955 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02115 617-266-5152 www.icaboston.org
getting emotional May 18â€“September 5, 2005
e·mo·tion (n) 1 a: the affective aspect of consciousness: feeling b: a state of feeling c: a psychic and physical reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling and physiologically involving changes that prepare the body for immediate vigorous action.
Nan Goldin Nan and Brian in bed, NYC, 1983 Cibachrome. 30 x 40 in. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Cover: Ricky Swallow And the Moment Will Come When Composure Returns (Decoy), 2002 Laminated jelutong. 213/8 x 19 3/8 x 137/8 in. Collection of Sam and Shanit Schwartz
Friday night at the game, your team just qualiﬁed for the playoffs at the last second—you jump, scream and suddenly break into tears—you are exultant. Saturday morning lying in bed, you spent the night with your lover, but it’s over—you feel a strong pressure in your chest and start crying—you are devastated. A few years ago you left your home country looking for a better future and today you ﬁnd out that you are not allowed back to your homeland—you take to the streets with others like you, looking for justice—you are furious. Emotions are at the core of the human experience and “have been hard-wired through evolution to help us take action and enhance our chances of survival.”1 From intimate relationships to economic transactions, from personal connections to social interactions the artists in Getting Emotional represent a barometer of the broader shift that is taking place in the way we understand and use emotions. Today, with advances in neurobiology and the social sciences our understanding of emotion has evolved beyond the western tradition that understood feeling as opposed to reason—it
is now clear that emotion and reason are thoroughly interconnected. As with all art, works by the 32 artists represented in Getting Emotional may evoke a direct emotional response. That, however, is not the exclusive reason they are included in the show, or even necessarily their intended goal. These works have been chosen because they take up emotion itself as a subject. Historically, the arts have been a site for emotional expression and experience. But since the 1960s, many visual artists have shied away from emotional expression. A profusion of 19th century genre paintings depicting overly sentimental narratives made emotional painting seem cheap, easy and common. In the 20th century, modernist artists set different goals for themselves: something new and original. Art was often self-referential, building on the ideas and formal innovations of other artists. More recently, however, along with conceptual headiness and postmodern irony, artists have begun to lift up the rock under which emotions had been buried. In reconsidering the role of emotion in art, artists are not making an easy return to the sentimental expressions of the past. Now, emotion is a subject that has drawn artists’ interest as much as formal and conceptual experimentation. How can artists make work about emotion without resorting to sentimentality? Does art about emotion have to be “expressionistic”?
The structure of Getting Emotional unfolds to reveal four different aspects of the experience of emotion. Bodily Sensation looks to the body and explores the visceral intensity of the emotional experience. Feelings Portrayed, moves to the individual expression of particular feelings. Emotional Intimacy presents emotions in the context of relationships. And ﬁnally, Emotion and Society recognizes the social nature of emotion. Getting Emotional begins a conversation that moves away from the dualistic perspective—emotion/reason —that has determined how emotion has been perceived for centuries. In this exhibition we invite you not only to experience the art but also to explore the idea of emotion itself.
1 Jeff Goodwin et al., eds. Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 10.
Emotions are inextricably connected to the body. That is one of the reasons why they become visible, observable, identiﬁable and even predictable by others. As neurologist Antonio Damasio suggests, “emotions use the body as their theater—involving the internal environment, visceral, vestibular and musculoskeletal system.”2 The emotion system of the body is always active, mainly on an unconscious level. How far back in our lives can we trace emotions? Can we remember our ﬁrst emotional experience? Damasio observes that “the basic mechanisms underlying emotion do not require consciousness.”3 Might emotions be present from the beginning as suggested in Marlene Dumas’ First People? The physical basis of emotion holds true throughout our lives. There are moments when our consciousness is overtaken by the experience of intense emotion —the kind of raw and visceral emotion captured by Chloe Piene and Paul Pfeiffer. Can we control our emotions? Should we? Do our emotions control us? Should they?
1 Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body an Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (San Diego: Harcourt, 2000), 51. 2 Ibid, 42.
