Renowned sound and light artists Mendi and Keith Obadike will headline the Cornell Biennial celebration with performances that project onto the side of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Sept. 16 and 17.

Sound, light artists to lead celebration of Cornell Biennial

The Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) launches a celebration of its fifth Cornell Biennial – the largest and most international yet – with exhibition tours, performances and a full day of artist panels, Sept. 15-17.

“The Biennial is a massively interdisciplinary undertaking that activates art across the disciplines at Cornell,” said Timothy Murray, Biennial curator, CCA director, and professor of comparative literature and literatures in English in the College of Arts and Sciences. “This year’s theme of ‘Futurities, Uncertain,’ is a gesture to overlapping social challenges from global warming to COVID to racial justice, and it’s come together so well – the artists participating are just continually pushing the envelope of how we think about futurity.”

Headlining the celebration will be performances by Mendi and Keith Obadike, world-renowned sound and light artists who will project onto the side of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Sept. 16 and 17 at 9 p.m., in a meditation on creation amid acoustic or conceptual friction. Keith Obadike is a new professor of art in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP).

Joanna Malinowska, assistant professor of practice of art in AAP, and C.T. Jasper will host an opening reception on Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. at the John Hartell Gallery, to celebrate an installation which reverses a 1953 composition by Modernist composer Olivier Messiaen that was based on 38 species of bird songs; Malinowska and Jasper reconstruct the score using the actual bird calls of the species.

On Sept. 17, a day of panels with participating artists in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium will include a plenary talk by the Obadikes at 2:30 p.m. and a performance by Buffalo-based bioartist Paul Vanouse at 4:30 p.m. Vanouse will collect samples of visitors’ DNA, extract the DNA, and create live images with the resulting gels.

Walking tours throughout the celebration will give visitors the opportunity to meet participating artists and view installations across campus:

  • Sept. 15, 3:30 p.m., meet at the entrance of the Human Ecology Building for a tour of works sponsored by the Cornell Fashion and Textile Collection, as well as an exhibit by So-Yeon Yoon, associate professor of human centered design in the College of Human Ecology.
  • Sept. 16, 2 p.m., meet at the entrance of the Johnson Museum to learn about American artist Ken Feingold’s new media installation, “The Animal, Vegetable, Mineralness of Everything,” and Camel Collective’s video, “Gated Commune,” among others.
  • Sept. 16, 3 p.m., meet at the entrance of the Johnson Museum for a tour of installations on the Arts Quad, including works by doctoral student Matthew Dallos; Matéa LeBeau ‘22 and Isabella Culotta ’22; Felix Heisel and Leslie Lok, both assistant professors of architecture in AAP; Jennifer Birkeland, assistant professor of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and invited artist Sara Jimenez.

This year’s Biennial began in April and continues through December, with the majority of exhibitions happening this fall. It includes 23 invitational artists and groups from 11 countries as well as 17 Cornell-based projects, including two projects at Cornell Tech in New York City. A new collaboration with the Cherry Arts in Ithaca is extending the reach of the Biennial, with a contest and exhibition showcasing artists working in upstate New York.

Funding for the Biennial comes from the Office of the Provost and multiple Cornell partners.

For event schedules and more information on the 40 participating artists, visit

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Rebecca Valli