The 2012 New Museum Triennial features thirty-four artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives—totaling over fifty participants—born between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, many of whom have never before exhibited in the US.
“The Ungovernables,” the second triennial exhibition at the New Museum, acknowledges the impossibility of fully representing a generation in formation and instead embraces the energy of that generation’s urgencies. These urgencies are formal and philosophical, material and ideological. They stem from the unique experiences of this generation who came of age in the aftermath of the independence and revolutionary movements that promised to topple Western colonialism. However, these revolutions became mired in military dictatorships, the emergence of integrated world capitalism, regional and global economic crises, the rise of fundamentalism, and international interventions as well as failures to intervene. Faced with this somewhat bleak inheritance, artists in “The Ungovernables” embrace their complex relationship to history and assert a remarkable resourcefulness, pragmatism, and hopefulness in their work.
Historically used as both a derogative colonial term to justify violent repression of the “natives” (“These people are ungovernable!”) and an affirmative call for civil disobedience (“We will make this country ungovernable!”), ungovernability is a double-edged sword that pursues a radical change in the everyday, but promises an upheaval that is not necessarily controllable. In terms of this exhibition, “The Ungovernables” is meant to suggest both anarchic and organized resistance: protest, chaos, and imagination as a refusal of the extended period of economic, ideological, sectarian, and political conflict that marks the generation’s inheritance. But the title also suggests a dark humor about this inheritance and the nonsentimental, noncynical approaches to history and survival it requires. Lingering in the present, artists in the exhibition embrace temporality and impermanence to explore new contingencies for an unknown future. “The Ungovernables,” then, is about rejecting incorporation and monetization, recognizing heat, transforming potential, and offering possibilities while maintaining self-awareness, humility, and humor.
“The Ungovernables” is organized by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director of Education and Public Programs, with Ryan Inouye, Curatorial Assistant.