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Institute of Contemporary Art - ICA, Philadelphia

The Puppet Show is a group exhibition that looks at the imagery of puppets in contemporary art. International in scope, it brings together 29 artists and several generations, as reflected by works that range from a 1974 installation by Dennis Oppenheim to a new animation by the Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg. Trisha Donnelly composes a new installation with works made between 1998 and 2007 using sculpture, drawing, photographs, text, sound, video, and painting. Carlos Motta: The Good Life is a relevant video-examination of the regional history, perception and effects of US interventionist policies in Latin America. Ramp Project: Beyond Kiosk presents a selection of the Kiosk Archive (Periodicals, zines, video and audio projects band).

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The Puppet Show

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is pleased to present “The Puppet Show,” a group exhibition that looks at the imagery of puppets in contemporary art. International in scope, “The Puppet Show” brings together 29 artists and several generations, as reflected by works that range from a 1974 installation by Dennis Oppenheim to a new animation by the Swedish artist Nathalie Djurberg. The exhibition concentrates on sculpture, video and photography. Some of the works involve actual puppets (marionettes, shadow puppets, hand puppets) and artists performing as puppeteers. Other images evoke topics associated with puppetry (manipulation, miniaturization, agency, control). Collectively these works show puppets to be a provocative and relevant imagery—one that moves deep into social, political and psychological terrains.

The puppet show takes as a historic point of departure one of the first episodes of avante-garde art history: Alfred Jarry's 1896 play Ubu Roi that was conceived as a puppet show. Ubu's reign continues with the work of the South African artist William Kentridge in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company. More recently, puppets have taken hold of pop consciousness by way of films, theater, computer games and animation. On a more political note, current events and national leadership raise questions of agency that cogently relate to puppets. Together with these collective points of reference, “The Puppet Show”poses a larger cultural question: why do puppets matter now?

At ICA the exhibition opens with a discrete structure dubbed “Puppet Storage,” filled with pictures, props and other source material collected from artists studios. It will feature a historic collection of puppets from the collection of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut, selected by the Institute's director, Dr. John Bell, an internationally renowned puppeteer and historian of puppet theater. The structure is designed by the artist Terence Gower, who is staging the entire installation with reference to the uncanny, theatrical displacements of scale, and the backstage world of the theater.

Initiated by Ingrid Schaffner, Senior Curator, the exhibition is co-curated with Carin Kuoni, Director, The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, New York. The curators received a planning grant for this exhibition from the Philadelphia Exhibition Initiative (PEI).

This exhibition contains adult content. Parents, caregivers and educators are strongly advised to preview exhibition before bringing children.

Participating artists include: Guy Ben-Ner, Nayland Blake, Louise Bourgeois, Maurizio Cattelan, Anne Chu, Nathalie Djurberg, Terence Gower, Dan Graham and Japanther, Handspring Puppet Company, Pierre Huyghe, Christian Jankowski, Mike Kelley, William Kentridge, Cindy Loehr, Annette Messager, Paul McCarthy, Matt Mullican, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Phillippe Parreno and Rirkrit Tiravanija, Laurie Simmons, Doug Skinner and Michael Smith, Kiki Smith, Survival Research Laboratory, Kara Walker and Charlie White.

Publication: A fully-illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition with essays by the curators and contributing authors: John Thomas Bell, Director, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut; Terence Gower, artist and exhibition designer; Jena Osman, Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing, Temple University; John Pemberton, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University; Jane Taylor, Skye Chair of Dramatic Art, Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand; Michael Taylor, Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Allen Weiss, Associate Teacher, Performance Studies and Cinema Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. There will be an annotated checklist of the works in the exhibition, and a picture record of the contents of “Puppet Storage.” The installation will also be documented and the catalog with be printed after the exhibition opens. $35

Travel Dates: This exhibition premiers at ICA (January 18 - March 30, 2008) and travels to the Santa Monica Museum of Art, California (May 16 - August 9, 2008); The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii (September 5 – November 23, 2008); the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (January 17 – April 12, 2009) and the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (May 16 – September 13, 2009).

