Produced within an engagement with the form of the ‘open letter’ - an instrument deployed to give public form to private discourse - “Models, Open Letters, Prototypes, Supplements” is the first major solo museum exhibition by Christopher Williams since his series of retrospectives entitled “The Production Line of Happiness” (The Art Institute of Chicago; MoMA, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; 2014-2015).
A leading figure of the second generation of American Conceptual Art, Williams studied at the California Institute of the Arts in the late 1970s, under such artists as Michael Asher, John Baldessari, Douglas Huebler and Morgan Fisher, and has since developed an artistic practice that investigates photographic apparatus functions, structures, and rules through simultaneous engagement with other artistic media: film and video, sculpture, collage, performance, and printed matter.
Building on a series of recent exhibitions which focussed more closely on specific aspects of his practice – including Capitain Petzel, Berlin (Open Letter to Model No. 1740, 2016), gta Exhibitions, Zürich (Supplements, Models, Prototypes, 2017), and David Zwirner, London (Open Letter: The Family Drama Refunctioned? (From the Point of View of Production, 2017) – Williams’ exhibition at La Triennale di Milano brings together various aspects of his work, highlighting them as interconnected elements at play within a context in which both the studio and the exhibition become sites for material and discursive production.
Foregrounding exhibition architecture and design as the framework for looking, Models, Open Letters, Prototypes, Supplements presents a group of recent photographs within various mobile wall and exhibition systems, whose materials and designs have been collected from Williams’ recent exhibitions history, as well as supplementary material displayed in vitrines produced in 1975 by Leone Pancaldi, one of the driving forces behind the renewal of the modern Italian museum architecture. Williams explores aspects of realism traditionally associated with photography through the visual and aesthetic conventions that shape how we perceive our world. Family and society, cutaway and cross-section, object and function, ideology and immaterial labour, and time and duration are revealed as structures and models of representational systems, thus activating a progressive process of disclosure that aims at finding, for each individual element, the traces of their own representation. While the images reflect upon the political and socio-economic connections between photography and the production processes of late capitalist society, we are invited to reclaim the present as the moment for critical reflection. Addressing the viewer directly, Williams seeks to raise awareness of the quality of our observation process, in a relationship focusing on the very concept of duration.
Models, Open Letters, Prototypes, Supplements opens up a physical and theoretical dialogue between ideal forms of photography, discursive materials selected and produced by the artist, tactics of display, and the exhibition architecture of La Triennale in which Williams’ images take a stance.
The exhibition explores real and imaginary geographies, reconstructing the odyssey of migrants through personal and collective tales of exodus.
The Restless Earth borrows its title from a collection of poems by Édouard Glissant, a Caribbean writer who probed the question of how different cultures can coexist. The exhibition shares in Glissant’s project—a pressing and necessary one that tries to describe this unstable and agitated present as a polyphony of voices and narratives. Through the works of more than sixty artists from more than forty countries—such as Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Turkey—and with historical documents and objects of material culture, this exhibition charts both experiences and perceptions of migration and the current refugee crisis as an epoch-making transformation that is reframing contemporary history, geography, and culture.
The Restless Earth explores real and imaginary geographies, reconstructing the odyssey of migrants through personal and collective tales of exodus inspired by varying degrees of urgency and longing. The exhibition revolves around a series of geographic and thematic lines of inquiry—the war in Syria, the state of emergency in Lampedusa, life in refugee camps, the figure of the nomad or stateless person, and Italian migration in the early 20th century—which intersect with works that serve as visual metaphors for conditions of mobility and precariousness.
The Restless Earth focuses in particular on how artists bear witness to historic events, and how art can describe social and political change in the first person. The works on view point to a renewed faith that art and artists have a responsibility to portray and transform the world, creating not just images of conflict, but images that provide a space for critical thinking and exchange. Together, these stories—poised between historical epic and real-time diary—yield a vision of art as lyrical journalism, emotional documentary, and vivid, vital testimony.
Adel Abdessemed, John Akomfrah, Pawel Althamer, Francis Alÿs, El Anatsui, Ziad Antar, Kader Attia, Brendan Bannon, Yto Barrada, John Berger and Jean Mohr, Alighiero Boetti, Anna Boghiguian, Andrea Bowers, Tania Bruguera, Banu Cennetoğlu and Nihan Somay in collaboration with UNITED for Intercultural Action, Phil Collins, Comitato 3 Ottobre, Constant, Thierry De Cordier, La Domenica del Corriere, Forensic Oceanography / Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, Meschac Gaba, Charles Gaines and Ashley Hunt for Gulf Labor Artist Coalition, Giuseppe “Pinot” Gallizio, Rokni Haerizadeh, Ramin Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, Manaf Halbouni, Mona Hatoum, Lewis Wickes Hine, Thomas Hirschhorn, Wafa Hourani, Pravdoliub Ivanov, Khaled Jarrar, Isaac Julien, Hiwa K, Yasmine Kabir, Šejla Kamerić, Bouchra Khalili, Runo Lagomarsino, Dorothea Lange, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Liu Xiaodong, Ahmed Mater, Steve McQueen, Aris Messinis, multiplicity, Paulo Nazareth, Adrian Paci, Maria Papadimitriou, 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography (Daniel Etter, Tyler Hicks, Mauricio Lima, Sergey Ponomarev), Marwan Rechmaoui, Hrair Sarkissian, Thomas Schütte, Hassan Sharif, Augustus Sherman, Xaviera Simmons, Mounira Al Solh, Hamid Sulaiman, Rayyane Tabet, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andra Ursuta, Danh Võ, Henk Wildschut, Zarina.
An exhibition curated by Massimiliano Gioni
Organized by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Fondazione Triennale di Milano
For the Visual Arts Program of the Triennale directed by Edoardo Bonaspetti
Photo: Francis Alÿs
In collaboration with Julien Devaux, Felix Blume, Ivan Boccara, Abbas Benheim, Fundaciéon Montenmedio Arte, and children of Tanger and Tarifa
Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River
Strait of Gibraltar, 2008
Video and photographic documentation of an action
Courtesy Francis Alÿs and David Zwirner, New York/London
Fabbrica del Vapore, via Procaccini 4 / +390266804473 / viafarini.org Mon - Fri 11am to 7pm
Viafarini non profit organization is an exhibition space, a documentation center and runs an artists and curators residency program