For several months I’ve been thinking about these two quotes, the first from singer-songwriter Charli XCX’s made-in-quarantine album how i’m feeling now, the second by noted French Islamophobe, pedophile, and writer Michel Houellebecq in a text recently translated and posted at newmodels.io, which together seem to exemplify the contrary attitudes towards this moment. Charli imagines the future as real — imminent, glistening with potential and never so changeable as now. Houellebecq assumes that the future looks a lot like the present, that there is, in a sense, no new future to imagine, just the bleak, ongoing landscape of the now.
We have seen both perspectives play out recently: never has the future felt so in our hands as when we were marching in the streets; never has it felt so lost, felt like it would look so much like the present, as when we saw Byron Brown’s feeble response to protestor’s demands, Joe Biden’s easy dismissal of same, or our federal government’s ongoing disregard for human life and general contempt for our planet.
In the art world these two trajectories of thought have been exemplified, on the one hand, by the creation of new artist-led programs like Dark Study — a BIPOC women-led coalition of art educators conjuring up experimental, nomadic, virtual education programs centered on the arts — and, on the other, by the hastening of the corporate consolidation of the emerging and middle tiers of the art market by blue chip galleries (David Zwirner’s Platform, for example) and a reinvestment in shallow experiential art extravaganzas like the recently launched Superblue.
So we’ve decided it would be a good time to pause, take stock of the present, and start making a plan for the future. To that end, this issue of Cornelia consists entirely of feature-length essays that address a changing world and present new vectors along which we may be able to move forward. In Toronto, Margaryta Golovchenko presents a roundup of recent exhibitions that have taken the future-looking mandate of science fiction as their starting point, and Parker Kay considers the intimate histories of four artists and how COVID must necessarily alter our conceptions of how we physically and emotionally relate to one another. No art world can be sustained without the generous support of collectors and patrons, so Alva Swing has written an essay that provides insight into the history of corporate collections and contains tips for starting your own office’s collection. In Western New York, Emily Mangione meditates on the necessity for a more responsible public art with the help of Alexa Wajed and her Mezaland project, and Evan Moritz writes about the performative possibilities of Zoom in Kyla Kegler’s recent work, It’s You I Like.
For us at Cornelia and BICA the future feels very real indeed, and we are committed to being a part of creating new systems and new institutions that will work more equitably for more people. If you are too, here are some potential starting points.
Cornelia is published by The Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art
Emily Ebba Reynolds
Emily E. Mangione