February 15, 2020 - BAK, basis voor actuele kunst - To Live as Equals
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February 15, 2020

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst

Tony Cokes, Evil.27:Selma, Greene Naftali, New York, 2011. Courtesy of the artist; Greene Naftali, New York; Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles; and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York. Photo: Gustavo Murillo Fernandez-Valdes.

To Live as Equals
An exhibition and public program with and around the work of Tony Cokes
February 28–May 17, 2020

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst
Pauwstraat 13a
3512 TG Utrecht
the Netherlands

T +31 30 231 6125
info@bakonline.org

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BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht announces Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals, an exhibition and public program with and around the work of multimedia artist Tony Cokes. The exhibition is curated by Thiago de Paula Souza.

Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals brings together selected video works from the past 30 years, tracing Cokes’s unique formation of social critique through visual and textual codes, and his changing relationship to archival material over several different global historical moments. The works draw a through line from these historical events to the present of systemic violence and ever-more-complex forms of social control. What are ways of seeing and responding to the seemingly endless cycles of inequality and oppression? How then, the exhibition queries, could one break those cycles and envision living as equals?  

The title of the exhibition refers to Cokes’s Evil.27: Selma (2011), which reconsiders the contemporary dominance of the image as evidence and record. Invoking a period of civil mobilization in the United States that came about in a time without mass image circulation, the video examines what is lost when “everything is instantly visible.” Another work from his mostly imageless Evil series (2001–present) includes Evil.16 (Torture.Musik) (2009–2011), which examines popular music as a US Army psychological warfare device through the very songs used in torture. Other central works include FADE TO BLACK (1990), an assemblage of Black stereotypes from cinema history that contends with the subliminal elements of race relations, and Black Celebration (1988), which reappropriates Situationist texts alongside footage from the 1960s-era riots in Detroit and Los Angeles.

Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals immerses viewers in the audiovisual language that Cokes has developed over his career, which typically blurs the aesthetics of pop music videos and visual art. Characterized by appropriation and repetition, and the use of archival materials and text set to identifiable pop bangers, Cokes’s work breaks with the modern grammars of media circulation in order to subvert popular rhetorics of power and violence. This practice is grounded in the fraught relation between history and memory, and strongly questions western contemporary culture while maintaining a sharp awareness of the limits of theoretical critique. His works instead interrogate current conditions of capital, knowledge distortion, and the fascisms of everyday life by rehearsing new possibilities of understanding, and by combining political analysis with the pleasure of pop.

The project is organized in the framework of the BAK research itinerary Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–ongoing), and is made possible with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; the City Council, Utrecht; VSBfonds, Utrecht; BankGiro Loterij Fonds, Amsterdam; The Netherland-America Foundation, New York; and Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds, Maarsbergen.

Public program
Opening Conversation: Irit Rogoff and Tony Cokes
February 28, 2020, 7:30-9pm
On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition, curator and scholar Irit Rogoff joins Cokes in a discussion of the artist’s work and ideas.

Public Studies: Practice as Theory
March 19-21, 2020, 3-6pm
A three-day workshop presented by Tony Cokes on violence, representation, images, and the uses of theory, examined through key works by the artist.

Propositions #11: Practice is Theory
April–May 2020
Propositions #11: Practice is Theory takes place in parallel with the exhibition Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals, and takes its name from an adaptation of Cokes’s public studies program, Practice as Theory. Propositions #11 unfolds over four thematic events between April and May 2020, and is convened by BAK’s Curator of Public Practice Rachael Rakes in collaboration with Project Coordinator Sanne Karssenberg. 

Cokes’s works often blend media tactics with historical and political analysis, combining visual and critical methods. Jumping off from this simultaneous engagement with form and content, and unfolding as a series of inquisitive, speculative, and performative live events, Propositions #11: Practice is Theory explores how different disciplines might create theory from practice. Each event brings together agents from different fields and different scales of locality to enact and discuss how they work. Challenging the shapes, functions, and actions of the theoretical, the programs each seek in different ways to disengage theory from being just that other thing art and action use.

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