Fall Arts Preview: The Whitney Museum of American Art Presents An Overview of Cinematic Experimentation in Dreamlands: lmmersive Cinema and Art,1905-2016

This fall, the Whitney Museum of American Art will presents Dreamlands: lmmersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016, a landmark exhibition that focuses on the ways in which artists have dismantled and reassembled the conventions of cinema-screen, projection, darkness-to create new experiences of the moving image. The exhibition will fill the Museum’s 18,000-square-foot Neil Bluhm Family Galleries on the fifth floor, as well as the adjacent Kaufman Gallery, and will include a film series in the Susan and John Hess Family Theater. Dreamlands will be on view from October 28, 2016 through February 5, 2017.the-whitney-museum-of-american-art-logo

Dreamlands brings together a group of artists whose work articulates the profound shift that has taken place as technology has transitioned the moving image from analog to virtual,” states the Whitney’s Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator Chrissie lies, who is curating the exhibition. “The exhibition’s title refers to the science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft’s alternate fictional dimension, whose terrain of cities, forests, mountains, and an underworld can be visited only through dreams. Similarly, the spaces in Dreamlands connect different historical moments of cinematic experimentation, creating a story that unfolds like a map of dreaming. A series of immersive spaces fracture our assumptions of perspective, the horizon line, and a stable projected image.

bruce-conner-1933-2008-frame-enlargement-from-crossroads-1976-35mm-film-transferred-to-video-black-and-white-sound_-37-min-courtesy-conner-family-trust-and-kohn-gallery-los-angeles

Bruce Conner (1933–2008). Frame enlargement from CROSSROADS, 1976. 35mm film transferred to video, black-and-white, sound_ 37 min. Courtesy Conner Family Trust and Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles © Conner Family Trust

The exhibition, with works spanning from the early 1900s to the present, is the result of four years of intensive scholarly research by curator lies, involving experts from all corners of the worlds of art and film. It will be the most technologically complex project mounted in the Whitney’s new building to date, embracing a wide range of moving image techniques, from hand-painted film to the latest digital technologies.

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Trisha Baga (b. 1985), Flatlands, 2010 Video, color, sound; 18 min., with disco ball and 3D glasses. Collection of the artist; courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York Installation view, Greene Naftali Gallery, New York, 2011 © Trisha Baga and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York

The works on view use color, touch, music, spectacle, light, and darkness to confound our expectations, flattening space through animation and abstraction, or heightening the illusion of three dimensions. Visitors will experience projections, sculptures, and installations that allow them to: walk through projection beams and reams of film stock; watch a video made with a 360-degree camera projected inside the ceiling of a cardboard geodesic dome, and on Oculus Rifts; view concept artwork made for Walt Disney‘s Fantasia; view a synesthetic environment in which music is written according to color; see the visual futurist Hollywood designer Syd Mead‘s colorful concept artwork for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner shown projected onto screens, creating a sense of the uncanny nair environment of the city; look at the world through 3-D glasses in installations; and step inside the screen and become part of it.

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Alex Da Corte (b. 1980) with Jayson Musson (b. 1977). Easternsports, 2014. Four-channel video, color, sound; 152 min., with four screens, neon, carpet, vinyl composition tile, metal folding chairs, artificial oranges, orange scent, and diffusers. Score by Devonté Hynes. Collection of the artists; courtesy David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, and Salon 94, New York. Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 2014 © Alex Da Corte; image courtesy the artist and Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania

The exhibition features works by American artists and filmmakers, and also includes a small number of works of German cinema and art from the 1920s with a strong relationship to, and influence on, American art and film. Featured are works in installation, drawing, 3-D environments, sculpture, performance, painting, and online space, by Trisha Baga, Ivana Basic, Frances Bodomo, Dora Budor, ian Cheng, Bruce Conner, Ben Coonley, Joseph Cornell, Andrea Crespo, Franc;:ois Curlet, Alex Da Corte, Oskar Fischinger, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe, Alex Israel, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem and Pierre Joseph, Aidan Koch, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Anthony McCall, Josiah McElheny, Syd Mead, Lorna Mills, Jayson Musson, Melik Ohanian, Philippe Parreno, Jenny Perlin, Mathias Poledna, Edwin S. Porter, Oskar Schlemmer, Hito Steyer!, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Stan VanDerBeek, Artie Vierkant, and Jud Yalkut, among others, some of which have been made especially for the exhibition.

