Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery opens its second exhibition of the season with Project Europa: Imagining the (Im)Possible. The past two decades in European history have been marked the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Europe—monumental events seen by many as symbolically heralding a new social and democratic vision. This exhibition brings together 19 artists whose work, created in the aftermath of these historic events, considers the relationship of art to democracy and responds in various ways to the conflicts and contradictions of Europe’s democratic dream.
Organized by the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, Project Europa addresses the complex positioning of Europe in the modern world. While the continent embodies the notions of democracy, human rights, peace and diversity, it also reverberates with xenophobia, racism, religious intolerance, and—especially after the fall of the World Trade Center towers—heightened security and the hardening of immigration policies. Project Europa’s artists are catalysts for new ways of seeing, thinking about and imagining Europe.
Columbia/Barnard art history professor Alexander Alberro emphasizes the timeliness and relevance of this exhibition for U.S. audiences. “The fall of the Berlin Wall, the attacks of 9/11, and the world’s recent economic collapse bring the challenges and mutual destiny of Europe and the United States closer than ever,” said Alberro. “With the current cultural, political and economic crises, it is all the more urgent to question the recent past, to examine our global impact, and to envision more clearly our commitment to a democratic society.”
The artists included in the exhibition are Francis Alÿs, Fikret Atay, Kader Attia, Maja Bajevi?, Yto Barrada, Tacita Dean, Beate Gütschow, Jens Haaning, Susan Hefuna, Eva Leitolf, Aernout Mik, Marcel Odenbach, Dan Perjovschi, Marjetica Potr?, Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, Bruno Serralongue, Superflex and Lidwien Van de Ven.
Exhibition curator Kerry Oliver-Smith, curator of contemporary art at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, notes that “the artists in the exhibition come from a rich variety of perspectives and cultural positions.” The works selected use a variety of strategies and media—sculpture, painting, performance, photography, and film—to integrate the viewer in the creation of the aesthetic experience. Especially exciting are the residencies of artists Kader Attia and Dan Perjovschi, who have been commissioned to re-create large-scale paintings applied directly to the walls of the gallery.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Wallach Art Gallery will host an international symposium that will consider a range of issues, from Europe’s democratic ambitions in relation to the ultra-national and ideal aspirations of the past, to the barriers to democracy on the frontiers and in the city centers. Speakers include Claire Bishop, Associate Professor, City University of New York Graduate Center, New York; T.J. Demos, Lecturer, Department of History of Art, University College London, England; Diedrich Diedrichsen, Professor, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria; Tim Griffin, Artforum International, New York; and Maria Hlavajova, Director, BAK (Basis voor actuele kunst), Utrecht, Netherlands. Professor Alberro will serve as moderator. The event, scheduled for Friday, February 11 at Columbia University, is free and open to the public.
The exhibition is organized by the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the C. Frederick and Aase B. Thompson Foundation; Étant donnés, the French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, a program of the French-American Cultural Exchange; University of Florida Student Government; the John Early Publication endowment; the Sidney Knight Endowment; and the Harn Program Endowment.
Project Europa is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue published by the University of Florida and written by Kerry Oliver-Smith with contributions by Marius Babias, curator, art historian and director of the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein; and Boris Groys, professor of aesthetics, art history and media theory at the Center for Art and Media Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.
“Project Europa: A Symposium,” February 11, 2011; 1:30 – 5:30 p.m. Columbia University, Schermerhorn Hall
Gallery Talk with exhibition Curator, Kerry Oliver Smith February 12, 2011; 12:00 p.m., Wallach Art Gallery