Devin Kenny: rootkits rootwork

Jun 9–Sep 2, 2019

MoMA PS1

Installation view of Devin Kenny: rootkits rootwork, on view at MoMA PS1, New York from June 9–September 2, 2019. Image courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo: Matthew Septimus

Devin Kenny raises timely questions about the shape of racial politics and community in contemporary America, interrogating the interconnected dynamics of gentrification, displacement, and diaspora. For his first museum solo exhibition, Kenny encourages us to consider how the technologies that facilitate online communities and activism develop alongside the displacement and systemic oppression and marginalization of Black people in the US.

Much as his work does, Kenny’s exhibition title links together networks of disparate references. “Rootkits” are a form of computer virus that undetectably alter the underlying operating system; “rootwork” alludes to practices of Black-American folk magic, and both reference the DNA kits that allow people to explore their heritage. In more than a dozen works across a range of media—including some created for the exhibition—Kenny draws particular inspiration from network technologies, locating unsettling intersections of complicity and exploitation, which his work often resists. Employing the popular cultures of memes, music, fast fashion, and viral media, the artist subtly reveals ubiquitous and often invisible structures of injustice and exclusion.

The artist has stipulated that the exhibition will be closed to the public for approximately thirty minutes each day. During this time, the museum guards stationed in the gallery are invited to experience and interact with the artworks as visitors if they wish. In addition, Kenny has collaborated with The Museum of Modern Art's Department of Information Technology to install Bail Bloc software on a network of museum-operated computers. Throughout the run of the show, the computers are continuously mining "Monero" cryptocurrency, which is then converted into US dollars and used by the Immigrant Bail Fund to post bond for incarcerated people in immigration detention.

  • This exhibition is part of Summer at MoMA PS1.
  • Devin Kenny (American, b. 1987) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, musician, and independent curator. He has collaborated with various art and music venues in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including Recess; Het Roode Bioscoop; REDCAT; Freak City; Julia Stoschek Collection; the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; SOMA Summer, Mexico City; Goethe-Institut New York, and MoMA PS1, where he participated in Greater New York (2015). A graduate of Cooper Union, Kenny received his MFA in 2013 from the New Genres department at UCLA and is an alumnus of the Whitney Independent Study Program.

    Devin Kenny: rootkits rootwork is organized by Peter Eleey, Chief Curator, with Oliver Shultz, Curatorial Associate.

    The exhibition is supported by The Tom Slaughter Exhibition Fund. Additional funding is provided by the MoMA PS1 Annual Exhibition Fund.

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