Dear Reader,

Lately, I can’t help but think about that other most recent period of American upheaval: the late 60s.  Then, as now, day to day American politics seemed tinged with a streak of millenarianism: on the left mingled with a sense of impending liberation and the potential for a more socially open utopia, on the right with a sense of impending generational doom exemplified by the “hippy” (or, now, “antifa”) and a concurrent fear of socialist incursion. What happened in the following decades is well documented: the left was smashed and then subsumed by the right, first in aggressive intelligence operations by the FBI and CIA in the 60s and finally by the magnetism of Wall Street, politics, and the entertainment industry throughout the 70s and 80s. Then, as now, the American imperial state thrived on the illusion of its own weakness, and it was this very illusion that led to the shoring up of imperial power and the collapse of a meaningful opposition from the left. Given the recent election and the public plaudits for the incoming administration, with its familiar neoliberal hawks, it is hard not to feel chilling reverberations with that period of American history.

The arts, of course, are far from immune to these political vicissitudes. The rise of conceptual art in the late-60s provided new aesthetic avenues by which artists could express their political views; the explosion of the art market in the following decades was in some ways a reactionary force to bring those very artists back into the normative fold, to ensure their ideas could be as easily commodified as their paintings. That being said, the arts have long been, and in many ways remain, a beautiful combination of oasis and dumping ground, where ideas considered too far out of the everyday can be openly discussed, old ideas can be dusted off and reconstituted, and in which the future can be glimpsed, mirage-like, anew.

Many of the pieces in this issue of Cornelia are concerned with this search for something better, and with art’s unique ability to mine the contemporary moment to put the future, as it were, right in front of our faces, to show us the unthought thought. From Toronto, Margaryta Golovchenko follows up her previous piece about recent intersections between science fiction and contemporary art by addressing two exhibitions that center speculative narratives in their making; and Lauren Fournier reminisces on life pre-COVID and the recent explosion (pun intended) of fermentation-based practices, both in the arts and in people’s kitchens. On this side of the border, Dana Tyrrell digs into the envisioning of queer utopias in two recent installation works, Shasti O’Leary Soudant addresses Matt Kenyon’s techno-pessimistic exhibition at Big Orbit Project Space, and Kyla Kegler interviews Ryan Huff about his expansive creative practice on paper, on stage, and in virtual space.

As we wrap up what has been an undeniably horrible year, we are excited about some bright spots on the horizon, especially here in Buffalo. This December will see the opening of two new art galleries in town, K Art on Main St (focused entirely on indigenous artists!) and Rivalry Projects in Allentown and, both of which will be bringing much needed new life to a diminished scene. Our very own BICA will be moving into 30 Essex St, in the site formerly occupied by Big Orbit Project Space and an arts complex with an auspicious history. We couldn’t be more excited to carry this artistic legacy on into the future. See you in 2021!

Cornelia is published by The Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art

Editor-in-Chief:

Nando Alvarez-Perez

Producer:

Emily Ebba Reynolds

Designer:

Mark Why

Copy Editor:

Emily E. Mangione