“The Ungovernables,” the second triennial exhibition at the New Museum, acknowledges the impossibility of fully representing a generation in formation and instead embraces the energy of that generation’s urgencies. These urgencies are formal and philosophical, material and ideological. They stem from the unique experiences of this generation who came of age in the aftermath of the independence and revolutionary movements that promised to topple Western colonialism. However, these revolutions became mired in military dictatorships, the emergence of integrated world capitalism, regional and global economic crises, the rise of fundamentalism, and international interventions as well as failures to intervene. Faced with this somewhat bleak inheritance, artists in “The Ungovernables” embrace their complex relationship to history and assert a remarkable resourcefulness, pragmatism, and hopefulness in their work.
Historically used as both a derogative colonial term to justify violent repression of the “natives” (“These people are ungovernable!”) and an affirmative call for civil disobedience (“We will make this country ungovernable!”), ungovernability is a double-edged sword that pursues a radical change in the everyday, but promises an upheaval that is not necessarily controllable. In terms of this exhibition, “The Ungovernables” is meant to suggest both anarchic and organized resistance: protest, chaos, and imagination as a refusal of the extended period of economic, ideological, sectarian, and political conflict that marks the generation’s inheritance. But the title also suggests a dark humor about this inheritance and the nonsentimental, noncynical approaches to history and survival it requires. Lingering in the present, artists in the exhibition embrace temporality and impermanence to explore new contingencies for an unknown future. “The Ungovernables,” then, is about rejecting incorporation and monetization, recognizing heat, transforming potential, and offering possibilities while maintaining self-awareness, humility, and humor.
Rejecting proscribed relationships to history and society, artists in “The Ungovernables” enact the present they desire through their work. The exhibition attempts to provide a platform for these multifaceted presents, with its structure responding to the urgencies of the artists and the form of the works themselves. The exhibition includes artists’ residencies conducted over the past year (including three that extend beyond the opening of this exhibition) and several works, “invisible” in the galleries, that take place before, during, and after the exhibition. A full list of these activities can be found at newmuseum.org/theungovernables. These temporal, performative, and research-oriented works resonate with instances of drawing, sculpture, video, and installation also found in this exhibition.
In addition to his work for “The Ungovernables” Adrián Villar Rojas presents a new site-specific sculpture called Before My Birth at the World Financial Center Plaza (220 Vesey Street between West Street and North End Avenue), from March 1-29, 2012 in conjunction with the New Museum Triennial. In Before My Birth, Villar Rojas endeavors a distinct approach to his material of choice. Clay no longer holds the mythological connotations that the artist has given it for so long. Instead it becomes a background device that frames a system of minimal resources.
“The Ungovernables” is organized by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director of Education and Public Programs, with Ryan Inouye, Curatorial Assistant.