Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College
Curator, Josh Decter
Exhibition design in collaboration with Ken Saylor
“A/drift” presented the work of 92 artists in 150 individual pieces distributed throughout 8 zones that were installed to explore “the apparent celebration of intellectual vacancy in the work of many contemporary artists circa 1995 as well as their relationship with contemporary popular culture such as ‘slacker’ films and adult cartoons.”
The title of the exhibition, “a/drift,” recalls the situationalist project (1957-1972) which saw lived experience as reduced to spectacle, and desire as consumption. Art as action, not as a commodity, could effect a political change in a situation by re-energizing daily life through the subversive appropriation of mass media such as film, television, advertising, newspapers and even the architecture of public space.
Through polyglot, anarchistic, irreverent interventions, the situationalists resisted co-optation as a movement while employing a variety of strategies; more specifically, the ‘derive’ and ‘detournement’.In thinking of these two historical strategies in relation to “a/drift,” we saw that the exhibition itself might be conceived as a situation – as an alternative to the alienation implied in our relation to mass culture. Through the conscious construction of situations or theatrical environments inside the space of the exhibition itself, we might invoke situational strategies of breakdown and exchange in relation to the art and popular culture objects on display.
Consequently our exhibition design utilized several design leitmotifs congruent with a Situationist methodology. Through each of the dividing walls we proposed that a series of circular openings be cut through the walls allowing the viewer to literally see through one space and into another, thereby overlaying artworks and popular culture artifacts. Depending upon how and where one looked, different elements appeared through the cuts in the space, and multiple readings could be construed. In order to further express these leitmotifs and directly
introduce the possibility of further specificity and rupture into these spaces, we constructed 6 periscope-like structures (which also punctured the visual culture walls) that projected slide and video imagery selected by the curator from television, music, fashion, film and advertising sources. These continuous loops provided a montage within each zone allowing for endless permutations and even greater combinations of excisions throughout the exhibition.