A.K. BURNS, « SHABBY BUT THRIVING », NEW MUSEUM NEW YORK
A.K. Burns – “Shabby but Thriving” – New Museum, New York – January 18–April 23, 2017
Residency and Exhibition Includes New Video Work and Installation, and Daylong Program on Legal Rights
under the New Administration
“A.K. Burns: Shabby but Thriving” marks a new chapter in artist A.K. Burns’ serial work drawing on theater, science fiction, philosophy, and ecological anxieties. Presented as part of the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s R&D Season: BODY, the project is organized around five elements: power (the sun), water, land, void, and body. “A.K. Burns: Shabby but Thriving” is on view from January 18 to April 23, 2017, on the Museum’s Fifth Floor, and also includes a series of public programs.
In “Shabby but Thriving,” commissioned by the New Museum, Burns premieres a new two-channel video staged within an installation that explores the subjugation and agency of various bodies. The video, titled Living Room (2017–ongoing), is the installation’s central work; it was filmed in the New Museum’s 231 Bowery building that houses the artist residency program. Moving from its basement through the stairwells (partially renovated and often bearing relics of previous eras) and into a series of found and constructed interiors, the video treats the entire building as both a stage and a metaphorical body. The building exists as a hermetic ecosystem and protagonist in the narrative of Living Room, as performers use their bodies to labor and leisure, choreograph and dialogue, bathe and subsist within this vital architectural interior. Furniture and props likewise act as both benign objects and political subjects. The video features a unique soundtrack by Geo Wyeth and a choreographed number by NIC Kay.
The Fifth Floor installation also includes sculptural objects that augment and animate Living Room’s narrative: a stripped and gutted couch outfitted with underglow, cast bags of dirt embedded with foil candies, a carpet soiled during the couch demolition, and fishing lures and lines stretched across walls.
Throughout the run of the exhibition, the Fifth Floor Resource Center—a hybrid exhibition, study, and pedagogical space adjacent to the main gallery—offers a variety of modes for understanding and utilizing energies of the burdened body, taking cues from reading rooms, gyms, listening stations, and spaces of respite. A punching bag, installed in the space for visitors’ use, speaks to the ways in which bodies process shock, psychic and physical trauma, grief, and rage in the face of political extremism. The Resource Center is organized by Burns and Alicia Ritson, Research Fellow.
As part of her exhibition and residency, Burns has organized a series of public programs exploring the body’s relationship to the law and the environment, including “Body Politic: From Rights to Resistance” on February 5, 2017. This daylong event will feature information sessions with lawyers, activists, and grassroots organizers, focusing on bodies under duress and rights under the new political administration. This event is free and open to the public with RSVP.
The exhibition is curated by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement, and Sara O’Keeffe, Assistant Curator.
A.K. Burns, Living Room, 2017–ongoing (production still). Two-channel HD video, color, sound; 36 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts. Photo: Eden Batki