From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art

From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art

Nov 25, 2016–Apr 2, 2017

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Chikako Yamashiro, Your voice came out through my throat, 2009. Video. © Chikako Yamashiro. Courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates.

There are many forms of memory: memories of events we have experienced, memories we have heard as family stories and from popular culture, even memories of an imagined future. The twenty-four artists in From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art work with memories that are not their own. They remember and recall stories that were never theirs and assemble them in a variety of media to be seen, heard, and experienced by others. At once intimate and shared, the memories they work with are second-hand experiences, culled from a photograph they saw, or a story they heard, or even a once subconscious memory. The artists are secondary witnesses to the past events they use in their works, and it is precisely this distance in time and space that allows them to offer powerful narratives open to a wide range of interpretation and expression.

The exhibition, co-curated by CJM Assistant Curator Pierre-François Galpin and independent curator Lily Siegel, expands on the groundbreaking work by Dr. Marianne Hirsch on postmemory. Dr. Hirsch writes that postmemory is “the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before—to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images and behaviors among which they grew up. But these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right.”1 There is a tenuous line between postmemory and nostalgia. While postmemory explicitly deals with trauma and heritage, nostalgia is a recollection of the past that may be romanticized or turned into myth. Nostalgia is a longing to return home despite the possibility that the home no longer exists.2 The exhibition is organized by themes suggested by the artworks themselves including personal narratives, social and cultural memory, and the (re)creation of memories based on fiction or dubious truths. A final category serving as a dénouement to the exhibition presents works that look at the near-present from an imagined distant future. Through their work, the artists in this exhibition search, question, and reflect on the representation of truths related to ancestral and collective memory—ultimately attempting to make sense of their own past.

Featured Artists

The artists, working in a variety of media comprising sculpture, film, photography, mixed media, and more, include:

Christian Boltanski
Nao Bustamante
Binh Danh
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian
Bernice Eisenstein
Eric Finzi
Nicholas Galanin
Guy Goldstein
Fotini Gouseti
Ellen Harvey
Aram Jibilian
Loli Kantor
Mike Kelley
Lisa Kokin
Ralph Lemon
Rä di Martino
Yong Soon Min
Fabio Morais
Elizabeth Moran
Vandy Rattana
Anri Sala
Wael Shawky
Hank Willis Thomas
Chikako Yamashiro

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by the curators, Dr. Marianne Hirsch, and local historian Abby Smith Rumsey.

1Hirsch, Marianne, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust(New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).
2Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001).