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Lynn Hershman Leeson (b. 1941), Double Drawing, 1966 (recto). Ink, colored pencil, transfer type, watercolor, collaged gelatin silver prints, and plastic on paper, 8 x 4 in. (20.3 x 10.2 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York © Lynn Hershman Leeson; photographs by Marc Brems Tatti; images courtesy Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York

As film historian Tom Gunning writes in his catalogue essay, “What is Cinema? The Challenge of the Moving Image Past and Future“: “Cinema, before it is anything else, before it is a story, a canvas for special effects, a display of the beauty and grace of stars, before it weaves a tissue of ideology or makes us laugh and cry, presents images that move. This is why it was invented, what separates it from the previous arts of depiction, and also what it shares with the torrent of emerging technological media. But this is also what we take for granted in watching movies and other moving-image media.

The exhibition is organized into three parts:

1905 -1930s: The first part, beginning in 1905 and including a group of works from the 1920s and 1930s, shows some of the earliest experiments with cinematic space, and the way in which sweeping camera shots, abstraction, color, music, and kaleidoscopic space were used to create what Tom Gunning has called a “cinema of attractions,” in which the spectator is jolted out of the conventions of seeing. In a 1968 film reconstruction of Oskar Schlemmer‘s classic Triadic Ballet (1922), dancers move across a flattened space of color like animated figures on a screen. In Oskar Fischinger‘s 1926 work Raumlichtkunst (Space Light Art), three screens project abstract color forms, including hypnotic spirals and geometric shapes, to percussive music, creating what Fischinger described as “an intoxication of light.”

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After Oskar Schlemmer (1888–1943); Das Triadische Ballett [Triadic Ballet], 1970. 35mm film transferred to video, color, sound; 29 min. Courtesy Global Screen, Munich. Produced by Bavaria Atelier for the Südfunk, Stuttgart, in collaboration with Inter Nationes and RTB (Belgian Television). Director: Helmut Amann. Choreography and costume designs: Oskar Schlemmer, 1922 Artistic advisors: Ludwig Grote, Xanti Schwinsky, and Tut Schlemmer ©1970 Bavaria Atelier for SWR in collaboration with Inter Nationes and RTB

1940s -1980s: In the second part of the exhibition, which includes concept artwork from Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940) as well as Bruce Conner‘s spectacular CROSSROADS (1976), a collage of government film footage depicting atomic test explosions, the idealistic experiments of the previous decades give way to a darker and more fragmented experience of the cinematic. Drawings and watercolors from three key moments of Disney’s immersive sensory fusion of music and image clearly situate Fantasia as both part of the end of the pre-World War II utopian vision for cinema, and the beginning of a new media environment that followed the end of the war and the dropping of the atomic bomb. Projective installations by Jud Yalkut

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Andrea Crespo (b. 1993). Still from parabiosis: neurolibidinal induction complex 2.2, 2015. Video, color, sound; 11:12 min. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Film, Video, and New Media Committee 2016.3. © Andrea Crespo

(Destruct Film, 1967) and Anthony McCall (Line Describing a Cone, 1973) detach the screen from its fixed position, dispersing it into a dark space in which the light beam becomes a sculptural form furthering the shift from image to surface that had begun in the 1920s. The simultaneous blurring of the boundary between technology and the human body, epitomized by the science fiction film Blade Runner (1982), can be seen in a group of production design paintings for the film by Syd Mead, specially assembled for the exhibition to reveal the cinematic space of the city as spectacle.