Related Programs:

Backstage at The Puppet Show
Whenever Wednesday: January 30, 7pm

Hear co-curators Ingrid Schaffner and Carin Kuoni along with the artist Terence Gower who designed the installation talk about “The Puppet Show.” From Pittsburgh to Johannesburg the curators met with artists, collectors, puppeteers, anthropologists, poets and others to explore the imagery of puppets in contemporary art. What happened backstage? Were strings pulled? Why do puppets matter now? Bring your questions and find out more.

Lecture: Kiki Smith
Whenever Wednesday: January 23, 5pm
Penn Museum, Harrison Auditorium

“Basically, art is just a way to think,” says artist Kiki Smith. “It’s like standing in the wild and letting it pull you in whatever direction it wants to go.” Listen in as one of the most influential artists of her generation speaks about her work. Presented by the Penn Humanities Forum. Pre-registration required at or 215.573.8280.

Performance: Doug and Mike's Adult Entertainment
Whenever Wednesday: February 6, 6pm

Back after ten years, Doug & Mike's Adult Entertainment comes to Philadelphia. In the early 1990’s, Doug Skinner and Michael Smith came to the conclusion that they were not interested in entertaining children, but doing juvenile humor for adults. This revelation came as the culture wars were heating up in the US and they entered the fray with their puppet show. A Spiegel Fund event.

Talk20: Manipulation
Thursday, February 7, 6pm

In conjunction with “The Puppet Show,” talk20 takes on the theme of manipulation. talk20 begins with a series of short presentations of 20 slides each, selected and narrated by a hybrid roster of students, educators and professionals working across fields of art, architecture and landscape. For more information visit

Film: The Music of Regret
Tuesday, March 4, 7pm
International House, 3701 Chestnut Street

Artist Laurie Simmons introduces The Music of Regret, a mini-musical in three acts. The film is inspired by distinct periods in Simmons' work: vintage hand puppets, ventriloquist dummies and walking objects that enact tales of ambition, disappointment, love, loss and regret. Simmons' puppets come to life in miniature domestic scenes, incorporating musicians, professional puppeteers, Alvin Ailey dancers, cinematographer Ed Lachman and actress Meryl Streep. A Spiegel Fund event.

Puppets in Performance: Cardboard, Shadows, Sheets, Strings and Suitcases
Whenever Wednesday: March 19, 7pm

Curated by Beth Nixon of Ramshackle Enterprises, this event showcases a wide variety of styles and techniques employed by local and national puppeteers. Performances range from Eric Ruin's stunning shadows, to the fanciful found object ensembles of Fence Kitchen, from Shoddy Puppet Company's cardboard capers to Clare Dolan's painted contestorias.

Lecture: Anne Chu
Whenever Wednesday: March 26, 7pm

Anne Chu is described by The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith as "one of the best figurative sculptors around." Listen as Chu discusses her artistic practice including her works Charming Girl and Landscape Marionette II included in "The Puppet Show." A Spiegel Fund event.

View the work of participating artist William Kentridge in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's current exhibition "Notations/William Kentridge: Tapestries" on view through April 6th.

ICA acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Barbara B. & Theodore R. Aronson for the exhibition catalog. We are grateful to The Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI), a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by University of the Arts for research and planning funds; to Etant donnes: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art; Susquehanna Foundation; The Bandier Family Foundation; Goldberg Foundation; Sotheby’s; and to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation for promotional marketing support. Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation, Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. ICA is also grateful to The Chodorow Exhibition Initiative Fund for support of the exhibition’s tour. (Information complete as of 12/14/07.)

The Emily and Jerry Spiegel Fund to Support Contemporary Culture and Visual Arts has been created to support an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to education that will enhance collaboration at the University of Pennsylvania among academic departments and cultural institutions. Spiegel Fund Events are designed to raise the level of conversation among Penn's students and faculty about art—particularly art that crosses disciplinary and cultural boundaries. The Spiegel Fund is administered by the University's Provost Office.


Trisha Donnelly

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is pleased to present the first U.S. solo museum exhibition of Trisha Donnelly’s work, on view January 18 – August 3, 2008. Using sculpture, drawing, photographs, text, sound, video, and painting, Donnelly will compose a new installation in the second floor gallery with works made between 1998 and 2007. This installation yields a new work of art, one thoughtfully hewn from the past. In keeping with the performative function of her work, from drawings to demonstrations, Donnelly casts the exhibition as an agent. On display for an extended period, the show will transform as time passes with works rotating on and off display.

