Exhibitions Fellowship Publications Events Support General
apexart :: Unsolicited Proposal Program 2016-17 Results
Unsolicited Proposal Program 2016-17 Results

Thank you for participating in the 2016-17 Unsolicited Proposal Program. We received 532 eligible proposals from 75 countries, which were voted on by an international panel of over 200 jurors. Jurors were asked to read at least 50 anonymous proposals. Over 9,700 votes were cast to determine the winning proposals.

* Proposals are ideas for exhibitions. While the idea will remain as stated, all information and details, including artist participation are subject to change.

  Ranking of 2016-17 Proposals

  2016-17 Season Jurors

  Other Open Calls
Botany under Influence
submitted by: Clelia Coussonnet
(from Aix-en-Provence, France)

The exhibition "Botany under Influence" investigates the economic and diplomatic implications of nature’s uses and exchange flows. In the colonial era, for instance, Western powers built their wealth looting human and natural resources; systematically appropriating or exporting workforce, plants and minerals. As an aftereffect, control over flora and seeds has become a symbol of national, political and food sovereignties.

In "Herbarium of Artificial Plants" (2001–ongoing), Alberto Baraya (Colombia) collects and classifies synthetic specimens (plastic, cloth, paper) found following the ancient routes of colonial scientific or naturalist expeditions (17-19th centuries). In this parodic re-enactment – from the Americas to Asia or Australia – he investigates the economic and political agendas lying behind the inventory and categorization of the colonies’ indigenous flora. Baraya denunciates how those missions’ botanical plundering opened the way to territorial domination and requisition. Presented as photographs, his fictitious flowers reflect the constructed nature of colonial taxonomy and its dangers.

Likewise, Joscelyn Gardner (Barbados) plays on natural history illustrations’ aesthetics in "Creole Portraits III" (2009-2011). Grounded in Caribbean colonial archives (diaries, abolitionist publications, plantation records), she addresses gaps in the history of slavery such as the masters’ sexual abuses on women. Despite abortion being prohibited, female slaves secretly used natural abortifacients. If the ‘miscarriage’ was discovered, they were whipped and had to wear iron collars. Gardner intertwines depictions of the tropical plants swallowed with torture tools and elaborate feminine African hairstyles. She pays homage to those anonymous slaves ‘naming’ them in her prints’ titles.

Another tribute is "Flowers for Africa" (2011-ongoing), celebrating African countries’ liberation struggles and access to sovereignty. Reproducing floral decorations found in archival photographs of those independences’ formalisations, Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada) comments on postcolonial transitions. The recreated arrangements revive the solemn historical testimonies they once bore. Inspired by official ceremonies embodying the passing of power, she hints at the everlasting decorum and staging of diplomatic negotiations. As her fresh bouquets sculptures naturally wither during the show, Kiwanga also questions us on what we choose to commemorate and why.

Pia Rönicke (Denmark) explores herbariums’ documentary potential to record disappearances and moderate loss. In the context of a war-torn Syria, the transfer for safeguarding of food crops from Aleppo’s grains’ bank to Svalbard Global Seed Vault inspired Rönicke's multimedia installation "The Pages of Day and Night" (2015). She mixes photogravures of plant samples collected during the 1760s Danish Arabia Expedition to Egypt and Syria; Syrian species recently sent to Norway; video; press clippings and poetry books (Adonis and Tomas Tranströmer).

The artists in "Botany under Influence" share counter official histories around flora, drowning us in an abundance of ‘strange flowers.’ Despite the plants’ beauty, our unease reminds us that what is at stake with nature’s circulation routes goes beyond relations of power: it is about our origins, memories and survival, as embodied in the performance "The Good Seed" by Ninar Esber (Lebanon). The artist relentlessly sorts and assembles corn kernel by colour and quality, echoing the widespread global rejection of difference, where any ‘alien’ element gets marginalised.
Promises to Keep
submitted by: Rabbya Naseer
(from Lahore, Pakistan)

I am an artist, art teacher, curator and writer from Pakistan, who has a particular interest in performance art as a tool or medium for making, understanding and writing about art. I have spent the last 5 years fighting (and finally succeeding) to make performance art; a taught discipline at their school of visual arts.

Performance art is still a very rare medium that is showcased in art galleries in Pakistan, but despite that, a lot of young artists are employing the medium to articulate their ideas. Most of these artists happen to be women.

Why they happen to be women, what are the similarities and differences between this medium’s history in Pakistan and its history in the west, why most of the performative works are for the camera (with very few live performances), e.t.c are all questions that I started to engage with, during my masters dissertation (at School of Art Institute Chicago), titled; ‘promises to keep’. Hence, this exhibition is a continuation of that dissertation that has matured with the passing years of teaching, writing, making and curating of art.

