The group exhibition at dawn draws connections between techniques of image production and the social and political work that goes into imagining alternatives to what the late Cuban American thinker José Esteban Muñoz called our “poisonous and insolvent” present. The show seeks to express a sense of art’s utopian horizon—a generative space of desire, experimentation, and queer relationality aligned with what he described as “ecstatic time.”
The thirty works on view range from performance videos, film, photography, video sculptures, and Land art documentation to moving-image installations and poetry. Historical works foregrounding materiality and process by Nancy Holt (and Holt with Robert Smithson), Joan Jonas, Mary Lucier, and Anthony McCall connect to the formal and conceptual concerns of more recent pieces by artists including Heike Baranowsky, Rosa Barba, Carol Bove, and Jeppe Hein. These are set in dialogue with questions of desire and identity in works by the collective DIS, Barbara Hammer, and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as in A.K. Burns and A.L. Steiner’s sixty-nine-minute ode to queer sexuality in Community Action Center (2010). In what will be the biggest European presentation of the artist’s work to date, four large video installations by Jacolby Satterwhite fuse the artist’s own performance practice with a CGI dreamscape to explore queer ritual and the political potential of software. Two video sculptures by Nam June Paik can be seen as precursors to Satterwhite’s animated image overload.
The show also includes an update of the reading room by Cassandra Press installed at JSC Berlin since 2021, a discursive space in which visitors can delve into Black scholarship on subjects such as double consciousness, performativity, and reparations. Audio recordings of poems from Precious Okoyomon are nestled into the building’s exterior, while Cauleen Smith contributes not only a video but also an installation, Sky Learn Sky (2022), turning the building into a durational artwork. Like that of the exhibition, the installation’s title is borrowed from a saying by Alice Coltrane, known in her spiritual life as Swamini Turiyasangitananda: “At dawn, sit at the feet of action. At noon, be at the hand of might. At eventide, be so big that sky will learn sky.”
How and where do we locate the utopian in everyday life and in art? Why is it important to keep envisioning other ways of being, other temporalities, other spaces, even if it seems naïve to do so considering the violence that defines the status quo? at dawn offers examples of how artists carve out spiritual, psychological, and physical enclaves that call for “something else, something better, something dawning.”
Curators: Lisa Long with Julia Stoschek
Curatorial Assistant: Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung
In Circle Time with Ceyenne Doroshow, the founder and executive director of the New 95 York–based organization G.L.I.T.S. (Gays and Lesbians Living in Transgender Society) explains what being transgender means to a group of children, none of whom looks older than ten. Like the children within it, the video can’t seem to sit still. Frames are stacked one on the other. Shots zoom in on hands and then back out to the group within seconds. There must be at least five dif- ferent camera angles, which are multiplied by a room that seems outfitted with multiple mirrors. Doroshow prepares the children for her story by asking them about their own expe- riences at school. “Everybody is made different in some kind of way,” she says, and asks them about what makes them special, about being bullied, what they want to be when they grow up, and if they have ever felt uncomfortable at school. The children listen distractedly. To the question “Why are you special, or important?” one responds, “Because I live in Brooklyn.” Asked “If you had to be anything in this world, what do you want to be?” another says, “I want to be a doctor.” But these responses bubble up slowly. The children are almost set up to be distracted. They have been given many toys—a vase of fake flowers, a slinky, a camping lantern. Behind them, a model of a dollhouse is lit from within. A set of potted palms room frames Doroshow, who sits on a stool above the children, who are spread out all over the black carpet on the floor.
The room looks dark and lush, like a plushly appointed bathroom in a fancy hotel lobby. This work is part of Circle Time, a series of videos by DIS, the multihyphenate collective founded in 2010 in New York that used to publish DIS Magazine and now runs dis.art, an online streaming platform featuring videos commissioned from artists and thinkers to address emerging conversations in contemporary art, activism, and technology. Their post-internet sensibility melds together a critical eye toward consumerism and a tongue-in-cheek engagement with it. Their videos often satirize popular forms of media, and in the Circle Time series, they use the format of children’s educational television to experiment with the transmission of radical ideas that are in general reserved for more mature or academic audiences. In episodes such as From Courbet to the Kardashians with Jacolby Satterwhite and Universal Basic Income with Clio Chang (both 2018), large concepts are unscrambled into the building blocks of a child’s world: bullying, school, home, parents—thus mapping a flow of intergenerational information exchange.
“Do you know what transgender is?” Ceyenne asks, after telling them about her story, about three quarters of the way into the video. She gets a response pretty immediately: “Somebody who changed their gender to another gender,” one child says matter-of-factly. The children are nonplussed, unfazed, as if this were self-evident. In their political formation, trans- phobia or racism are concepts that they will increasingly encounter through their acculturation into the adult world. In Circle Time with Ceyenne Doroshow, a radically inclusive political future is already here, in the present, playing with toys.
Text by Simon Wu