Walker Art Center

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Press Releases Contemporary Artists Examine the Political and Cultural Significance of Interior Architecture and Décor in Question the Wall Itself


MINNEAPOLIS, June 20 2016—The Walker Art Center presents Question the Wall Itself , examining how interior spaces and décor are foundational to understandings of cultural belonging and identity. On view November 20, 2016 through May 21, 2017 in the Target, Friedman, and Burnet Galleries, the exhibition features sculpture, installation, film, video, photography, performance, and site-responsive works from 23 international, multigenerational artists who explore the political, social, and cultural dimensions of interior architecture and décor. The selected artists include: Jonathas de Andrade, Uri Aran, Nina Beier, Marcel Broodthaers, Tom Burr, Alejandro Cesarco, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Theaster Gates, Ull Hohn, Janette Laverrière/Nairy Baghramian, Louise Lawler, Nick Mauss, Park McArthur, Lucy McKenzie, Shahryar Nashat, Walid Raad, Seth Siegelaub, Paul Sietsema, Florine Stettheimer, Rosemarie Trockel, Cerith Wyn Evans, Danh Vo, and Akram Zaatari.


“The exhibition takes as its guiding principal what Belgian artist and poet Marcel Broodthaers termed ‘Esprit Décor,’ a critique of ideas of nationality, the effects of globalization, and the space of the institution through constructed interior scenes,” said Fionn Meade, exhibition curator and Walker Art Center Artistic Director. “Recasting our conception of interior space and design, the works on view exist between artwork, prop, and set or stage, challenging understandings of social convention, habit, and code.”


Question the Wall Itself presents a breadth of works conceived as rooms, from the anteroom, prison cell, and living room, to the library, showroom, and interior garden. The exhibition hosts a range of global perspectives and includes new commissions by Uri Aran, Nina Beier, Tom Burr, and Shahryar Nashat, among others.


Many of the artists in the exhibition investigate the complicated relationship between history and interior architecture in ways relevant to their personal, social, and cultural backgrounds. Artists like Walid Raad, Jonathas de Andrade, and Paul Sietsema each look at how interior space, and architecture more broadly, relates to relevant issues of power and politics in the Middle East, Brazil, and the United States respectively. In Walid Raad’s Letters to the Reader (1864, 1877, 1916, 1923) (2014), the speculative promise of museum-scale showrooms for modern and contemporary “Arab art” in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is staged and questioned as potentially hollow décors imperceptible to spectators, while Jonathas de Andrade’s Nostalgio, Sentimiento de Classe (Nostalgia, a Class Sentiment) (2012) animates the modern architecture of Brazil as a foyer of the politics of nostalgia. A 16mm film installation from Los Angeles-based artist Paul Sietsema, Empire (2002) questions the place of information, power, and capital with panning shots of scale models made by the artist, including one of American art critic Clement Greenberg’s art-filled living room as it appeared in the pages of Vogue magazine in 1964 and the Rococo stylings of the 18th-century Salon de la Princesse in the Hôtel de Soubise, Paris. Through each of the artists’ examination of specific interior spaces and architecture, both public and private, the political, social, and subjective contexts of these environments are revealed.


To accompany Question the Wall Itself , the Walker Art Center’s publication in Winter 2017 will include an extensive photographic walkthrough of the installations, essays by Fionn Meade, Jordan Carter, Adrienne Edwards, Isla Leaver-Yap, Robert Wiesenberger, as well as contributions in the form of writing and visual essay from participating artists—creating new, related material that does not simply represent the exhibition but expands it in the form of a book-as-exhibition.


Exhibition curators: Fionn Meade with Jordan Carter

Photo: Walker Art Center

Paul Sietsema, Empire, 2002 Image © Paul Sietsema, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.