The Value Of Visiting The Whitney Biennial

The Value Of Visiting The Whitney Biennial

How Art Starts A Conversation

From March 17th to June 11th, the Whitney Museum of American Art hosts its revered Biennial. The 2017 Whitney Biennial is not unlike its predecessors in concept; this every-two-years celebration of contemporary art is notable for making artists visible. This seventy-eighth show, curated for the first time ever by two people of color, features sixty-three artists, of diverse age, gender, and race. Their subject matter, however, is arguably more politically relevant than ever before. The online description prides itself on a central theme: “The formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society…” This is not unexpected- the curation coincided with the 2016 election. With such a weighty event in place, the spectrum of issues covered by this year’s art exposition is difficult, but necessary to condense.

Being within The Meatpacking District and on the border of the Hudson River and High Line lends the Whitney a unique stance; it is one of the only art domains in the area. It is, undoubtedly, an overwhelming experience, given the crowd that the event attracts and the range of media used to produce the show. While the following recounts pieces that became personally resonant, it is certainly worth traveling the entire two-floor exhibit to find one’s individual muse. Nothing there, however, is as aesthetically pleasing as it is thought-provoking.

The 'individual’s place' became particularly distinct in Post-Commodity’s "A Very Long Line." The artwork occupies a small room on the fifth floor where a video, shot entirely from the window of a car, plays at different orientations with out-of-sync audio. The video depicts the border between Mexico and the United States, and for all the political conversation surrounding the border, the video makes it surprisingly unassuming. The artist collective's intent is to disorient viewers by arranging the video chaotically, and further, to suggest 'genesis amnesia.' This was a newfound term for me, but simply put, the phrase implies the condition of forgetting one’s origins.

The phrase is analyzed by Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi in relation to Orientalism. He argues that the European analyses of other societies is often treated as the only analyses, consequently prompting people of a given origin to forget their subjective history. The European analyses are treated as a universal truth. The artwork seeks to echo this sentiment in providing that U.S. citizens tend to forget the indigenous people, trades, and migration groups of their country. In context of the exhibition’s theme, the border has its own history of forming or transforming one’s identity, and of providing a place in society. The question of how we perceive these borders becomes very confrontational.

Like most art in the exhibit, the work is largely introspective, encouraging viewers to consider their experiences in relation to social issues. It immerses viewers in situations that the popular media confronts them with, making uncommon realities easier to understand, if not empathize with. Henry Taylor’s “The Times They Ain’t A Changing, Fast Enough!” has garnered widespread attention for how intimately it does this. Taylor paints Philando Castile’s shooting, positioning the viewer so that their perspective is of a passenger in the car where it occurred. Viewing a recreation of an incident, regardless of one’s relation to it, is not nearly comparable to experiencing it firsthand, but it seems vital that the experience be translated somehow. It is easy to remove oneself from news coverage- whether of border regulations or of police brutality- and representing it in a public arts event challenges audiences to genuinely focus on these subjects.

Some artworks are naturally more abstract than this in their message, or if not abstract, more indirect themes are reflected in the work. Lyle Ashton Harris fills a room with digital media projected on silk screens, in a work titled "Once (Now) Again." The digital media are photographs and videos of his friends, family, and lovers, all of whom are depicted across a timeline of what he describes as 'seismic shifts.' This I found beautiful; a perspective of the African American community that was not the violent, super-predatory one imposed upon society for centuries. It lies at a comforting contrast with the other works, but not mindlessly so. It encourages visibility, and it strives to be honest, humane, and homely. Art, per Harris’ work, is often in those closest to us.

It’s not uncommon to see audiences become visually disturbed by the Biennial; many will glance at a more controversial work and immediately retreat. Frowns and shaking heads will become a familiar sight. It’s important to draw this discomfort into two floors of a museum. The audience this garners, the voice it enables, and the issues it coalesces are far too present to ignore. The art of the Whitney Biennial is a medium of conversation, and a powerful one at that.

Cover Image Credit: Sudeepa Singh / The Whitney Museum

Popular Right Now

The Logan Paul Fiasco Is Just A Symptom Of A Much Larger Problem

In the wake of Logan Paul's suicide forest debacle, I decided to explore how this could even happen in the first place.

Wow, 2018 sure has started off with a bang, hasn't it? First, Donald Trump seemingly threatens North Korea with nuclear annihilation. Then, all these stupid memes about tide pods and Knuckles the echidna circulate across the web, and finally, Logan Paul decided that he would not be outdone.

