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New Museum, New York
8 April – 7 May

Younger Than Jesus, the New Museum's Generational, opens this evening. The approach here is an interesting one, coming as it does on the heels of an art market that appeared to fetishise youth. But the curators of the new triennial, Laura Hoptman, Massimiliano Gioni and Lauren Cornell, assure us that what the show is meant to offer is a 'snapshot' of a specific generation that for some time now has simply existed either as a catchphrase ('Millenials', 'Generation Y') or as a demographic group for marketers. For Gioni, Younger Than Jesus is an attempt to show this generation of artists as 'producers', ones for which, as Hoptman noted, the curators have created "no -ism", which is to say, no conceptual corral that might make sense of what it is that this generation of artists is up to (that seems like a good idea, except when you remember that the very notion of a 'generation' is itself a conceptual problem, though the curators and others unpack the idea in one of the shows' two accompanying catalogues; more on the second one in a moment). Hoptman demurred that they (the curators, the museum) would "leave the assessments to the sociologists, to the marketers and to the future", which is a nice way of confirming that they (the curators, the museum) believe the show (and this generation) is worthy of assessments to begin with.

I do think it's safe to say that the New Museum has done the Whitney one better with this show, at least in terms of the latter's stated intentions for its 2008 biennial as one that would wade knee-deep into the notion of 'networked culture'. There the emphasis was on performance and collaboration, on projects that seemed cast off by the sheer centrifugal force of the artists' own lebenswelt. For The Generational, it's not the artists that exemplify networked culture, but rather the curatorial strategy itself (though 'strategy' may be too strong a word here): the network of artists included in the exhibition were culled from a list of 500 (all given billing in the Younger Than Jesus: Artist Directory, a phone book-type accompaniment that gives a single page over to information on each artist and images of past projects). This list of 500 was in turn compiled by yet another network of 150 critics, curators, artists and educators (who, one presumes, are all Older Than Jesus). The 150 were asked to select three artists each; 10 other 'correspondents' (the word originally used by Gioni was 'informants', but this seems to have dropped out of the directory) were asked to suggest up to 20 artists. That puts the total above 500, of course, but no matter; what is important to recognise is that, for the artists, inclusion in the show is nothing more than a function of 'being in the right place at the right time with the right people'. This is the kind of beautiful distillation one gets when demographics are exchanged for thematics or, worse yet, 'arguments' (yes, about relevance, importance, politics, etc). But one has to hand it to the New Museum: at least it's honest about leaving such 'assessments' to some other network.

Photobucket
Faye Driscoll, Loneliness, 2006, video, 2 min 10 sec. Courtesy New Museum, New York

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Sounds like an interesting show... at least from the perspective of curator. The museum is just down the block from where I work so I have absolutely no excuse for not checking it out.
Sorry but if they're going to qualify 'generation' according to being in 'the right place' then they're no longer talking just generation. All the networking in their little corner of Manhattan is not going to make this a valid sample of any demographic much less corral art that way.

What a bunch of airheads! Do they really think that 'a generation' is somehow going to devote themselves to a single, salient form of art? Has any generation? Do they think there are no Gen-Yers painting? sculpting? film/video making? It would be as hard to say what Gen-Yers aren't doing, as presume to find some trend here.

But beyond that, why should art curators dabble in demographics and sociology when they're not prepared to even make calls within their own area of expertise? And as Jon points out Hauptmann sweeps all that under someone else's caprpet -"leave the assessments to the sociologists, to the marketers and to the future". So what exactly is the curato's job? Clearly it doesn't allow much time for thinking.
Well said, CAP. "One has to hand it to the New Museum" - they have abnegated all curatorial responsibility. So just what is their raison d’être? And why do they imagine we should give thought, contemplation or even the time of day to an artist who has been selected on the basis that their auntie might be someone with an "in" at the New Museum? When does networking become nepotism and should curators be commended for flaunting their indolence?

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