The exhibition will explore the use of artist’s body/presence in acts of self-representation by 10 female artists from Pakistan, whose works addresses the performative relationship between autobiography and self-portraiture in relation to “identity”.

These works explore the possibilities for a pro-active engagement with the socio-political issues, reconfiguring the status and function of art from passivity to active agency and direct confrontation, mapping connections between senses of the self and its representations in popular culture. Also marking the beginning of an engagement with performative art practice that had not yet been written or talked about in the Pakistani art circles. The exhibition will look at how self-parody, activism, nationalism, popular culture and feminism cross paths in these enactments to elucidate the autobiographical presentation of the subject within social domains through simplified representations that often function as punch lines addressed to the populace, to explore the possibilities for art to intervene in humanitarian crisis through a language related easily to the common language of the streets. Dissolving the distinctions between high and low art, social and artistic hierarchies, this approach to art making develops innovative strategies for narrating the need for a “social responsibility”.

Reflecting upon the self while analyzing the reality of their own fiction, these artists, through the use of self-parody, challenge the notions of prescribed identities. In the presentation of their naïve and ironic ignorance, underlies a stern disapproval to comply. The use of humor well suited for open condemnation, revisits the past in order to recognize the present. These apparent reproductions of what is and has always been are actually playfully derisive retellings of an old story, told much frequently. They do not attempt to describe themselves, but encourage a dialogue about the definition of selfhood, questioning the validity of the self and challenging prescribed notions about identities, nevertheless rendering their authority and emphasizing the weakness of the parodied. Their ability to reflect critically.
Animal Intent
submitted by: Emily Falvey
(from Montreal, Canada)

"We pre-suppose labor in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality."
—Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I

A humanist truism states that there is no art in the non-human world. And yet, there is much that is not human in art. Indeed, art history often begins with depictions of animals (usually the iconic horses of Lascaux Caves), as well as objects made from their bodies, such as etched shells, or carved bones and teeth. While assuming that such images and artifacts inaugurate an uninterrupted aesthetic evolution spanning human existence is questionable, it is nonetheless tempting to see in them one of art’s formative paradoxes: borne of our closeness with animals, it also marks our movement away from them.

While our relationship with animals has changed more in the last 200 years than in all of human history, they continue to play an important role in contemporary art, usually as symbols of a social imaginary or as indexes of the real. In the first case, they tend to embody positive and negative attitudes towards shared cultural mores, institutions and values. In the second, their actual bodies—documented, confined, taxidermied—confront us with the limits of this imaginary, which subjugates animals while simultaneously failing to grasp their otherness.

Although contemporary art continues to be defined by human activities, the notion of “animal culture” now serves as a point of departure for a range of artistic practices focused primarily on interspecies communication. Rather than merely representing animals, or using them as surrogates, such practices partner with non-humans in the creation of unique aesthetic languages. Annie Dunning, for example, conflates human and “woodpecker culture,” creating interactive sound sculptures from a pattern of holes made by a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Alison Reiko Loader and Christopher Plenzich mix etymology and media art in an interspecies project that harnesses the creative potential of forest tent caterpillars. Aganetha Dyck works collaboratively with honeybees, placing found objects in their hives and waiting as they are transformed into intricate, honeycombed sculptures. In a sort of inverse collaboration, Nina Katchadourian mends spider’s webs with sewing thread, only to have these interventions systematically rejected and replaced with new constructions created by the spiders. Also working with spiders, Tomàs Saraceno creates sound installations by amplifying the vibrations the insects create as they pluck their webs, reinterpreting a natural means of communication as music.

Inspired by the above quote from Marx, the proposed exhibition will question the validity of anthropocentric theories of creative labor. It will thus focus on artistic projects that establish a creative partnership with non-humans, thereby emphasizing the aesthetic intention of animals, as well as the possibilities, limits, and ethics of interspecies collaboration.
For more information on apexart open calls, how to apply or get involved, or to read full texts of other past winning proposals, visit our Unsolicited Proposal Program page.

For the Unsolicited Proposal Program, ideas for exhibitions are entered online and limited to 500 words. For the evaluation, a large number of jurors are invited to weigh in. apexart custom wrote a computer script that allows people to submit online and then substitutes a number for their name. On the jury side, the script constantly randomizes the order of the submissions so no one proposal is always first or second. Relying on the idea of “crowd sourcing,” the jurors are given unique usernames and passwords and asked to read at least 50 proposals, with the idea that fresh eyes and the overlap of readers will produce a more objective result.
    291 church street new york, ny 10013   tu-sat 11am-6pm    212.431.5270

   support apexart