Spiegel-Wilks Seminar: Venice Biennale

Contemporary Art in East Asia and the World


Fall/Winter at the Institute of Contemporary Art

This season, the historic halls of the Institute of Contemporary Art lend themselves to three different exhibits. arms ache avid aeon, Colored People Time, and Ballast & Barricades each address themes of discrimination throughout history.

arms ache avid aeon was created by Fierce Pussy, a four-person artist collective dedicated to advancing feminist ideologies. The exhibit occupies the largest space in the museum, and makes full use of the space with video installations, vast sculptures, and archival works documenting their history of activism. “I AM A queer androgynous feminist trannie pervert stone butch tomgirl dyke . . . AND SO ARE YOU” proclaims a large poster hanging on the wall. This statement exemplifies the spirit of the entire exhibition: making the choice to radically and unapologetically by yourself, even in the face of hate crimes and social rejection.

Colored People Time addresses discrimination by highlighting several lesser-known ways in which slavery continues to negatively impact the lives of African Americans. One video installation describes unethical medical experimentation of African Americans in the 1960s. Another hearkens back to the Reconstruction era, when plans to reallocate land to freed slaves were blocked by Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson. A third piece includes a sculpture constructed from the hard, plastic chairs in prison visitor centers, calling to mind how African Americans are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates.

In Michelle Lopez’s Ballast & Barricades, she constructs towering sculptures made of ladders, scaffolding, scrap metal, rope, and rubble. It is busy yet minimal, evoking a construction site for something unknown—-or maybe the remains of something that has been destroyed. It is an abstract work made of familiar objects, allowing us to find personal meaning in the details. She uses architecture as an avenue to explore themes of nationalism and power. By “destroying” the roads and buildings that box us into classes here, she may be breaking us free from them symbolically.

By Brooke Price

Skip to toolbar