Galleries

A Teacher’s Guide to the Last Brucennial

by Ryan Wong on March 28, 2014

Installation view. All photos by the author for Hyperallergic.

Installation view, ‘The Last Brucennial’ (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

The Bruce High Quality Foundation’s Brucennial has excited and divided the art world for the past 10 years. On the occasion of the fifth and final Brucennial, and inspired by the open classrooms of the Bruce High Quality Foundation University — on which the group is planning to focus its efforts, thus leaving behind the Brucennial — we offer you a teacher-student discussion guide to the exhibition.

Question 1: Audience

The exhibition website for The Last Brucennial uses handwritten chalkboard lettering for the title. This is repeated in the gallery itself, and seems to complement the anonymous group’s exploration of the classroom as an inviting space in which art world hierarchies break down. But the exhibition website also features a series of jokey videos that draw upon pop culture imagery to give the impression that this is a faux-epoch-making event. Does the hipstery tone of the latter run contrary to the Bruces’ goal of cultivating an open, democratic pedagogical space? Who is supposed to come to this exhibition?

Question 2: Presentation

Pretend for a minute you’re not a hip Hyperallergic reader with substantial knowledge of the art world. What would you, the uninformed viewer, make of the intentionally slapdash presentation of the Brucennial, i.e. the unfinished walls, dense hanging of works (660 in total), lack of didactic text or basic information such as medium and year, and neon lighting? Is this question in itself condescending to those ‘outsiders’?

Installation view.

Installation view, ‘The Last Brucennial’

Group Exercise

Spot the blue-chip artists. (Hint: Marina Abramović, Barbara Kruger, Laurie Anderson, Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Jenny Holzer, Marilyn Minter, Pat Steir.) Bonus points if you can tell which are their works without looking at the names.

Follow-up question: Does looking for these artists’ specific styles defeat the purpose of the supposedly democratizing hanging? Is it the BHQF’s fault that there are such inequities in the art world?

Question 3: Feminism?

All of the people in the exhibition identify as women. What does this mean in the context of a reportedly male-driven collective named after a fictional dead male artist? Do things like scrawling names in pencil, salon-style hanging, and unfinished walls mean something different for female artists, considering the ongoing exclusion of women from biennials and ‘canonical’ artist listings?

Vito Schnabel, who is presenting the exhibition, told the Wall Street Journal: “We have a lot of friends who are ladies and they were into that idea so we did it.” Discuss.

"Girls Only" by Antonia Marsh

Antonia Marsh, “Girls Only”

Question 4: Themes

As with any large exhibition, certain themes and strands emerge. Look for an emphasis on the internet’s effect on image production and circulation. Look for engagements with 1970s feminism. Look for gender performativity. Look for slight, self-effacing paintings of the “casual realist” school. Do you think any of this was consciously selected, or was it just the inevitable emergence of commonalities between 660 works of art?

Question 5: Discussion

Will you miss the Brucennial after this year? Based on this exhibition, would you take courses at the BHQF University?

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