Trisha Donnelly’s ineffable body of work resists simple characterization. A lexicon of imagery and action relies on the power of suggestion: what precise, economical gesture can evoke a moment, a place, a feeling? How does sound create form? With a word, can the artist embed herself in our conscience? These potent gestures are catalysts, and this is the crux of Donnelly’s work. What unite her media-diverse work are gestures of altered time, shifters, dimensional explorations, evocation, perception, and belief structures.

Time, literally and metaphorically, is a signature of Donnelly’s work: a drawing may request slowness, a sound piece may stretch a phrase interminably, a video presents an action in slow motion, a photograph freezes a turn of the torso. This pause generates shifts, fractures, and collapses in time, both in the present and in time’s historical reverberations. This exhibition, too, requests time.

Donnelly is a San Francisco-based artist (b. 1974, San Francisco). Her work is well known in the contemporary art world, but is still seldom seen outside highly defined contexts. As most of her major exhibitions have occurred in Europe, this exhibition allows viewers who have not experienced firsthand much of her work to see it for the first time. And seeing this work firsthand is crucial to the questions Donnelly’s work pursues. The work requires your presence.

Since completing her MFA at Yale in 2000, Donnelly has had solo projects at Modern Art Oxford (2007), Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (2006), Kunsthalle Zurich (2005), Kolnischer Kunstverein (2005), and ArtPace, San Antonio (2005). She has been included in numerous group exhibitions: “Uncertain States of America,” Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (traveled) (2005); “Day for Night,” 2006 Whitney Biennial, New York; “Of Mice + Men: 4th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art,” Berlin (2006); and 54th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2004). She teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute and is a visiting critic at Yale. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Carnegie Museum, Walker Art Center, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, among others.

This exhibition is organized by Associate Curator Jenelle Porter and is accompanied by a catalog publication documenting the installation and will be available after the exhibition opens.

We gratefully acknowledge generous support of the American Center Foundation, the Harpo Foundation and ICA’s Leadership Circle: Robert Kirkpatrick & John Wind, Meredith & Bryan Verona, Floss Barber, Inc., Ellen & Stephen Burbank, Cecile & Christopher J. D’Amelio, Mary & Anthony B. Creamer, III, Barbara & David Farley, Glenn R. Fuhrman, Fury Design, Inc., Suzanne & Jeffrey Koopman, Gabriele W. Lee, Margery P. Lee, Paul Pincus, Marguerite Rodgers, Ltd., Leah Popowich & Andrew Hohn, Alec Rubin & Phillip Chambers, Cindy Shaffran & Gary Schwartz and Dina & Jerry Wind.

Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation, Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 12/14/07.)


Carlos Motta: The Good Life

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is pleased to present “Carlos Motta: The Good Life,” the first museum presentation of an ambitious work by Carlos Motta, on view January 18 – March 30, 2008. “The Good Life,” a long-term, in-progress, experimental documentary project, engages and critiques documentary practice itself. It is a relevant examination of the regional history, perception and effects of US interventionist policies in Latin America, at a time of global critical awareness of those politics.

Since 2005, Carlos Motta has recorded over 300 video interviews with civilians on the streets of twelve cities in Latin America. The questions he asked, on individual perceptions of US interventionism and foreign policy, democracy, leadership, and governance, resulted in an extremely wide spectrum of opinion, which varies according to local situations and forms of government in each country. The resulting footage is the basis of “The Good Life.” Informed by conceptual documentary traditions the project references the approach of cinema vérité classics such as Chris Marker’s Le Jolie Mai (1963) and Vilgot Sjöman’s I am curious (Yellow) (1967), which began to study the notion of public opinion as mediated construction.

In this iteration, created for the Project Space, Motta’s interviews with persons in Bogota, Buenos Aires, Managua, Mexico City, Santiago and Tegucigalpa, serve as both a conceptual and formal framework. Arranged in an open structure that evokes a classical space for the exercising of democracy, these conversations shed light on the effects of political intervention, and the public perception of political concepts, on the formation of national and individual subjectivities. The exhibition also comprises a series of accompanying photographs, shot during visits to each city, and a takeaway poster featuring texts commissioned from artists Ashley Hunt, Naeem Mohaiemen and Oliver Ressler; and political philosopher Maria Mercedes Gómez that answer the question, “What is democracy to you?”

