The Menil and the Pulitzer continue dialogue around The Progress of Love

The Menil Collection and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts launched a dialogue earlier this month in which six professionals respond to three questions sparked by the exhibition, The Progress of Love. You can read the first round of dialogue here: How are romantic relationships being redefined and visualized in the 21st century?

This week we asked our contributors, Where does love live in Africa?

Ryan Dennis, Public Art Director at Project Row Houses: In 2006 I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana as part of an African American Studies course offered at the University of Houston. I still encounter and interpret the effects of my experiences to this day. I can still feel the energy and visualize the beauty of everyone whom I met when I touched ground. That trip, and the recent experience of viewing Zina Saro Wiwa’s Eaten By The Heart, Part 1 structure a framework through which I can (more deeply) understand my relationship with my Ghanaian-born-and-raised dad.

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Sound Waves: An Un-Valentine’s Day at the Pulitzer

The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts hosted an Un-Valentine’s Day last Thursday, February 14 as part of Sound Waves, an ongoing collaboration with 88.1 KDHX.

The Foehners blues duo performed live, eight poets from the Fort Gondo Poetry Series spoke to the complications of love, entre whipped up cotton candy and blood orange truffles, and guests were invited to answer a break-up email on an antique Underwood typewriter.

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Feb 16, 2013: Wura-Natasha Ogunji: Radio Kaduna

Video Performance
Wura-Natasha Ogunji: Radio Kaduna
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 7:00 p.m.

Presented in conjunction with the Aurora Picture Show, Radio Kaduna is a live performance with video that explores the meanings of true love within a Muslim-Christian household in pre-independence Nigeria. This story emerges against the backdrop of contemporary (armed) conflicts between Muslims and Christians which often obscure histories of connection and interdependence across cultural, religious and ethnic boundaries. Incorporating footage from Nigeria’s capital of Abuja to the megacity that is Lagos, this work foregrounds ways in which moments of conflict give rise to powerful and long-lasting intimacies. Radio Kaduna also explores the poetics and politics of uncovering family histories and how those personal truths and lies connect with narratives of nationhood.

Eaten By The Heart (Part 2)

EATEN BY THE HEART Part II: DAMIEN from ZSW Studio on Vimeo.

Eaten By The Heart is a video installation and documentary project conceived, produced and directed by film-maker and video artist, Zina Saro-Wiwa.

Commissioned by The Menil Collection, Houston and supported by the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC.org) for the Menil’s exhibition The Progress of Love, the piece explores intimacy, heartbreak and love performances among Africans and African Diasporans.

Eaten By The Heart forms part of Zina’s video performance practice which currently focuses on the mapping of emotional landscapes, its resulting performative behaviors and cross-cultural implications. She states: “So many of us cite with confidence that Love Is Universal. But the performance of love is, it seems, cultural. I wonder how the impact of how we choreograph and culturally organize the performance of love impacts what we feel inside and who we become.”

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The Pulitzer Invites You to Celebrate an Un-Valentine’s Day

By David B. Olsen, Lead Gallery Assistant at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Actually, it’s more like I am an old man and Valentine’s Day is a bunch of kids on my front lawn; the whole scene makes me unnecessarily grumpy and uncharacteristically bitter. I have no problem with romance, or with love, or with people, or with the myriad and creative ways in which those things get combined. I am probably also a nice guy. But I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I so do not celebrate Valentine’s Day that I have, in the past, literally warned significant others a few weeks ahead of time to not expect anything, which I then clarified by adding that this wasn’t me saying “Don’t expect anything” because I planned to secretly surprise them when they least expected it. Which would have been adorable, right? But seriously, don’t expect anything.

To me, the obvious critique of Valentine’s Day is that it is overly commercialized, coercive, and overcompensating, as though the presentation of a dozen roses or stuffed bear on a predetermined calendar date will somehow mean more than (or make up for not having done) the random acts of love, lust, or like that we should be doing all the time anyway. Like waking up early to make someone waffles on a Tuesday in November. Or inventing new ways to hug. Or offering to go get someone’s tire rotated so they can stay at home and watch Game of Thrones.

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The Menil and the Pulitzer open up dialogue around The Progress of Love

Nadine Robinson. Like Three, 2012. Vintage speakers, vinyl lettering, sound recording, and acrylic on canvas. Music: The Persuaders, “Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” 1974. Courtesy of the artist.

The Menil Collection and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts are asking six professionals three questions that correspond to the exhibition, The Progress of Love. Contributors are Ryan Dennis, Massa Lemu, Solkem N’Gangbet, Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Amy Powell, and Charlotte Walker-Said.

For the first installment of this dialogue, we want to know: How are romantic relationships being redefined and visualized in the 21st century?

Ryan Dennis, Public Art Director at Project Row Houses: In “Untitled (Perfect Lovers)” Felix Gonzalez-Torres visualizes time as a mechanical relationship, placing two clocks side by side, which can serve as a metaphor for the current state of romantic relationships. Time, it seems, is no longer consistent. Just as the days change, so does the nature of relationships. With a new awareness happening in addressing the way we can love, it seems like individuals have taken an open stance in creating a narrative that speaks specifically to their needs, wants, and desires. While we may have an understanding of the current language of romantic relationships, similar to Gonzalez-Torres’ clocks, where the two hands may start off at the same time, they inevitably and slowly slip away from each other, as does our ability to keep up with the current lingo. Maybe it is not for us to understand! Following developments in the practice and theory of technology, globalization, gender, history, art, anthropology, maybe we have reached a moment to acknowledge that each individual is shaped by their personal experiences that then define their relationship with another person. It seems as though we are no longer at a place in time where connecting with “traditional terms” speaks to a universal language. As such, relationships are being redefined and visualized according to a script of reciprocity and love.

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