• Binding Agents: Toward an Aesthetic of the Postcolonial in Contemporary Exhibition
    James Voorhies

SALT Research, Istanbul, Turkey, 2017. Photo: Mustafa Hazneci. Courtesy of SALT, Istanbul.

Binding Agents reflects on changing ways in which artists, curators, and institutions examine topics such as nation-state, immigration, and colonialism through extended research projects that often manifest in film, photography, architecture, urban interventions, immersive installations, and public programming. Using documenta11 (2002), the first of the new millennium, and the first ever to be curated by a non-Western director, along with the trifecta of documenta 14, Skulptur Projekte Münster, and the Venice Biennale in 2017 as case studies, the research parses activity found in exhibitions, institutions, and publications around the globe in order to define and analyze situations wherein the contemporary art world of the West has influenced a developing aesthetic of the postcolonial. This aesthetic has emerged, in part, via satellite components organized by Western institutions and biennials in non-Western areas of the world while initiatives at non-occidental institutions are increasingly deploying long-term programmatic strategies to address questions around colonialism, the nation-state, and immigration as integral parts of institutional platforms and behaviors. Binding Agents will therefore closely analyze activity in both the large-scale exhibitions against emergent, less high-profile and more informal activity in cities, such as Amman, Cairo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Mexico City, New York, Paris, São Paulo, and Shanghai order to explore how the binary and thus an aesthetic of the postcolonial is not so easily definable, with overlapping connections to curatorial themes, organizing voices, institutional missions, and geographic locations.

James Voorhies is a curator and art historian of modern and contemporary art. He is dean of fine arts, associate professor of contemporary art, and chair of the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. Prior to CCA, he was the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University where he conceived and directed a contemporary arts program dedicated to the synthesis of art, design, and education through exhibition of existing works and production of new commissions. His writing has appeared in publications by Texte zur Kunst, Frieze, Harvard Design Magazine, Sternberg Press, Performa Magazine, and Printed Matter, as well as many artist monographs and exhibition catalogues. Voorhies has taught contemporary art and curatorial practice in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, art and public space at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, and art history and critical theory at Bennington College in Vermont. He holds a PhD in modern and contemporary art history from The Ohio State University and is the founder of Bureau for Open Culture. His book Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968 was published by MIT Press in 2017.