Brave New Worlds of art

Me and My Teacher
Zheng Guogu, Me and My Teacher, 1993/2007. Photographic mural.
Image courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou

Walker staff call the show an antidote to novelist Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' - his monotone vision of a new world order. And the exhibition is anything but monotone.

Flying Garden
Tomas Saraceno, Flying Garden, 2006. Installation view at Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, England, 2006.
Image courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Three galleries are filled with lights, photographs, sculpture, steam jets, and a voice saying "excuse me, excuse me" as part of a video installation. Assistant curator Yasmil Raymond says it's part of the Walker's mission to bring the most intriguing new art from around the world to Minnesota.

"Not everybody has the luxury of traveling to biennials or art fairs," says Raymond. "I think our community enjoys seeing work that is produced from other places, they enjoy being educated about other cultures, they want to see this."

The last international group show was in 2003, and it dealt with issues of globalization in the world of art. But Raymond says it was too soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 for the exhibition to respond to the new tension in the air. In "Brave New Worlds," she says, the Walker selected artists who seem particularly concerned with their role as global citizens.

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Untitled
Zwelethu Mthethwa, Untitled, 2003. Chromogenic print mounted to UV protected plexiglass with aluminum strainer.
Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

"They use art responsibly," says Raymond. "There is a responsibility that is a global responsibility. They're making art to not only speak locally, where their cities are, where they live, but it also seems like their practice is trying to speak globally."

Some artists look into feelings of estrangement through their photography; others use pen and ink drawings to examine propaganda. Raymond says the 25 artists in this exhibition nudge viewers to question reality, and to reflect on the state of the world.

A Declaration
Yael Bartana, A Declaration, 2006. Video transferred to DVD (color, sound); 7:50 minutes.
Image courtesy the artist and Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam

The artists hail from places like Chile, Norway, Romania, Colombia and China. Raymond says they are grouped together not based on where they're from, but based on the ideas they explore. How do we know the world around us? How do we experience the world around us? And when we dream of another world, what does it look like?

Filmmaker Runa Islam was born in Bangladesh, but lives in London. She's contributing a non-narrative piece that takes place in part in a cable car and explores our human fascination with flying. She says being a part of "Brave New Worlds" has been a revelation.

"It's actually almost like coming all the way across the world, meeting people you never had any contact with and feeling like you're with old friends," says Islam, "like in a little club."

Time Lines
Runa Islam. Time Lines, 2005. 35mm film (color, sound); 17:05 minutes Courtesy the artist and White Cube, London
Image courtesy the artist and White Cube, London

Islam says even though the artists work in all sorts of different media, whether its film or drawing or sculpture, their struggles and their attitudes are often quite similar.

"Somebody from China will deal with maybe a different set of socio-economic issues than somebody from the United States, but there are threads and commonalities and cross-overs, and I think it's at that axis point we're brought together," says Islam.

"Brave New Worlds" runs through Feb. 17, 2008 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Co-curator Yasmil Raymond says the artists' work cannot be categorized formally or stylistically. However, she believes they transcend their differences.

"Artistic production knows no language, it knows no flag," says Raymond. "It is an expression of our humanity. This is what defines us; we like to make things, we like beauty, we like to think, we like challenges."

Raymond says ultimately she hopes those who come to see the show will be touched by how our world is made up of infinite smaller worlds, each one brave and new.