“Take the phenomenon of grabbing: instead of grabbing clay, you grab your stomach. For the first time, instead of imposing form manually, you are feeling what it is like to be made. You might have felt your hands picking up a piece of wood and staking it, but you have never felt what the wood felt.”
- Dennis Oppenheim, Studio International (November, 1971)
EAI is proud to present a screening and discussion on the films and videos of Dennis Oppenheim, focusing on the Aspen Projects, produced between 1970 and 1974. These rarely seen works mark the evolution of Oppenheim’s practice from public earthworks in the late 1960s to more intimate material investigations of his own body. In the early 1970s, Oppenheim was in the vanguard of artists using film and video as a means to examine themes relating to Body Art, Conceptual Art, and performance. In his works from this time, Oppenheim used his own body as a site to challenge the self: he explored the boundaries of personal risk, transformation, and communication through ritualistic performance actions and interactions.
The short pieces from Aspen Projects record performative actions that evolve as exchanges or interactions between Oppenheim's body and natural and man-made elements—leaves, wood, hair, compressed air, glass. In some pieces, these gestures involve a kind of self-negation; others work in reverse, as Oppenheim leaves imprints or traces of himself. As his actions unfold, the distinction between his living body and the inanimate and non-living materials he uses are leveled, erasing the differences and categories that stand between his face or fingernail and a fern or piece of wood. Continuing this line of inquiry, in the equally mesmerizing and disquieting work Disappear, Oppenheim attempts to will his hand to dematerialize. Intoning a hypnotic and mantra-like wish for disappearance and dissolution, he moves his hand faster than the camera’s mechanism can process images, turning it into an indeterminate blur. In 2 Stage Transfer Drawing (Returning to a Past State) and 2 Stage Transfer Drawing (Advancing to a Future State), both from 1971, Oppenheim investigates transference and communication through the body. Collaborating with his son Erik, in the Transfer Drawing pieces Oppenheim makes a drawing on his son's back; his son tries to copy this drawing through tactile sensation onto the wall. They then reverse roles. Writes Oppenheim, "I am drawing through him."
Curator Jenny Jaskey will introduce the screening, focusing on the artist’s concern with the interpenetration of human and non-human life, and the collapse of assumed hierarchies between subjects and objects in his work. Oppenheim once likened his performances during this period to “plugging into the solar system, communicating with an element,” and his immersive investigations presciently anticipate contemporary questions around ecology, matter and human agency.
To discuss these concerns and the relevance of Oppenheim’s work for a current generation of artists, Jaskey will be joined by artists A.K. Burns, Yve Laris Cohen, and Ajay Kurian for an informal discussion in the second half of the evening. Burns’ practice explores the intersection of desire, power and language, taking the form of sculpture, video, collage or social actions. In recent works, Burns has focused on object tactility and the cultural implication of fetish. Cohen's performances layer bodies and objects, using strategies of repetition and endurance to map genealogies of material exchange. In his art, Kurian pursues new material languages and strategies that disregard divisions between nature, culture and human beings, creating conditions for exploring non-human agency within art.
Special thanks to the Dennis Oppenheim ~studio for their assistance in organizing this program.
Please note that Oppenheim originally presented his film works as full-wall projections. At EAI, the works will be shown as smaller-scale video projections to fit the format of the event.
Dennis Oppenheim was born in 1938 in Electric City, Washington. From 1966 until his death in 2011, he lived and worked in New York City. He received his B.F.A. from the School of Arts and Crafts, and an M.F.A. from Stanford University. He received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Oppenheim exhibited his works internationally in galleries and museums including solo shows at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL; Galerie Pro Arte, Freiburg, Germany; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate Gallery, London, and the Joseph Helman Gallery, New York. He exhibited extensively in group shows at venues such as the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale, Canada; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; Nam June Paik Art Center, Gyeonggi-do, Korea; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain; Tate Liverpool, UK; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Tate Modern, London; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., and the Venice and Sao Paolo Biennales. Oppenheim was commissioned by many venues, including Ballerup Kommune, Copenhagen; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Olympic Park, South Korea and the Busan Biennale, South Korea.
Jenny Jaskey is a curator and writer based in New York. Recent exhibitions include The End(s) of the Library, Goethe-Institut New York (2012-2013) with Julieta Aranda, Fia Backström, R. Lyon, David Horvitz, Christian Philipp Müller, and The Serving Library; Haim Steinbach, The Artist’s Institute, New York (2012) and Jutta Koether: Mad Garland, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (2012). She is co-editor with Christoph Cox and Suhail Malik of Realism Materialism Art, an upcoming publication on the ‘speculative turn’ in philosophy and aesthetics published by Sternberg Press.
A.K. Burns is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Burns is a founding member of the artists activist group W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy), and co-editor of RANDY, an annual trans-feminist arts magazine. Burns’ solo and collaborative work has been exhibited and screened internationally. Her work is currently on view at the ICP Triennial through September 8th.
Yve Laris Cohen’s work has been performed and exhibited at locations including The Kitchen, SculptureCenter, Recess, Dance Theater Workshop, Abrons Arts Center, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Danspace Project, and Thomas Erben Gallery, in New York; as well as at The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annondale-on-Hudson; and Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Laris Cohen was a 2010-2012 Movement Research Artist in Residence, and received the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Visual Art Grant Award in 2011. He graduated with a BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008 and an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2011.
Ajay Kurian is an artist and curator. Kurian has exhibited at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, Harris Lieberman, Jack Hanley Gallery, Room East, and the Artist’s Institute in New York, as well as CAMRaleigh and White Flag Projects, St. Louis. In 2011, Kurian had a solo exhibition at Audio Visual Arts, New York. Kurian’s recent curatorial projects include the exhibitions Gran Prix, co-curated with Nudashank, Baltimore and Prolegomena at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, a collaboration with Shifter magazine. Kurian’s work will be included in EXPO 1: New York, at MoMA PS1. He is preparing for solo exhibitions at 47 Canal in New York and Jhaveri Contemporary in India, both in 2013.
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This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.