Thursday, September 22
Goethe-Institut Boston
170 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02116

Documenta 15 in Review: A Conversation with curators Theo Tyson and Pieranna Cavalchini, and artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas

This summer has been a busy one for the art world with three major international exhibitions of contemporary art on view in Kassel, Berlin, and Venice. Of the three, the fifteenth edition of Documenta in Kassel made the headlines most often, not only due to a series of scandals involving anti-Semitic tendencies and content in exhibited artwork.  Documenta, is known for setting new directions in Art, and this year is no different.  This edition, curated by the Indonesian artists’s collective ruangrupa, has shaken up the Art community and questions much of the traditional understanding of what Art is. Where are the boundaries between activism and Art? What is more important, the process or the finished artwork? Who dictates what Art is?

Goethe-Institut Boston has invited representatives from the Boston art community to help us understand the significance of all this. Pieranna Cavalchini, Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas, and Theo Tyson will share impressions from their visits, then enter into a discussion on the big questions and take-aways. The audience is encouraged to join in the conversation.

Admission free
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Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas are artists, educators, and researchers at MIT, where Gediminas is Associate Professor and Nomeda is Research Affiliate at Art, Culture ,and Technology Program. Urbonas transdisciplinary research based artistic practice facilitates exchange amongst diverse nodes of knowledge production in pursuit of projects that transform civic spaces and collective imaginaries. Urbonas have exhibited internationally at the São Paulo, Berlin, Moscow, Lyon, Gwangju, Busan, Taipei Biennales, Folkestone Triennial, Manifesta and Documenta exhibitions, including a solo show at the Venice Biennale and MACBA in Barcelona. Their writing on artistic research as form of intervention into social and political crisis was published in the books Devices for Action (MACBA Press, 2008), Villa Lituania (Sternberg Press, 2008), and Public Space? Lost and Found (MIT Press, 2017). Urbonases curated the Swamp School – future learning environment at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. Their book Swamps and the New Imagination: On the Future of Cohabitation in Art, Architecture and Philosophy is forthcoming in 2022 with Sternberg Press and MIT Press.

Theo Tyson is a curator who invites conversations about the sociocultural implications of race, gender, identity, and sexuality through a lens of fashion and culture. She creates spaces of reclamation to share powerful stories of Black women and those on the LGBTQI+ spectrum. theo’s curatorial practice privileges noncanonical ways of seeing, giving her audiences poignant new perspectives to view our human connection to the materiality of expression.

Their previous posts include Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, and the Boston Athenæum. She is currently the Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Not coincidentally, tyson resides in a famed shoe city of Massachusetts with their cat, Charlemagne Cousteau.

Theo Tyson visited Documenta 15 at the invitation of the Goethe-Institut with a group of young curators from throughout North America. The focus of the curator’s exchange was on partnership models of curating, explicitly anti-racist ways of working, and innovative approaches to social inclusion and community building.

Pieranna Cavalchini

Pieranna Cavalchini is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art, where she has organized over 20 exhibitions and produced artists’ books. For the museum’s centennial in 2003, she curated a three-part project with Joseph Kosuth. Other artists she has worked with include Cliff Evans, Luisa Lambri, the Raqs Media Collective, and Laura Owens. Cavalchini also oversees the museum’s artists-in-residence program, which, during her tenure, has hosted 35 visual artists from around the world working in a range of disciplines, in addition to actors, composers, filmmakers, storytellers, and writers. Prior to joining the Gardner Museum, Cavalchini served as a Special Advisor to Incontri Internazionali d’Arte in Rome (1988–98) and as coordinator for the Concerti di Mezzogiorno, at the Festival of Two Worlds of Spoleto (1981–2001). She served as a Center exhibitions panelist in 2011, and a 2014 panelist in Exhibitions & Public Interpretation.