Carlos Motta (b. Bogotá, Colombia, 1978, lives in New York) was a participant in the Whitney Independent Study Program, (2005-2006), and completed his MFA at Bard College in 2003. Working primarily in photography and video installation, he uses strategies from documentary and sociology to engage with specific political events in an attempt to observe their effects and suggest alternative ways to write and read these histories.

He has had solo projects at Winkleman Gallery, New York, NY; rum46, Aarhus, Denmark; Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT; Kevin Bruk Gallery, Miami, FL; and La Alianza Francesca, Bogota, Colombia. His work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions, at venues including CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Fries Museum, Groningen, Holland, among others.

Motta is the editor of, and faculty at the International Center of Photography and Parsons The New School of Design in New York.

This exhibition is organized by 2007-2008 Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow Stamatina Gregory and will be accompanied by a brochure publication.

ICA is grateful for funding provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation, Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania.

The artist wishes to thank Kevin Bruk (Kevin Bruk Gallery), Alberto Chehebar, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, and Solita Mishaan for their generous support of this exhibition.


Ramp Project: Beyond Kiosk
A Selection of the Kiosk Archive

Over six hundred independent publication projects turn the transitional space of ICA’s ramp into a volume of volumes. Periodicals, zines, video and audio projects band the walls on narrow shelves skied high on the walls. “Beyond Kiosk” encourages viewers to pull material and peruse it along the way— picture the book stalls of Paris—or stop and read in the window seat and lounge staged half-way up the ramp. This is the 14th commission in ICA’s Ramp Project Series and will be on view January 18-March 30, 2008.

Selected by Christoph Keller, in an installation designed by Conny Purtill, the exhibition takes an exemplary swath from the Kiosk archive which Keller founded in 2001, housed in Germany’s state library, the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin. Totaling over five thousand publication projects, the archive has traveled and been exhibited in its ever-increasing entirety at venues across Europe and America with an artist or designer typically involved in the installation. “Beyond Kiosk” realizes for the first time a curated view of the archive, one that represents both the mass and diversity of the overall collection. A local component will take its place when Keller selects material from Philadelphia’s strong community of independent publishers.

“Beyond Kiosk” represents a super-fluorescence of independent publishing projects. It corresponds with computer technologies and means of distribution that make publishing affordable and accessible to virtually anyone who wants to put their ideas into print. More significantly, it explores the range of strategies and modes of production deployed within this increasingly effective means of distribution for making ideas visible.

Christoph Keller is a publisher, designer, curator and distiller, formerly the founding director of the publishing house Revolver-Archiv für aktuelle kunst, based in Frankfurt. He is now editing “Christoph Keller Editions,” a series of artists’ books published by JRP/Ringier, Zurich. Conny Purtill is the principle of the Philadelphia-based design firm Purtill Family Business. His design for the publication series Matthew Ritchie: Incomplete Projects 01-07 won the category of graphics in I.D. Magazine’s 53rd Annual Design Awards for 2007. He has worked closely and extensively with ICA over the years.

This exhibition is organized by Senior Curator Ingrid Schaffner and will be accompanied by a brochure publication with a conversation between Christoph Keller and Conny Purtill.


Every season ICA commissions an artist to create a new site-specific temporary work for the ramp that links the first and second floor galleries. A transitional space, the ramp is 52-feet long and is visible from the street through architecturally-scaled picture windows on the building’s façade.

Especially when it is illuminated at night, each of the commissioned works transforms the ramp into a window on ICA’s innovative program on contemporary art. Since the series began in 2000, the ramp has been a site for a diverse range of creative approaches, including wall paintings by Ingrid Calame, Arturo Herrera and Amy Sillman; environmetal installations by Virgil Marti, Judy Pfaff and Luca

Buvoli; a light and sound piece by Nadine Robinson; an ongoing conceptual project by Alexandra Mir; street photography by Zoe Strauss, and, most recently, a terrarium/aquarium by Phoebe Washburn.

ICA acknowledges primary sponsorship of the William Penn Foundation for this project. Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation, Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 12/14/07.)

Image: The puppet show

Institute of Contemporary Art - ICA
118 South 36th Street (University of Pennsylvania) - Philadelphia

Stefan Sagmeister
dal 3/4/2012 al 11/8/2012

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