“Coop Fund, Amalle Dublon & Constantina Zavitsanos, Devin Kenny, John Neff” at Artists Space
Flash Art, May 2018
This exhibition—named simply for the included artists—arises from a series of conversations, called Authorization Sessions, between those artists and Artists Space staff while the institution was temporarily without a director. The results of those meetings—artworks, relationships, lines of inquiry—are gathered here. The Authorization Sessions extend the exhibition format both in time and in scope, and opened the possibility that the artists might impact institutional practice.
Several artists in the exhibition, most obviously Devin Kenny and John Neff, engage vernacular materials and images; both Kenny and duo Amalle Dublon and Constantina Zavitsanos deploy recent technologies to consider—and intervene in—human relationships. Devin Kenny’s “What would Upski think?” (2018), a machine that mines cryptocurrency to convert to money for a local bail fund, opens the exhibition; its mechanical hum pervades the entire space. Dublon and Zavitsanos’ Interferometer (Quantum Eraser) (2018) recreates the 1999 Quantum Eraser experiment to raise questions about entanglement and interdependence.
Other works by Kenny engage with collage, including Stop following me/follow me (2016), an assemblage of images arranged on a projector, and Do You Even Talk to Your Neighbors (2018), a collection of photographs, documents, and objects inside a grill made from a metal barrel—as well as the performance Not This (2018), which combines video clips, projected images, music, and texts on prison, bail, and blackness into a sort of collage in time and space. A process of accumulation over time, collage might serve as a metaphor for the extended coalescing of the exhibition.
The exhibition’s engagement with art-institutional politics comes across most clearly in contributions by Coop Fund—a cooperative formed to collect and distribute financial resources to member artists—and Neff. His hour-long video Manhattan Project (2016–18) comprises casual conversations with Artists Space’s staff members intercut with footage of the depressing aspects of life in the city: trash piles, cops, a leaky airport ceiling. In bars and throughout New York City, Neff talks with staff members about work, life, and the space where the two overlap (Neff suggests there should be a term for this; we might call it the art world). He describes the piece as a “training video” for Artists Space, but one that doesn’t tell them exactly what to do, and instead prioritizes asking good questions. The exhibition, too, functioned more as a space for developing inquiries than generating answers, framing the institution in multiple, complex terms: as a group of people, as a space imbricated in white supremacy and economic disenfranchisement, and as a potential site of agency and care.