1990s- the present: The third part of the exhibition articulates the breadth and complexity of more recent works in which cinematic space has been reassembled into new models by contemporary artists. The relationship between the body and technology has been recalibrated through the touch screen and virtual space, through a continual online exchange of images, visual styles, avatars, anime, and identities. The infinite manipulability of the digital image, now dominated by the graphic, animated form, special effects, and virtual reality, has produced a new visual ecosystem, in which artifice and reality have become versions of each other. The fear and exhilaration around the idea of the organic living body becoming fused with technological elements, seen in the earliest robotic figures of Oskar Schlemmer, return here in the form of an artificial intelligence persona played by actress Tilda Swinton, who talks to viewers through a mirrored screen and a microphone in the pioneer Lynn Hershman Leeson‘s DiNA. In ian Cheng‘s “live simulations,” chat bats projected onto a large screen talk to each other, or to themselves, creating a narrative in a state of perpetual evolution. Dora Buder‘s new immersive installation, made for the exhibition, is a large environment with interior walls that pulse with electrical light from floor to ceiling when triggered by human movement in the space. The ascending flickering light directs the viewer’s gaze upward, where a luminous ceiling teems with thousands of frogs-special-effects props used in the amphibian rain scene in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s film Magnolia (1999). Our presence brings Buder’s immersive environment to life, reanimating the image on its ceiling through a conduction of impulses, as though triggering a memory. Also included in the exhibition will be Hito Steyerl‘s immersive installation Factory of the Sun, commissioned for the German Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale and shown in New York for the first time here.

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Hito Steyerl (b. 1966), Factory of the Sun, 2015. Video, color, sound; 21 min., looped; with environment, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist; courtesy Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York. Installation view, German Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015. Photograph by Manuel Reinartz; image courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

The exhibition will also include a film program, featuring artists and filmmakers from the earliest days of cinema to the most cutting-edge artists working with virtual reality and digital space. A catalogue will be published by the Whitney (distributed by Yale University Press) to accompany the exhibition, including essays by Karen Archey, Giuliana Bruno, John Canemaker, Brian Droitcour, Noam Elcott, Tom Gunning, J. Hoberman, Esther Leslie, David Lewis, and Chrissie lies.

Dreamlands: lmmersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016 is sponsored by Audi. Major support is provided by the Dalia Foundation, The Robert Rosenkranz Foundation, and the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Generous support is provided by Lori Chemla and Catherine Orentreich.

Related Events

Member Preview Days For Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema And Art, 1905–2016

Wednesday and Thursday, October 26–27, 12–5 pm

Standard admission for each category applies: Discount and Individual members enjoy admission for the cardholder, Dual and Friend members enjoy admission for the two cardholders, etc. One-time-use member guest passes may be used. Not open to corporate and reciprocal members.

VIP Opening Reception For Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema And Art, 1905–2016

Wed, Oct 26, 2016 7:30–11 PM

Circle, Fellow, Sponsor, and Contemporaries Patron members are invited to this event: The invitation is for two individuals per membership household. Fellow and Sponsor members are welcome to arrive early for priority admission at 7 pm.

Opening Reception For Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema And Art, 1905–2016

Thurs, Oct 27, 2016 8–11 PM

Friend, Patron, and Contemporaries members are invited to this event: The invitation is for two individuals per membership household. Patron and Contemporaries members are welcome to arrive early for priority admission at 7 pm.

Halloween Member Night

Mon, Oct 31, 2016 7:30–10 PM

The Whitney is open late on Halloween—just for members! Come to the Museum in costume and experience the fall exhibitions, including the recently opened Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016. Enjoy a night of Halloween activities, teaching fellow-led exhibition talks, members-only dining and shopping, and more.

All members are invited to this event: The invitation is for two individuals per membership household. Members at the Friend level and above and Founding Dual members are welcome to arrive at 7 pm for priority admission. One-time-use member guest passes may be used. Not open to corporate and reciprocal members.

Learning Series Lectures: Two Histories Of Abstract Art

For Learning Series members in the Curate Your Own Membership program

Location: Floor Three, Susan and John Hess Family Theater

This two-part lecture program taught by teaching fellow Elizabeth Buhe will provide art historical context for the exhibitions Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight and Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016. The first lecture will explore works in a variety of media that engage with modernist abstraction and disrupt habitual ways of perceiving space and form. These works may employ disorienting illusions of depth and flatness, intensely affecting color, or synesthetic auditory and haptic stimuli to put forward new kinds of sensory experience that in some cases suggest a utopian vision of the future and in others embody critical or ambivalent attitudes towards contemporaneous reality—social, political, and technological. In the second lecture, the focus will shift to questions of biography and identity, exploring the impact of gender, race, and nationality on the work of abstract artists and on the critical and popular reception of their work.