Yes, the YouTube star decided to vlog in Japan, and every foreigner who has ever hated American tourists for their arrogance and ignorance has been validated. When he arrived in the country, Paul stated that Japanese culture was all about respect. He then proceeded to run around streets in traditional Japanese attire, buy a Game Boy Color from a store only to immediately spike it on the road like a football, and oh yeah, went to the suicide forest, and decided to film the body of a man they found who had recently hung himself in the forest.

Yep, Logan Paul found a dead body and decided to post it on YouTube. I imagine this is what the end of "Stand By Me" would've looked like if it were written today, and by a trash person. Paul has since apologized after lots of backlashes.

Logan Paul is one of, if not the fastest growing star on YouTube, and this controversy has barely affected his ascent in subscribers, some of which defended his actions, and even sent threats to those who didn't. Also, I feel I am justified in saying that both Logan and his brother Jake Paul (a former Disney channel actor turned YouTuber) are both arrogant pricks who make their livings messing with people and being an overall nuisance to anyone they encounter and have no concept of consequences for their actions, but this article isn't about them.

I believe that their popularity is only a result of several fundamental problems with YouTube.

First, I want to get into YouTube's algorithms. It's how the site decides what videos are recommended for you, and more importantly to this story, what videos are on the trending page. Logan Paul's suicide forest video, the one with the dead body in the thumbnail, and the one with the words "dead body" in the title was NUMBER 1 on trending.

YouTube's algorithm exposed millions of people to this deplorable video.

YouTube wasn't even able to take the video down; this was a video that had to have been flagged thousands of times, and it was only removed because Logan Paul himself took it down after all of the backlashes. YouTube was simply unable to do anything about this, and there have to be changed to ensure that they don't let things like this slip through the cracks again.

The real question, at least to me, is why even make a video this ridiculous and ignorant and disrespectful in the first place?

The answer, of course, is for the content. Unfortunately, this is not new. YouTubers have been doing shocking things to get views for years now, and this has led to the bar being raised. Many things that were shocking before simply aren't anymore. We've seen it so many times we get numb, so creators come up with even crazier things to do. Eventually, it becomes normalized, and the cycle continues on and on until we have people filming dead bodies in haunted forests.

YouTubers are trying to get a rise out of us so that we click on their videos, and they're seeing how much they can get away with. It seems that on the internet, no matter which site you go to, the loudest, most obnoxious, most divisive voices always rise to the top, but they don't have to. We can resist that knee-jerk angry share that they want from us.

We don't have to give these idiots the light of day, and we can tell them that we have had enough of their crap, not with our voices, but with our views, because once those go away, they'll have no choice but to listen up.

Cover Image Credit: Esther Vargas

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"Reputation" Brings Taylor Back From The Dead

10 verses that assert Taylor's dominance.

Taylor is NOT dead. In fact, she's come back harder and stronger than she ever has in her 2017 album, "Reputation". This album is full of disses and self-confidence as she points out those that have wronged her as well as she has asserted her dominance. She is one of the most talked about celebrities in popular media as she's one of the most controversial and drama-filled artists as well.

Here is a list of the best kick-ass verses from each song off of "Reputation". The old innocent Taylor evolves anew as fierce and fiery Taylor. Here are the top ten badass verses that assert Taylor's dominance and fierce flare.

1. …Ready for it?

“Every love I’ve ever known in comparison is a failure// I forget their names now, I’m so very tame now// Never be the same now, now”

This song is perfect to put as #1 because it shows Taylor's new rocker vibe as well as her fight against all those who have doubted her.


2. End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran and Future)

“I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me// And I can’t let you go, your handprints on my soul”

Here's Taylor asserting her dominance in the guy she hopes to end up with. She not only sells herself to be valuable but also confident which is something that everyone should look up to.


3. I Did Something Bad

“I never trust a playboy but they love me// and so I fly ‘em all over the world// And I let them think they saved me// They never see it coming what I do next// This is how the world works// You gotta leave before you get left”

Taylor sings proudly of her conquers of the guys she's hurt over her life.

This is the perfect anthem for doing what the f*** you want to do because there's always going to be someone who doubts you anyways. In the end, you have to do what makes you happy.


