Unconventional Love

Unconventional Love at the Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University.
27 April–11 June 2011


The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University offers an unconventional exploration of love in an exhibition titled Common Love, Aesthetics of Becoming. Rather than conceptualize love as a romantic gesture, Common Love resituates love within contemporary sociopolitical discourse. The works included in Common Love explore love as a way to participate in the production of a contemporary world where physical, cultural, and virtual space is shared. Shed of its conventional packaging, the transformative power of love can be identified in the work of the fifteen artists included.

Common Love draws its inspiration from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s 2009 book Commonwealth. In this work, the authors propose that the common infuses all spheres of life. They refer not only to earth’s air, water, plant and animal life, but also to the factors that make up human society: from languages and habits, to affects and codes. Despite living in an ever more globalized world, shared resources are increasingly privatized. Hardt and Negri offer love as a prospective cure, positing love as an act that produces the common in the service of shared knowledge, experience, and new forms of community. In turn, Common Love offers an aesthetic experience of this production.

The exhibition, on view 27 April–11 June, comprises paintings, photographs, sculpture, video, and site-specific installations by 15 artists: Dave Arnold , Ronnie Bass, Guy Ben-Ner, Sean Dack, N. Dash, Marc Handelman, Tim Hyde, Will Kwan, Mads Lynnerup, Yasue Maetake, Gabriel Martinez, Gedi Sibony, Mika Tajima, Christian de Vietri, and Rona Yefman. Alexander Benenson, Kristen Chappa, Donald Johnson-Montenegro, and Tomoko Kanamitsu serve as curators.

Director of the MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies at Columbia University, Kaira Cabañas, who edited the exhibition catalogue, confesses that “In pairing the common with love as the conceptual framework for the exhibition, I aimed to provoke not only curiosity but also, admittedly, some discomfort…. Love challenges our presuppositions about what counts as “serious” scholarly work.” She further describes the exhibition as aiming “to intervene in a moment when alternative conception of love and politics are at stake in contemporary artistic practice.”

The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue Common Love, Aesthetics of Becoming, edited by Kaira M. Cabañas. Published by the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, the catalogue features fully illustrated essays, as well as a transcript of Michael Hardt’s round table discussion with the curators. Contributors include A. E. Benenson, Kristen Chappa, Donald Johnson-Montenegro, and Tomoko Kanamitsu.

Related Events:

Opening Reception with Performance by Ronnie Bass and Gandalf Gavan
Tuesday, April 26, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, performance at 6:00 pm

Lecture on love and politics with Michael Hardt, Professor of Literature and Italian Studies at Duke University.
Thursday, April 28, 6:30 pm, Room 114, Avery Hall, Columbia University.

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