Active Learning Series members are invited to register for these options:

  • Option 1: Saturdays, October 15 and November 5, 7–8 pm
  • Option 2: Mondays, November 7 and 14, 5:30–6:30 pm
  • Option 3: Sundays, December 4 and 11, 11:30 am–12:30 pm

Individual and Dual Learning Series members are invited to this event: For Individual members, the invitation is for one; for Dual members, the invitation is for two. Registration instructions will be provided by email. To join or upgrade, call (212) 570-3641.

Reception And Spotlight Tours: Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema And Art, 1905–2016

For Patron, Circle, Fellow, and Sponsor members

Location: Floor Five, Bluhm Family Galleries

The first large-scale thematic exhibition presented in the Whitney’s downtown home, Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 explores the ways in which artists and filmmakers have dismantled and reassembled the conventions of cinema—screen, projection, darkness, movement—to create new kinds of sensory experience and to question the ways in which technology continues to transform our lives. Each tour, led by a Whitney Teaching Fellow, will explore the exhibition’s themes by addressing key works, from early twentieth-century experimental films to contemporary works in installation, video, and virtual reality. A wine reception will be open after each tour.

Active members at the Patron, Circle, Fellow, and Sponsor level are invited to register for these options:

Monday, November 7, 2016

  • Option 1: 6:45–7:45 pm
  • Option 2: 7–8 pm
  • Option 3: 7:15–8:15 pm

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

  • Option 1: 6:45–7:45 pm
  • Option 2: 7–8 pm
  • Option 3: 7:15–8:15 pm

Patron, Circle, Fellow and Sponsor members are invited to this event: The invitation is for two individuals per membership household. Registration instructions will be provided by email. To join or upgrade, call (212) 570-3641.

Contemporaries Tours And Reception: Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema And Art, 1905–2016

For Contemporaries and Contemporaries Patron members

Location: Floor Five, Neil Bluhm Family Galleries

The first large-scale thematic exhibition presented in the Whitney’s downtown home, Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 explores the ways in which artists and filmmakers have dismantled and reassembled the conventions of cinema—screen, projection, darkness, movement—to create new kinds of sensory experience and question the ways in which technology continues to transform our lives. Each tour, led by a Whitney Teaching Fellow, will explore the exhibition’s themes by addressing key works, from early twentieth-century experimental films to contemporary works in installation, video, and virtual reality. A wine reception will be open before and after each tour.

Active Contemporaries and Contemporaries Patron members are invited to register for these options:

Monday, November 7, 2016

  • Option 1: 8 pm
  • Option 2: 8:15 pm

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

  • Option 3: 8 pm
  • Option 4: 8:15 pm

Contemporaries and Contemporaries Patron members are invited to this event: The invitation is for two individuals per membership household. To RSVP, email contemporaries@whitney.org with your name, preferred date and time, and membership ID. To join or upgrade, call (212) 570-7746.

Breaking The Frame, Dissolving The Screen

For Patron, Circle, Fellow, and Sponsor members

Location: Floor Three, Susan and John Hess Family Theater

This lecture will explore works in a variety of media by artists such as Carmen Herrera, Frank Stella, Anthony McCall, and Hito Steyerl, which all engage with modernist abstraction and disrupt habitual ways of perceiving space and form. These works may employ disorienting illusions of depth and flatness, intensely affecting color, or synesthetic auditory and haptic stimuli to introduce new kinds of sensory experience that in some cases suggest a utopian vision of the future and in others embody critical or ambivalent attitudes towards contemporaneous reality—social, political, and technological. Tracing the commonalities and differences between these works will provide a rich context for the exhibitions Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight and Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016. A wine reception will be available during the program.

Active Patron, Circle, Fellow, and Sponsor members are invited to register for these options:

Option 1: Monday, October 17, 7–8:30 pm

Option 2: Sunday, December 4, 5–6:30 pm

Patron, Circle, Fellow, and Sponsor members are invited to this event: The invitation is for two individuals per membership household. Registration instructions will be provided by email. To join or upgrade, call (212) 570-3641.

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