2013 Carnegie International
Three curators as opposed to one. A “Lozziwurm” situated in its own finely manicured park along Forbes Avenue—with a daily batch of kids worming their way through it. An apartment in Lawrenceville that, since the summer of 2011, has played host to regular meet-and-greets over pizza and art. A massive rehang of the Museum of Art’s contemporary galleries that pays homage to works acquired from past Carnegie Internationals. And the participation of 35 artists from 19 countries in North and South America, Western and Central Europe, Africa, and the Middle and Far East—the broadest geographic reach of any International in history. The 2013 Carnegie International has yet to officially open (October 5), but already this one feels different.
And that’s just what Museum of Art Director Lynn Zelevansky and the exhibition’s co-curators had in mind.
There’s an art lending library in the works at Braddock Carnegie Library, a project of the Braddockbased artist collective Transformazium. Anyone with a library card will be able to borrow, and live with, artwork created by International and local artists. And coming soon to Carnegie Café, a pop-up cabaret of puppetry: Polish artist Paulina Olowska’s tribute to Pittsburgh’s own Margo Lovelace, who founded her eponymous marionette theater company and inspired puppeteers for nearly 30 years.
“We built the exhibition around the artists,” says Daniel Baumann, co-curator, with Dan Byers and Tina Kukielski, of the 2013 Carnegie International. “We bet on the fact that the artworks, our exposure to them, and our involvement with their thinking would produce meaningful paths through the exhibition”—and well beyond the traditional confines of a museum exhibition, too, to include artist projects in Braddock and Homestead.
One of the paths Baumann talks about is the one taken by those visual activists who seek to effect change in the world, even when, in the case of South African photographer Zanele Muholi, it puts her life at risk; and artists who insist on going against the grain to challenge our understanding of history, such as Vietnamese-American Dinh Q. Lê, who examines the Vietnam War through the eyes— and art—of Vietnamese soldiers.
Other International artists stand out by taking a bold look at some of the most complicated, yet relatable, issues of our time. Israeli filmmaker Yael Bartana’s provocative video trilogy examines cultural and religious displacement; Mexican artist Pedro Reyes transforms instruments of death into wondrous instruments for music making; and the work of Americans Nicole Eisenman and Taryn Simon and British sculptor Sarah Lucas, among others, respond to sexism and the exploitation of women.
“The artists reflect the hybridity, difference, openness, and dissidence we find evident in the cultural identities that make up our world,” says Kukielski. Yet, despite our globalized existence, she adds,“it still makes a difference if you live in Tehran, a village near Kraków, Johannesburg, or Los Angeles.”
Delivering this complex yet, at times, playful worldview to Pittsburgh is a mix of emerging voices and well-established artists. Several projects will be making their U.S debut, including two films by documentarian Amar Kanwar that focus on industrial land use conflicts in his native India, a subject that should resonate with regional audiences living in the midst of a natural gas boom. Other work is being created especially for the exhibition, including a massive, barricade-like structure by influential British sculptor Phyllida Barlow, which will all but consume the museum’s busy front plaza, and a sound installation by Swiss artist Tobias Madison, who partnered with middle school students from Wilkinsburg.
The deluge of biennials worldwide gives such local connections new relevance. The co-curators—themselves new to Pittsburgh—embraced Carnegie Museum of Art and its city as vital players in the exhibition from the very beginning.
This merging of the global with the local is making a carefully planned difference in the 2013 Carnegie International, says Lynn Zelevansky. “That’s where you get soul.”