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UNDERCURRENTS: Experimental Ecosystems in Recent Art

May 27–June 19, 2010
various locations

Ethical cohabitation—how to live together and how to be in the shared environment—is the problem that brings together the sociopolitical, cultural, and ecological within this exhibition. While ostensibly aiming to achieve harmonious balance, such relations are nevertheless inherently antagonistic and always unstable. In this context, how does one choose to act?

To address this question, we have traced out a network of physical sites along the west side of Manhattan to activate an expanded territory, both literally and figuratively. Specific project sites for the exhibition include The Kitchen, the High Line, the Little Red Lighthouse and the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant. This decentralized exhibition structure suggests multiple positions (geographical, historical, and physical) in which visitors may situate themselves. We provide the opportunity for artists and visitors to perceive and participate in these interrelationships within the urban environment. 

Undercurrents is an experimental ecosystem in itself, opening up a collective platform for thought, the imagination, dialogue and action; the exhibition is a site to critically engage with the changes taking place in the entangled registers of the world around us. The range of artistic practices and issues presented produce surprising encounters, demonstrating how cohabitation is the source of struggle and creativity, problems and solutions, malice and beauty, and consists of the stage on which we all ultimately play a role.

Curated by Anik Fournier, Michelle Lim, Amanda Parmer and Robert Wuilfe Whitney Independent Study Program Curatorial Fellows, 2009–2010

Emily Roysdon. piers untitled (below the surface), 2009. Courtesy of the artist. For Undercurrents, Roysdon interacts with the Christopher Street Piers—a historical site of gay culture and political action—through a series of performances and documentation.
Gina Badger. The River Project’s oyster farm at Pier 40 New York City. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist. For Undercurrents, Badger is presenting a new project, Rates of Accumulation, at The Little Red Lighthouse and The Kitchen.
Amy Balkin. IPCC Reader, Performance, Manchester, UK 2009. Courtesy of the artist. Ongoing public reading project presented during Undercurrents. Volunteers read the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Rachel Berwick, Geochelone Abingdoni; Lonesome George, 2007. DVD projection. Courtesy of the artist. Undercurrents includes this video and accompanying sculpture about the last surviving member of a subspecies of Galapagos tortoises.
Matthew Buckingham, Muhheakantuck – Everything has a Name, 2003. Continuous color 16mm film projection with sound; 40 minute loop, dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist. Presented in Undercurrents. A film project exploring the history of European contact with the indigenous Lenape people in the Hudson River Valley.
ecoarttech. A Series of Indeterminate Hikes in “Google National Park” and "Manhattan
Island National Search Engine," 2010. Courtesy of the artists.
Web-based installation and performance at The Kitchen; interactive Google Maps designed
for mobile and portable devices.
Alfredo Jaar. Fragments (detail), 2010. Courtesy of  the artist. A new project as part of Undercurrents, Jaar asks ten draftspeople on the High Line to draw sections of a photograph of Chile’s Presidential Palace the day after the 1973 coup. The sections will be reassembled and hung at The Kitchen.
Pablo Helguera, A Dictionary of Foreign Time, 2007. Originally created for an installation at the Tenement Museum, NYC; Dimensions variable.  Courtesy of the artist. For Undercurrents, Helguera will present a new installation entitled Beauty for Ashes, involving a juried mini-exhibition of academic painting, a documentary video and a free pamphlet.
Tatsuo Miyajima and Peace Shadow Project Team. The Peace Shadow Project. 2010-ongoing. Website and participatory workshops. Courtesy of the artists. Participants burn their shadows as a petition for a world without nuclear weapons.
Lize Mogel, preliminary sketch of map for The Sludge Economy, 2010. Ink on paper, Courtesy of the artist. A new project by that examines the mostly hidden systems of waste management in NYC. Mogel is also contributing maps for the exhibition as a whole.
Andrea Polli. Sound walkabout McMurdo Station Antarctica, 2008. Courtesy of the artist. For Undercurrents, Polli will partner with the Society for Acoustic Ecology to present participatory sound walks in New York City.
spurse, Sharing the OCEA:Ocean Commons Entanglement Apparatus, 2009–ongoing. Courtesy of the artists. A participatory research project at The Kitchen, that investigates the
entanglements of fish, fishing, the ocean, markets, consumers and land based communities.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Unknown Forces (still), four-channel video, duration variable, 2007, courtesy of the artist. This installation is a meditation on land, politics, migration and labor in the artist’s native Thailand.

Whitney ISP


Support for the Independent Study Program is provided by Margaret Morgan and Wesley Phoa, The Capital Group Charitable Foundation, The New York Community Trust, the Whitney Contemporaries through their annual Art Party benefit, and an anonymous donor.

Endowment support is provided by Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.

Emily Roysdon’s performance/variable media art work was made possible, in part, by the Franklin Furnace Fund supported by stimulus funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; the Lambent Foundation; and Jerome Foundation.

Special thanks to the Friends of the High Line.


Gina Badger's project partially funded by the MIT Council for the Arts


Technical support for Gina Badger's project provided by The River Project.


Use of The Little Red Lighthouse has been made possible by our project partner, The Historic House  Trust of New York City/New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

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