The Hessel Museum of Art marks its tenth anniversary with a major exhibition of works from the Marieluise Hessel Collection curated by Lauren Cornell and Tom Eccles entitled Invisible Adversaries. The exhibition is inspired by the eponymous 1976 feature film by the radical Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT, and is built around its themes. The film presents a woman’s struggle to retain her sense of self against hostile alien forces that appear increasingly ubiquitous, colonizing the minds of all those around her.
Invisible Adversaries was chosen as a touchstone for the exhibition because the condition it describes, where a hostile force (what EXPORT in her film describes as “Hyksos”) circles around the protagonist and also infiltrates her mind, connects with the ways artists approach their adversaries: not as obvious enemies to overthrow but as complex relationships that are a profound part of our history and personal lives. The film is also embedded with a feminist psychology—EXPORT’s longstanding interests in confronting misogyny reaches delirious heights as Anna is psychically tortured by a patriarchal society, whose connection to Nazism is only thinly veiled. This seemed a fertile point of departure for a collection that is replete with works that powerfully address the social and political body.
The works in the exhibition range from the mid-1970s to the present day, including many recent acquisitions and major installations such as A Minute Ago by Rachel Rose, and Odradek Wall by Liam Gillick. The exhibition also provides the East Coast premiere of Factory in the Sun (2015) by Hito Steyerl, her work for the 2015 Venice Biennale. Often juxtaposing works from diverse artists and periods and persistently focusing on the social content of imagery, Invisible Adversaries aims to reintroduce the striking contentiousness of the Hessel Collection. Artists in the exhibition include Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Chantal Akerman, Kai Althoff, Janine Antoni, Ida Applebroog, Phyllida Barlow, Lynda Benglis, Barbara Bloom, Paul Chan, Patty Chang, Anne Collier, Rineke Dijkstra, Trisha Donnelly, VALIE EXPORT, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick, K8 Hardy, Rachel Harrison, Mona Hatoum, Roni Horn, Emily Jacir, Annette Kelm, Leigh Ledare, Nikki S. Lee, Sarah Lucas, Tala Madani, Christian Marclay, Helen Marten, Ulrike Müller, Bruce Nauman, Tony Oursler, Philippe Parreno, William Pope.L, Seth Price, Magali Reus, Rachel Rose, Thomas Ruff, Ilene Segalove, Cindy Sherman, Stephen Shore, Diane Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Jo Spence, Hito Steyerl, Tunga, Gillian Wearing, Martha Wilson, and Krzysztof Wodiczko. Invisible Adversaries also features works on loan by Emily Jacir and Trevor Paglen; a major installation by Carrie Mae Weems; and a specially commissioned painting by Cheyney Thompson (in collaboration with Amy Sillman).
The exhibition is accompanied by a 300-page publication designed by Zak Group with original essays by nine influential writers, scholars and artists: Zach Blas, Johanna Fateman, Nav Haq, Vít Havránek, J. Hoberman, Alex Kitnick, Tavia Nyong’O, Lauren O’Neill-Butler, and Julian Rose. The catalogue also includes original interviews with VALIE EXPORT, Trevor Paglen, and Hito Steyerl.
The 1976 feature film Invisible Adversaries (1hr 52 mins) by VALIE EXPORT will be screened daily at two hour intervals beginning at 11:30 am.