Director’s Desk: Co-Curating Migrating Bodies with the Schneider Museum
by Richard Herskowitz
A highlight of the physical AIFF2020 that was intended to, but did not happen in April would have been the annual media art exhibition that AIFF co-organizes at the Schneider Museum of Art. It’s wonderful that the museum and its director, Scott Malbaurn, give us the opportunity every year to present media artworks that offer interactive, “expanded cinema” experiences beyond our theatrical and virtual screenings. I am happy to share with you that the exhibition – Migrating Bodies: For(saking) Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – is back on the schedule, opening this week – August 6 – and on view through October 10, 2020. I encourage you to check the museum’s website for visitor hours, which have been reduced during this time of COVID-19.
The exhibition, which tied into the “Migrations” theme that ran through our festival film selections, is partially drawn from works of media art that co-curator Jill Hartz and I experienced together at recent art fairs in Venice and Miami. Mohau Modisakeng’s Passage was South Africa’s entry in the 2017 Venice Biennale, and this three-screen installation stunned us when we saw it that year. Jill and I were thrilled when we met Mohau’s gallerist, Ron Mandos, at the Miami Art Basel art fair that December, where he told us there was only one more edition available for purchase. The museum Jill directed, the Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA), purchased the piece and is now loaning it to the Schneider for this show. Mohau intended to come to Ashland for the April festival, and although that visit was cancelled, you can see the illuminating artist talk he gave when we brought him to the Schnitzer Museum in Eugene here.
Guillermo Gomez-Peña is one of this country’s leading and most subversive performance and media artists, and he has been creating works addressing the stereotyping and demonization of Chicanos for decades. In 2002, I brought him to the Virginia Film Festival, where he performed in a cage inside a gallery. Gomez-Peña co-created the multi-media piece DOC/UNDOC, which we are also borrowing from the JSMA. The interactive box is full of wonders to explore, and the artwork also includes an artists’ book and a video in which a mesmerizing Gomez-Peña confronts the viewer directly.
The single screen installation by the Danish art collective Superflex, Kwassa Kwassa, wowed Jill and me when we first saw it at the Perez Art Museum in Miami in 2016, and you will see that its imagery of a boat carrying migrants echoes other boat and water imagery in Passage and the work by Deborah Oropallo and Andy Rappaport, Flight. Scott Malbaurn discovered the piece by Oropallo, who had work in our Apocalypse show last year; he also had the great idea to invite Tannaz Farsi, an Iranian-born artist who teaches at UO in Eugene, to participate in the exhibition, and we’re thrilled that she created sculptural works that resonate with our theme. We are grateful to the Ford Family Foundation for their support of the exhibition.
Jill recorded a 7-minute video tour of the exhibition that you can watch here before heading to the Schneider Museum to see the show. In this video, Scott Malbaurn discusses the show and reviews the safety protocols that the Museum has put in place.