On April 18, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center launches Generation Z, an exhibition-project exploring the attitudes of emerging artists at the end of the century. Generation Z is an evolving work-in-progress that attempts to seek out potent new sensibilities of artists from around the world. This multidisciplinary exhibition of artists, architects, sound engineers, and filmmakers will change and grow as it travels to Brussels later in the year. Generation Z draws artists from such diverse locations as Paris, Ljubljana, Bakenburg (South Africa), Mexico City, San Antonio, Helsinki, Bratislava, Barcelona, New York City, Tokyo, Seoul, and Berlin. The exhibition will occupy P.S.1’s first floor, duplex gallery, and café. Artists’ works include installation, video, photography, painting, sculpture, performance, and sound.
Organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Alanna Heiss, and Barbara Vanderlinden, this exhibition focuses on the idea of “generation,” an idea frequently used to categorize contemporary art. The exhibition’s title recalls the apathy and burn-out of the early 1990s “Generation X” and announces the evolution of attitudes and ways of working. The “Z” in the title of the exhibition stands for a position that is both an ending and a beginning. Generation Z describes the state of anticipation that exists between the possibility of something new and our hunger for discovering the next thing.
The artists profiled in Generation Z exhibit a renewed sense of confidence in their ability to relate to contemporary society; their artwork experiments with elements of media, globalization, contemporary politics, communication technology, and urban growth. The New York version of Generation Z includes Aidas Bareikis, John Bock, Brett Cook-Dizney, Lionel Estève, Anna Gaskell, Tommi Grönlund & Petteri Nisunen, Stephen Hendee, Koo Jeong-a, Elke Krystufek, Kyupi-Kyupi, Moshekwa Langa, Nikki S. Lee, Alfredo Martinez, Jonathan Meese, Boris Ondreicka, Marko Peljhan, Vincente Razo, Jennifer Reeder, Chris Sauter, Tomoko Takahashi, and Fatimah Tuggar.
Critical to the work of many of the artists in Generation Z is an evolution of their use of media to address issues of subjectivity. No longer contemplating their reflection in commercial media, the artists have turned the tools of the media on their private lives in their search for themselves in layered, multi-facetted portraits. This strategy is apparent in the work of Elke Krystufek who has placed herself under self-surveillance and documentation since she was 14 years old. Krystufek’s work I AM your mirror (1998) includes 1,300 postcard-sized photographs of the artist in mundane or meaningless moments and actions revealing many different identities. Through the undifferentiated documentation of her life, Krystufek walks the line between glamour and an uglier, or more disarming, self-exposure.
Adopting a related strategy, the artist Nikki S. Lee appropriates various codes of dress and lifestyle that denote urban identities. In snap-shots of herself as lesbian, yuppie, tourist, swinger, punk, Hispanic, and East Village Japanese, Lee finds a potentially schizophrenic collection of selves in what appear to be “real-life” photographs. In a massive installation resembling an over-sized teenage bedroom, Berlin-based artist Jonathan Meese places his own image amongst pictures of rock stars, movie actors, political leaders, and literary figures such as Nietzsche and de Sade. A ramp running through the two-story space lets the viewer literally walk through Meese’s explosive consciousness. In an equally complex installation titled Silent Movie – The Mountain of My Youth – A Novel – or Brighter Vistas (1999), South Africa-born artist Moshekwa Langa finds expression in various forms of media—photography, video, drawing, and painting—creating a layered and overlapping, stream-of-consciousness narrative.
A second thread connecting the work of Generation Z artists is their interest in arrangement and disorder. They explore the possibilities of accumulation, spread, organic growth, and the entropy of ordered systems. Rather than placing objects in a museum, Parisian artist Koo Jeong-a isolates herself in a gallery, emerging sometimes weeks later, having subtly re-ordered elements of the space. Working in immaterial media, architects Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunnen have created an ultrasound installation involving high sweep frequencies that combine to create a third frequency that is loud and piercing, yet a pure and intense experience.
In a site-specific work for Generation Z, Stephen Hendee transforms P.S.1’s café into a cool, clean module illuminated with blue light that emulates the wireframe models created in Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs. Working with the social aspects of space, New York-based artist Brett Cooke-Dizney explores the fabric of communities by taking the portraits of less visible members and painting them supersized onto the walls of buildings and outdoor architecture.
Initiated at P.S.1, Generation Z is offered to New York audiences as an exhibition laboratory. An international collaboration, Generation Z brings together Berlin Biennale Director and P.S.1 Curator Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Executive Director Alanna Heiss, and Manifesta 2 curator Barbara Vanderlinden. Generation Z at P.S.1 is organized by Larissa Harris and Tarra Cunningham. Following its presentation at P.S.1, the exhibition will travel to Brussels where new artists will be incorporated into the project and written materials will be compiled into an exhibition catalog.