetus: McGraw Tower,” with electronically reconstituted recorded whale sounds, by senior lecturer in music Annie Lewandowski with Cornell Lab of Ornithology bioacoustics researcher Katy Payne and percussionist Sarah Hennies; and “The Emperor’s Canary,” a sound sculpture by Assistant Professor of the Practice in Art Joanna Malinowska with artist C.P. Jasper.

In addition to art and performances, “there are going to be a number of courses that weave biennial themes into the curriculum,” in art, FSAD, English and comparative literature, Murray said. “That’s another potential payoff for a robust Biennial.”

More information on the artists, projects and events will be on the Biennial site.


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