The Julia Stoschek Collection opens the first institutional solo exhibition in Germany by A.K. Burns

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The Julia Stoschek Collection opens the first institutional solo exhibition in Germany by A.K. Burns
Installation view, A.K. BURNS, NEGATIVE SPACE, JSC Düsseldorf. Photo: Alwin Lay.

DUSSELDORF.- The Julia Stoschek Collection is presenting the first institutional solo exhibition in Germany by New York–based artist A.K. Burns. Embedded within new materialist, queer, and feminist theories, Burns’s interdisciplinary practice explores the body as a contentious domain where social, political, and material forces collide.

Negative Space, the exhibition presented at JSC Düsseldorf, is comprised of three multi-channel video installations that are a part of a cycle works by the same name. This is the most comprehensive presentation of the series to date and includes the restaging of existing episodes A Smeary Spot (Negative Space 0) (2015) and Living Room (Negative Space 00) (2017), as well as the premiere of Leave No Trace (Negative Space 000) (2019). In addition, the exhibition includes drawings related to the series, a new film observing the phenomenon of a total solar eclipse, and an experimental sound work presented as a vinyl.

The exhibition’s title uses a formal term in art—negative space—to denote the nonsubject. While the subject or “positive space” is a describable thing and the focus of our attention, “negative space” is unfixed and ultimately an open set of possibilities. Burns uses this concept of negative space as a proposal for re-orienting the viewer and as an analogy for generating agency within a subjugated position. The premise of this cycle of works is to envision worlds wherein hierarchical relations permute. The worlds within each video installation playfully corrupt science-fiction tropes exploring the space between politics and fantasy to build idiosyncratic allegorical imagery. Burns deliberately locates the series in a speculative present filled with the detritus of everyday life, raising questions about how value is allocated with respect to resources, environmental fragility, and marginalized bodies.

The opening episode, a four-channel video installation called A Smeary Spot (Negative Space 0), is staged between two environments, the deserts of southern Utah and a black box theater. Moving in and across these sites, the cast of performers deliver a script comprised of appropriated and altered texts while engaging in various tasks. The polyvocal recitation unfolds like a manifesto, rooted in ontological fluidity and difference.

The following episode, Living Room (Negative Space 00), is a two-channel video installation exploring the body as an exploited resource as well as one with degrees of agency. The video is shot in a building where each room symbolizes a part of a metaphorical organism. In this organism, the living room becomes a dreamlike space similar to a child’s psyche; the stairwell is a passageway for the movement of waste, like the bowls; the bathroom constitutes a place to detox, a function of the kidneys; and the basement is a uterus, providing a stage for vital choreography.

The newest video installation Leave No Trace (Negative Space 000), initiates a dialogue between acts of construction, the potentiality of the void, and the grid as an organizing principle. This work returns to places, props, and characters first introduced in A Smeary Spot Smeary Spot (Negative Space 0) and Living Room (Negative Space 00). As various narrative threads converge, performers gather on a trash-laden outdoor platform bordering a military base to construct a new stage on which to go-go dance and rehearse forms of protest.

These three episodes are scored by Geo Wyeth and Living Room (Negative Space 00) features choreography by NIC Kay. In addition, Burns works with an extended community of artists who perform in her videos. The production of Leave No Trace (Negative Space 000) is supported by JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION and The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, New York.

Recently, A.K. Burns and A.L. Steiner’s collaborative video Community Action Center (2010) was named one of the twenty-five most important contemporary artworks by the New York Times. This work will be screened at JSC Düsseldorf on November 15–17, 2019.

A.K. Burns is an interdisciplinary artist, who has shown extensively across the US, including at Participant Inc., New York; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland; the New Museum, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge; and FRONT International Cleveland Triennial in Cleveland. Burns was a 2018 NYFA Fellow in Interdisciplinary Arts, a 2016–17 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University as well as a recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital Foundation Visual Arts Award. The artist is currently a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College Department of Art & Art History. As a frequent collaborator and advocate for labor issues in the Arts, Burns was a founding member of W.A.G.E (Working Artists in the Great Economy) in 2008. The artist’s works can be found in public collations including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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