Galerie Lelong & Co. is pleased to present Krzysztof Wodiczko: A House Divided…, a new projection-installation work exploring contemporary political polarization in the United States and reflective of the world at large. This exhibition follows the opening of the artist’s most recent site-specific projection, Monument, commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy and on view January 16 through May 10, 2020.
Wodiczko’s lifelong investigation of speech in public spaces aims to give voice to the marginalized and thereby generate an impetus for systematic change. Wodiczko’s practice, which he terms “Interrogative Design,” combines art and technology with contemporary issues of urban, historical, and aesthetic culture. A House Divided… stands out as Wodiczko’s first work that focuses on a population defined not by glaring injury, but by painful disagreement. The citizens of New York’s Staten Island were recorded expressing their deeply felt political views. Through video projection, these recordings animate the faces, hands and feet of two statues of Abraham Lincoln as the interviewees’ voices fill the gallery. Looming at eight feet tall and positioned to face one another as if in conversation, these “Lincolns” engage in frank exchange, testifying to the divergent political views among members of a singular community and, in some cases, from within the same family.
The methodology behind A House Divided… was previously explored in My Wish (2017), a work commissioned and in the collection of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea. Similarly, Wodiczko brought members of Korean society together in unified social participation; participants sharing their unique experiences, hopes and dreams as their likenesses were projected on Kim Koo, the Korean independence activist. Wodiczko has previously given a public platform to marginalized voices such as mothers who have lost their children to murder (Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, Massachusetts, 1998), survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb (A-Bomb Dome Projection, Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan, 1999), and exploited female laborers (El Centro Cultural, Tijuana, Mexico, 2001) amongst many others. On view in the small gallery is Wodiczko’s video-work Four Public Projections (2020) comprising The Kunstmuseum Projection (2008); The Mechelen City Hall Projection (2012); The Homeless Projection (2014) and Loro (Them) (2019).
The exhibition’s title refers to the phrase “A house divided against itself cannot stand” from Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 speech during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate, which quoted a passage from the Bible, Matthew (12:22-28). Lincoln borrowed a familiar phrase in order to garner support for the contentious proposition of unifying a rapidly expanding nation teetering on the brink of war. Wodiczko repurposes the statement in a contemporary setting to highlight the partisan contention. In 2019, Wodiczko conducted research of suburban social landscapes in the Tri-State area before choosing Staten Island, a New York City borough that is racially and ethnically diverse yet a simultaneously politically divided geography: north as liberal-leaning and south as conservative-leaning. “Speaking to each other, they explain and exchange their positions and disagreements while expressing their mutual wish for careful and respectful listening to the opposite side,” says Wodiczko.
Concurrently at Madison Square Park is Monument, a site-specific public art installation that renders in high relief the diverse, difficult journeys of today’s refugees. Commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy, the work will project the likenesses and spoken narratives of resettled refugees—who have originated from different parts of the world—onto the Park’s 1881 monument to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. A looping video projection will bring the monument to life with stories of displacement that illuminate how war, conflict, and political fallout impact individuals globally, encouraging visitors to consider how the history of conflict is memorialized.
A feature length documentary on Wodiczko’s practice, The Art of Un-War directed by Maria Niro, is anticipated to premiere in 2020.
On public buildings and monuments in more than 40 cities worldwide, Wodiczko has realized more than 90 site-specific projections. He has created projections on the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (1988/2018); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York (1989); Kraków’s City Hall Tower, Poland (1996); Boston’s Bunker Hill Monument, Massachusetts (1998); Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2005); and Goethe-Schiller Monument, Weimar, Germany (2016). Recent survey exhibitions include Krzysztof Wodiczko: Instruments, Monuments, Projections, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea (2017); Krzysztof Wodiczko, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) for Liverpool Biennial, England (2016); and Krzysztof Wodiczko: On Behalf of the Public Domain, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland (2015). Wodiczko’s instruments, vehicles, and documentation of his projections can be found in over 20 museum and public collections worldwide including the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain; National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto, Japan; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków MOCAK, Poland; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. Wodiczko is currently a professor and director of the Art Design and the Public Domain program at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He was formerly director of the Interrogative Design Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he was a professor in the Art Culture and Technology Program. Amongst many recognitions and awards, Wodiczko received the Hiroshima Art Prize in 1998. Wodiczko has authored ten books amongst notable contributions to academic and artistic publications; his writings have also been translated to Polish, French, Spanish, and Korean. Born in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland, Wodiczko lives and works in New York City; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Warsaw, Poland.