April 12–May 12, 2016
Curated by Jacqueline Mabey
Artists: Genevieve Belleveau, Hannah Black, Adrienne Crossman, Kate Gilmore, Gabriella Hileman, Ann Hirsch, Jennifer Kennedy and Liz Linden, Nicole Killian, Jen Liu, Kristin Lucas, Ella Dawn McGeough, Divya Mehra, Lorraine O’Grady, Sunita Prasad, Legacy Russell, and Angela Washko
Inspired by Bennington’s experimental curricula and its history as a women’s college, Utopia Is No Place, Utopia Is Process transforms Usdan Gallery into a space for critical feminist pedagogy. In addition to works of art, resources including a crowd-sourced library, printing press, meeting space, and discussion groups are available for autonomous and collective investigation.
A touchstone for the exhibit is The Clearing: or Cortez and La Malinche, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N. and Me (1991/2012) by Lorraine O’Grady, a pioneering artist and scholar working across installation, performance and text to reckon with issues of hybridity, diaspora culture, and African American female subjectivity. On two panels—the left showing an entwined interracial couple, floating in the sky, and children at play; the right, a chain-mail-covered, skeletal figure looming over an African American woman—The Clearing articulates what Grady calls the “both/and,” or the way in which desire is complicated, irresolvable, and always imbricated with the narratives of imperialist, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
The exhibit features a new work by Toronto-based artist Ella Dawn McGeough that emerged from her research on the Medusa myth. Memorial for the present is the future of the past, consists of 13 silk banners, over 40 feet long, printed with the image of a cross section of fossilized coral. Through a series of material analogies, Memorial creates a space for reflection on trauma and time. Also included: a selection of videos illustrating the range of voices and artistic strategies within contemporary feminist perspectives. Works by Genevieve Belleveau, Hannah Black, Adrienne Crossman, Kate Gilmore, Gabriella Hileman, Ann Hirsch, Nicole Killian, Jen Liu, Kristin Lucas, Divya Mehra, Sunita Prasad, Legacy Russell, and Angela Washko explore themes such as violence, romance, science fiction, and failed utopias.
The guiding principles of Utopia Is No Place, Utopia Is Process are collaborative learning and horizontal organization. The library was crowdsourced from a diverse group of self-identified feminists who responded to a call to loan books that have been important to their thinking about gender and feminism—particularly texts that are unexpected or non-canonical. Lenders include writer Wendy Vogel; artists Mary Mattingly, Penelope Umbrico, and Sam Vernon; and curator Catherine Morris.
Similarly, a printing space in the gallery invites visitors to contribute their personal works to the library of pilot press. . . . Created by art historian Jennifer Kennedy and artist Liz Linden, pilot press. . . is a D.I.Y feminist publishing house providing a non-hierarchical, unedited, and uncensored look at the self-identified feminist community. Contributors may print and bind as many copies of their work as they like; in exchange for this free publication service, they are required to leave one bound copy for the pilot press. . . library.