4. Don’t Blame Me

“I’ve been breaking hearts a long time// And toying with them older guys// Just playthings for me to use// Something happened for the first time// In the darkest little paradise// Shakin’, pacin’, I just need you”

I think I can say for all of us who have experienced a love that it has made us do crazy things and think crazy thoughts from time to time. Falling in love is one of the most addicting times which is why Taylor refers to her love as a drug.


5. Delicate

“Sometimes I wonder when you sleep, are you ever dreaming of me?”

This song is about finding a new love to spend your time and energy on. It's about seeing the person that you daydream over, even if it was lust at first sight.

6. Look What You Made Me Do

“But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time// Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time”

On the reputation Album Release Party, Taylor revealed that “Look What You Made Me Do” started out as a poem:

It actually started with just a poem that I wrote about my feelings, and it’s basically about realizing that you couldn’t trust certain people, but realizing you appreciate the people you can trust. Realizing that you can’t just let everyone in, but the ones you can let in, you need to cherish. And it had all the verses in it, just basically as is.

7. So It Goes…

“cause we break down a little, but when you get me alone, it’s so simple// cause baby, I know what you know, and we can feel it”

This song is about Taylor's relationship being strong enough to withstand even the publicity and circumstances thrown their way. She's so infatuated with her beau that she even talks about how they met and the way he makes her feel. This song is definitely for you if you need some loving.

8. Gorgeous

“And I got a boyfriend he’s older than us// he’s in the club doing I don’t know what”

This song is about lusting after someone that you see at the bar and you want to talk to but you are too nervous to. This song is the song to listen to in order to gather up the nerves to talk to that attractive stranger that you see across from you but are too nervous to say hi to.

9. Getaway Car

“But you weren’t thinking, and I was just thinking”

This song is about being in an intense and romance-filled relationship that is crashing and has red flags all along. Sometimes relationships are fun rides but they come to a point where they crash.

10. King of My Heart

“Up on the rooftop with a schoolgirl crush// drinking beer out of plastic cups”

We often fool ourselves by saying we're fine by our own until a cute boy walks into our lives and begin to consume our thoughts and desires. It's that boy that makes you feel youthful and fulfilled despite all of the walls you've put up since you've been hurt so many times before.


11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied

“So baby, can we dance? Oh, through an avalanche? And say, say that we got it// I’m a mess, but I’m the mess that you wanted// Oh, cause it’s gravity, oh keeping you with me, I could’ve spent forever with your hands in my pocket”

That one love that you would be willing to climb mountains for, as long as it meant you got to be with them.

12. Dress

Flashback to my mistakes, my rebounds, my earthquake// Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me// And I woke up just in time// Now I wake up by your side// My one and only, my lifeline’’

Sometimes, it takes a friend or a lover to make us feel better. Regardless of whatever your past may be, you can always be born again.

13. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

“There I was, giving you a second chance// But then you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand”

To that one love that you don't necessarily want to trust in the first place and they end up letting you down like you expected. Yeah, we see you. And no, you don't get a second chance.

14. Call It What You Want To

“You don’t need to save me, but would you run away with me?”

During the iHeartRadio reputation release party, a clip of Taylor saying the following at a reputation Secret Session was played:

The way I feel the album is, as far as a storyline, is I feel like it starts with just getting out any kind of rebellion, or anger, or angst, or whatever. And then, like, falling in love, and realizing that you kind of settle into what your priorities are, and your life changes, but you welcome it because it’s something that matters to you. And this last part of the album feels like settling into where I am now. So it started with where I was when I started making the album, and ends with kind of my emotional state now. And this song, I think, really reflects that probably the best on the album, and it’s called “Call It What You Want.

15. New Year’s Day

“Don’t read the last page// But I stay when it’s hard or it’s wrong// But I’ll be cleaning up the

bottles with you on New Years Day”

During the iHeartRadio reputation Release Party, a clip of Taylor saying the following at an earlier Secret Session for select fans was played:

We threw a big New Year’s Eve party in London this year, and I was thinking about how everybody talks and thinks about who you kiss at midnight. Like it’s this big romantic idea of like, ‘Who are you gonna kiss at midnight, like ring in the New Year.’ And I think that is very romantic. But I think there’s something even more romantic about who’s gonna deal with you on New Year’s Day. Who’s willing to give you Advil and clean up the house. I think that states more of a permanence. So I was thinking about that, and I wrote this song called ‘New Year’s Day.’ There are two lines in this song that I had been saving for a long time, for the right moment, and I had picked them for this song, and I’m really excited about them. The first one is, ‘Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.’ And the other one is, ‘Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you.’
Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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