The Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis is using art to engage with history and contextualize the present. Chief curator Wassan Al-Khudhairi joined St. Louis on the Air with artists Stephanie Syjuco and Bethany Collins to discuss CAM’s fall exhibitions.
Syjuco’s “Rogue States” explores the complicated ways in which politically charged concepts such as citizenship, immigration, nationhood and identity are understood. One of Syjuco’s installations was born after her summer residency in St. Louis, where she learned more about the Filipino Village, one of the infamous “living zoo” displays at the 1904 World’s Fair. Another displays a collection of the flags of countries represented by fictional onscreen villains.
“Thinking about how these are actually constructions and fictions, I decided to gather a number of them together to form this collection of American and European anxiety of the other. “ Syjuco said.
Of Syjuco’s work, Al-Khudhairi noted that “Something that she’s doing with her practice… is think[ing] about how things from the past - historical situations - can help us see and think about our current context as a nation.”
With a similar goal, Bethany Collins’ “Chorus” uses language as a prism to explore American history and the nuance of racial and national identities. Collins’ works include a blind-embossed version of “The Ferguson Report” and a reproduction of classified ads by African Americans seeking missing family members before the end of the Civil War.
By repeating an embossing process, Collins sought to create a visible, physical crumbling of those Civil War classifieds, “like the paper itself can’t hold up under that amount of repetition.” That process also spoke to current relevance.
“I made these after the separation crisis at the border, in a way to point to a kind of repetition of the past and what that does to the surface of the page, what that does to us collectively,” she said.
Contemporary resonance is the function of CAM’s work, as relayed by Al-KHudhairi, who said, “Thinking about the ways in which contemporary art can be relevant to our lives today, I think we have some responsibility of thinking about the current, kind of, moment that we’re living in, and ways to create access points, multiple access points for people to be able to come in and connect.”
When: 6 p.m. Friday, September 6, 2019
Where: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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