Marlene Dumas The First People (I–IV), 1991 Oil on canvas 4 parts: 71 x 35½ in. each Collection of De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands
Chloe Piene Black Mouth, 2004 Large format projection, 3 minutes. Collection of Ninah and Michael Lynne, New York
Paul Pfeiffer Fragment of a CruciďŹ xion (After Francis Bacon), 1999 Videotape, VHS player, projector and metal armature. Overall: 20 x 5 x 20 in.; Projected image: 3 x 4 in. Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase, with funds from Melva Bucksbaum and the Film and Video Committee
Feeling is a way of knowing, but transferring emotion into consciousness is widely thought to be uniquely human. We can control how we convey our emotions. We reﬁne their physical expression to appear subtler, less obvious and even invisible to the eyes of others, but do we always succeed? Ricky Swallow’s frozen ﬁgure shuts his eyes in an attempt to hide his emotion. But the title, And the Moment Will Come When Composure Returns (Decoy), suggests an intensity belied by the sculpture’s stillness. What is he feeling? The acceptable expressions of emotion are determined by the social context in which we live. We conﬁne the expression of our emotions to speciﬁc times and places, for example: the movie theater. In the dark, we feel safe enough to experience “real” emotions, even though we are aware of the movies’ artiﬁce. In What Remains, Christian Jankowski records people retelling the very real emotions experienced while watching different movies. In the light of day, however, we may question the theatrical expression of emotion. The actors portrayed by Sam Taylor-Wood perform under the direction of the artist—they were asked to cry for the camera. Despite the contrivance of their circumstances, can we be sure Whitaker or Gambon do not feel acutely sad? Paradoxically enough, the performance of feelings is often all it takes to induce strong emotions.
Andy Warhol Nine Jackies, 1964 Synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas 59½ x 48¼ in. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President 2002.273
Sam Taylor-Wood Forest Whitaker, 2004 C-print mounted on aluminum. 35 x 35 in. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
“Somehow I appreciate my being here”
“It stinks … I’m tired …”
“I’m so glad to be seeing it”
“Not worth seeing”
“I can’t believe it, I can just feel it right here”
Christian Jankowski What Remains, 2004 16 mm ﬁlm, 15 minutes Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Inc. New York
Emotion is often a private and personal experience. The act of sharing your feelings with another individual is an act of intimacy. We establish emotional connections with other human beings—friends, lovers, relatives, strangers—but, is it by chance or choice? Can we choose who we love? As discussed in the ﬁrst section, there is a strong physical component to intimacy and some of the artworks in this section touch upon this physicality. Ron Mueck’s piece shows the physical tie between mother and child. That same strong and visceral connection is reinterpreted by Maria Magdalena CamposPons in Replenishing, where maternal bonds become visible again decades later. Are these biological ties innate to human beings? How does intimacy change over time? Beyond physical connection, intimacy is a way of communicating feelings; a gaze into the eyes of your lover, a gesture charged with affection, or just a simple word: Stay.
John Currin Two Guys, 2002 Oil on canvas 48 x 36 in. Collection of Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard
Ron Mueck Mother and Child, 2001 Pigmented polyester resin on ďŹ berglass 9Â˝ x 35 x 15 in. Courtesy of the Robert Lehrmann Art Trust, Washington, D.C. Collection of Aimee and Robert Lehrmann
Jack Pierson Stay, 1991 Found plastic and metal letters 12 x 36 x 2 in. Collection of Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard
emotion and society
To feel is to be moved. Indeed, the origin of the word emotion comes from Latin emovere—to move. If emotion implies movement, in the social context that movement becomes action, and the crowd— connected by a shared objective—becomes a body of one. While we may think of emotion as one of the most personal and intimate of experiences, emotions also play a strong role in our public lives. Throughout history, those who would lead have known the importance of appealing to the emotions of those they wish to lead. “The emotions most directly connected to moral sensibilities, such as shame, guilt, and pride are especially pervasive as motivators of action.”4 In our recent history which emotions do you think have been manipulated for political reasons? The expression of communal emotion can take the form of a social protest—as portrayed by Sam Durant—or a rave—as captured by Andreas Gursky— or a congregation of pilgrims cheering a new religious leader. Are these crowds uniﬁed by shared objectives or are they, in fact, uniﬁed by shared emotions?
