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

What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.

Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Things To Do When You're So Bored All You Want To Do Is Cry

Do something artsy


Everyone has times when they have nothing to do and boredom strikes way too hard. From experience, I have found some top things to do when you literally have nothing else to do!

1. Clean

Not super fun, but will keep you busy.

2. Netflix

Find a new show to binge watch. Watched them all? Rewatch something you haven't seen in a while!

3. Shopping

Retail therapy can always keep you busy.

4. Make a home cooked meal

Spend some time in the kitchen and make something yummy! Even invite some friends.

5. Visit friends/ family

Pop in on some people you care about that you haven't seen in a while!

6. Write

Writing is something we all do and is a great way to express ourselves!

7. Exercise

Hit the gym or go for walk, do something to keep you nice and fit.

8. Volunteer

Go to an animal shelter, food bank, museums, or anywhere in your area that needs help.

9. Look for a job

If you're bored, maybe getting a part time job will keep you a little occupied. Plus it's extra money in your pocket.

10. Draw/ do something artsy

Even if you think you're a bad artist, drawing is something fun to do! You'll get better in time.

11. Join an Odyssey Team!

Writing articles through the Odyssey is an amazing experience and can always keep you busy!

Related Content

Facebook Comments