Thursday, February 23, 2012

The New Museum's "The Ungovernables" (FINAL)

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.


  1. For such an all-over-the-place show, you do a good job of bundling the sentiment into a few paragraphs without making it cramped (and I'm with you that the show's full of uncertainty and unanswered questions which, theme or not, just made it seem disjointed). First paragraph last sentence and the description of PrayWay are both kind of unwieldy, you may want to rework them for clarity. Also, nitty-gritty: should be "incredible instability," "late 1970s," "video projection." In fact you might consider replacing "incredible"--what kind of instability, is it political, social, economic, all three, something more specific? Great post.

  2. I think that is was a brave undertaking to review an entire triennial in so few words. Also, I think that it was appropriate to focus on only a few works in your post. I do think that it is impossible to capture the feeling of an exhibit in an honest way in so few words. I agree that the artists did reference "instability" and perhaps "disillusionment" but the vast majority created works which were highly contained and structured. Many of the works showed stages of development and exploration. Abstracted imagery and deconstructed material was often contained and set on a table or neatly organized on the wall or in the corner of the room. Also, I think you should stay away from words like angst. Over all it was a strong attempt at summarizing a huge exhibit in very few words.