4 Jeff Goodwin et al., eds. Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 10.
Andreas Gursky May Day II, 1998 C-print 73 x 88¼ in. Collection of Pamela and Arthur Sanders
emotion and society
Sam Durant Berkeley (1970), 2004 Lambda print and mirror 52 x 75 in. Private collection, Milan
Barbara Kruger Untitled (Pledge), 1988 Photographic silkscreen on vinyl 124 x 80 in. Collection of Emily Fisher Landau, New York (Amart Investments LLC)
of related interest
Getting Emotional May 18–September 5, 2005
Viewpoints Gallery Talks with artists Thursdays/6:30 pm/Free
Neta Crawford, Associate Professor, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
May 19 Christian Jankowski, Getting Emotional artist Nicholas Baume, Curator of Getting Emotional and ICA Chief Curator
Carl Marci, M.D., Director of Social Neuroscience for Psychotherapy Research Program; staff psychiatrist, Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry; and Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
June 23 Roe Ethridge, Momentum artist Bennett Simpson, ICA Associate Curator Panel Discussion What is Emotion? Tuesday, May 24, 6:30 pm Getting Emotional explores emotion as a subject in art, but what exactly is emotion and what is its role in our broader culture? Join us for an evening of fascinating dialogue as a panel of experts from four distinct ﬁelds examines different views of emotion. $7 general admission and $5 for members, students, and seniors. Registration required. Call 617-927-6635 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View the exhibition before the event between 5 and 6:30 pm. Moderated by Nicholas Baume, Curator of Getting Emotional and ICA Chief Curator, panelists include: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Boston College
Sunday Encounters ICA docents lead tours of Getting Emotional and Momentum 4: Roe Ethridge on the ﬁrst Sunday of each month at 2:30 pm. Free with museum admission. June 5, July 10, August 7, September 4
Lama Migmar Tseten, Buddhist Chaplain, Harvard University; founder and director of the Sakya Institute for Buddhist Studies, Cambridge
Family Matinee Saturday, June 25, 2 pm Explore the themes of Getting Emotional through Albert Lamorrise’s ﬁlm The Red Balloon (34 minutes), followed by a hands-on art-making activity. Family Matinees are suitable for children ages 5–12 accompanied by an adult. Free with museum admission.
Friday Reel Rush The ICA’s Friday night ﬁlm and video series gets emotional with three evenings that examine the quest for love in all its forms and the powerful connections that exist between love and identity. $7 general admission and $6 for members, students, and seniors. For more information call 617-927-6620. Friday, June 24, 8 pm Keep Not Silent (2004, 52 minutes) by Ilil Alexander Love (2004, 21 minutes) by Tracey Moffat and Garry Hillberg (Boston Premiere) Nice Colored Girls and Night Cries by Tracey Moffat Friday, July 22, 8 pm Father and Son (2003, 83 minutes) by Alexander Sokurov (Russian with English subtitles)
brochure design: visual dialogue
June 9 Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Getting Emotional artist
Friday, August 19, 8 pm Danzón (1992, 103 minutes) by Maria Novaro (Spanish with English subtitles)
Group Tours Guided tours of the exhibition for groups of students or adults are available. To schedule a tour for groups of ten or more, call 617-927-6635 or email email@example.com. Two weeks advance notice required. A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue is available in the ICA bookstore. Major funding for Getting Emotional has been provided by The NBT Charitable Trust. Additional support has been provided by the Massachusetts Cultural Council,
a state agency, and the Boston Cultural Council, a municipal agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Hotel Accommodations provided by Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston, the ofﬁcial hotel of the Institute of Contemporary Art.
The Institute of Contemporary Art 955 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02115 617-266-5152 www.icaboston.org Gallery Hours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, noon–5 pm Thursday, noon–9 pm Saturday and Sunday, 11 am–5 pm Admission $7 adults / $5 students and seniors FREE children 12 and under and ICA members FREE Thursday after 5 pm Access Separate wheelchair entrance is available; ring bell at front entrance for assistance. Most of the ICA’s galleries and the restrooms are wheelchair accessible. Parking and Public Transportation Discounted parking is available to ICA visitors at the Auditorium Garage, 50 Dalton Street. Take the Green Line B, C or D train to the Hynes Convention Center/ICA stop.
Published on May 18, 2005