The New Museum triennial, “The Ungovernables,” represents the uncertainty, angst, and disillusionment of a generation subject to incredible instability. The five-floor exhibition presents works by fifty artists born in the late 1970s and 1980s, the vast majority hailing from non-western nations. The diverse ethnicities and medias do not abandon some unifying threads, like the search for identity or representation and a sense of coming of age.
A few standout works express their themes clearly while others require considerable explanation. Adrián Villar Rojas’s sculpture, A Person Loved Me, hints at the inevitable failure of technological objects. The monumental work appears futuristic and extraterrestrial because of its unprecedented shapes and machine-like form, yet it possesses an archaic, decayed feel due to its earthy, cracked appearance. PrayWay, by Slavs and Tatars, suggests a need for new perspectives on religious traditions by encouraging congregation on its light-enhanced floating carpet taking the shape of a prayer book. Also, the video projection JEWEL, by Hassan Khan, shows two gentlemen, one younger and one older, dancing to synthesized Cairene music. The dance begins controlled and repetitive but gradually becomes contentious, expressive and independent, referencing a struggle for freedom.
While the artists in “The Ungovernables” may challenge existing political and social perceptions, thus recognizing failures of previous traditions or constraints, the show exhibits their developing resolve and endeavors to create a new context.