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Relative Material

November 18 December 17, 2017

Evening of performances and readings: Sunday, December 10, 4–6pm

Artists: Golnar Adili, Jesse Chun, Adam Golfer, Asuka Goto, Rafael Kelman, Qiana Mestrich, Gabriela Vainsencher.
Curator: Janna Dyk.

“I wonder, parenthetically, whether I too deal thus in autobiography and call it fiction?”
–Virginia Woolf

Relative Material examines a spectrum of gestures by seven artists who—through engaging with family mythologies, exchanges, and ephemera—recognize and question broader issues of sociopolitical, historical, and philosophical concern.

Relative Material

Golnar Adili’s work predominantly investigates the extensive personal archive of letters and family documents that she inherited upon the death of her father, a member of the Iranian intelligentsia who was forced to flee in the wake of the post-1979 revolution. She feels your absence deeply (2017), a set of simultaneously playful and puzzling wooden blocks imprinted with a childhood photo of the artist and her mother, culls its title from a letter that her mother wrote to her father following the latter’s departure. Another letter, Ye Harvest from the Eleven-Page Letter (2016), which her father sent to a lover, reconstructs longing by omitting all but the vowels. Through deconstructing and reassembling family documents, Adili forms a personal linguistics via which to discuss identity, memory, displacement, and translation; bedmates of an unconquerable longing to understand one’s history.

In select photographs from A House Without a Roof (2016), Adam Golfer arranges and recontextualizes artifacts (photographs, telegrams, letters, text messages, and remembered or fictionalized narratives) of his personal and familial engagement with the waves of history extending from WWII to present day Israel/Palestine. Golfer’s work questions the multiple, simultaneous narratives and perceptions surrounding the region’s ongoing conflict. Likewise intertwined in commentary with these images is a portrait from a foretoken project, Router (2015).

Qiana Mestrich questions motherhood, belonging, family, race, heritage, self-authorship, and identity with a selection of conceptual poems, photographs, and ephemeral objects from Hard to Place (2016). Reassembled clippings of phrases and vintage photographs emerge from the redacted file of adoption documents that her husband received as a legal memento of his childhood in the British foster care system. Adding to these redactions, Mestrich places photographs of the couple’s son, who emblematically inhabits the histories and identities that her work addresses.

Conceptual poetry from the immigration documents of multiple countries in which Jesse Chun, her family, and friends have lived informs prints from Valid From Until (2016). Within the semantics of minimalism she forms a new iconography that questions “the meanings embedded within the bureaucracy of place and identity.” Chun notes that “the first ten years of my life [in Korea] were spent as a singular identity, and then everything became fragmented into different codes.” Such codes accumulate multilingually among the forms, creating an often intimate poetry from the material of relocation and displacement.

In Negative Capability (2016), Gabriela Vainsencher interviews her Uruguayan mother, a psychoanalyst who lives in Israel, which results in a poetic video work that floats between Spanish and Hebrew.  A pair of hands grapple with abstract ceramic objects as the artist’s mother discusses what it is to know and intuit meaning, and how this process complicates our relationships. The work’s title references Keats’s philosophical concept about the necessity to embrace uncertainty “without any irritable reaching after fact or reason.”  

A bizarre family history involving a bomb plot, found wooden puppets crafted by an uncle, and a father’s instructions in the techniques of mime and puppetry serve as “inappropriate” means to consider the tributaries of history related to the contemporary war on terror in Rafael Kelman’s Gigantomachy (2015–). Kelman notes that “excerpts from primary documents serve as script and subtitle; objects physically touched by the histories in question become props and set pieces.” As a wobbling, wincing face covered in foam grins and jerks haltingly, the father’s voice behind the camera interjects the video’s poetic subtitles.

Asuka Goto’s nearly three-year project, Lost in Translation (2014–2017), is a line of questioning in order to better understand her father, a Japanese writer. While also learning Japanese, Goto attempts to translate his 278-page novel into English. Her resulting drawings include collaged elements: printed screenshots from phone conversations with her parents that inform the translations, clippings of current news stories that extend political and historical narratives within his text, and her own personal annotations. Insofar as the meticulous endeavor becomes emotional as much as it is linguistic, Goto notes that “the areas of mistranslation, which certainly exist (as embodiments of our mutual misunderstanding), are an integral part of the piece.”

Janna Dyk is an artist, writer, and curator based in New York. Her curatorial projects span a range of considerations, from photography and poetry to the relationship between the personal and political.  Past projects include Cottage Industry and Strange Labor, among eight exhibitions while a curatorial fellow at Booklyn, in Greenpoint, and [On Silence], at the New York Center for Art and Media Studies, in conjunction with large-scale performances OPEN CAGE: NEW YORK at Eyebeam, and SILENCE at the Rubin Museum for the Chelsea Music Festival.  In 2017 she held a curatorial residency at the Marble House Project (Vermont). Her curatorial projects have appeared in such publications as ArtForum, Art in America, the New York Times, BOMB, Hyperallergic, and Photography Magazine. She is a MFA graduate of Hunter College (2015).  Her writing has appeared in 1000 Words Magazine (London), and SftPwr, among others, and she has been the editor of several artist books, including Adam Golfer’s trilingual A House Without a Roof, which was shortlisted in 2016 for such prizes as Paris Photo and MACK. She has participated in residencies at AIR (Beijing), and NARS Foundation (Brooklyn), and has been a recipient of the Rema Hort Foundation ACE Grant, among others.  Her art has appeared in the New York Times, ArtSlant, Curator Magazine, SEEN, and L’Orient du Jour, among others. A recent exhibition includes Unravelled at the Beirut Art Museum.