Curated by Jameson Paige
Artists: Elena Ailes, Cameron Clayborn, Rami George, April Martin, Máire Witt O’Neill, Derrick Woods-Morrow
Strained States is a group exhibition that translates the snowballing precariousness of global politics into an operative position of instability, one that attempts to acknowledge new subjectivities and methods for living in a groundless present. Playing with identity, form, and material, the artists included take up transition, ambiguity, and the erosion of limits as core interests in their practices. The show is a gesture towards understanding the complexity of our attachments, as well as the state of instability beyond its negative connotations, seeing it instead as a generative position to occupy with rigor, curiosity, and pleasure.
Strained States Curatorial Statement:
Like a live wire, the subject channels what’s going on around it in the process of its own self-composition. Formed by the coagulation of intensities, surfaces, sensations, perceptions, and expressions, it’s a thing composed of encounters and the spaces and events it traverses or inhabits.
Things happen. The self moves to react, often pulling itself someplace it didn’t exactly expect to go.
— Kathleen Stewart, “Live Wire,” in Ordinary Affects
Our state of being is always defined in relation to; it is ourselves, others, and how we are attached. We often think of attachments as good for us, objects and people that draw us in, desire and comfort us. However, attachments are just as often volatile, saddening, and end in consequence. They are the unrequited lover, the sick and diminishing parent—once provider, now in need—the stray cat we know but can’t get close to, the indifferent and nonhuman object. We can also consider our immaterial attachments—claimed or assigned signifiers. Notions of identity and how we appear in social and cultural space become ways of attaching to the world, even if we do not agree with how those attachments manifest. What comes to mind are the limits imposed by marginality, or the shameful feeling of an ill-fitting nationality.
Strained States is an exhibition that takes interest in an expanded reading of states of being, i.e. how we move through the world. It looks at how an individual’s various states, ranging from mood, race, body, nationality, etc., are always in a process of negotiation and straining. Being strained connotes a weary and wary fatigue, tension, and anticipation for relief. As a bodily orientation, this can be likened to a twist—twisting to avoid harm or forcibly being twisted by an outside push. Conversely, one can twist or writhe in pleasure as their body strains to reach climax. Twisting is a curling or bending, a process of adjustment characterized by ongoing movement. Strained States foregrounds the process of being affected and in negotiation, with the prospect of determining what feelings begin to look like as they materialize into forms, keeping in mind the specificity certain orientations towards living require. We are constantly reorienting ourselves; constantly straining in an exercise of ongoing transformation. The artists included take up transition, ambiguity, and the erosion of limits as key concerns in their practices. They are equally attuned to how these processes occur in terms of the muddiness of affect and the flexibility of material, leveraging instances of uncertainty and variability. Each of them is responding to the confused feelings that characterize subjecthood today. They consider how this affective conundrum plays out by constellating form, identity, and material into prismatic openings for inquiry and potential.