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FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art

July 14 through September 30, 2018

Transformer Station is pleased to be a Presenting Partner of FRONT and is presenting three discreet projects as its consideration of the exhibition theme:
An American City.

FRONT Film Program
For FRONT, the Crane Gallery at Transformer Station will be “transformed” into a black-box cinema space to accommodate a rotating selection of feature films and short films by artists and independent filmmakers working throughout the globe. Many of the works touch on topics relevant to urbanism and how it is understood in diverse cultural and economic situations. A schedule of films by noted artists, including William E. Jones, Hao Jingban, Cheng Ran, Eric Baudelaire, Sharon Lockhart, and Willie Doherty, is supported by series of shorter works by Jennifer Reeder, Andy Holden, and Mary Reid Kelley, among others.

Stephen Willats
The main gallery is devoted to a presentation of Human Right by Stephen Willats (b. 1943), who since the early 1960s has situated his pioneering conceptual art practice at the intersection of art, science, and social science, creating participatory works that unfold beyond the conventions of an object-based art world. His work, which depends on social relationships, bridges the disciplines of cybernetics, philosophy, communications theory, and active spectatorship. Willats is interested in creating situations for viewer participation and random, complex environments that will affect viewers at the deepest levels of social engagement.

Human Right was commissioned by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), England, in 2017. Envisioned as an interactive facility that would expand existing possibilities for local people to effect change within their cultural landscape, it encompasses themes present throughout Willats’s long career. The exhibition examines the relationship between personal narratives and social conditions. As Willats has explained, “Every cultural landscape requires its signposts, not just to get around in the present, to find out where and what things are, but to point to a vision of the future, to show a possible destiny. I see this as a consequence and a function of my practice as an artist to intervene in the status quo of the cultural infrastructure to implant signposts that will enable a perceptual transformation of existing reality.”
Willats worked with four residents of Middlesbrough, each of whom created a community-based project intended to effect change in the city. Several aspects of this multimedia artwork—including large-scale photographs, system diagrams, and a series of seven films featuring interviews with the organizers—capture their work and examine the relationship between personal narratives and social conditions. For the original presentation these films were shown in shop windows in the area around MIMA. For FRONT they will be installed in shop fronts along the Hingetown streets surrounding Transformer Station.

A. K. Burns
Transformer Station also will feature a project by A. K. Burns (b. 1975), a New York–based artist whose videos, installations, sculptures, and drawings focus on the divisions and conflicts between communities of different genders, sexual orientations, races, and ideologies. Burns visited Transformer Station and surrounding Hingetown and developed an installation of appropriated sculpture that is shaped by the pressures of change that have brought new construction and new residents, but also new strains, to the neighborhood.

The history of Hingetown is complex, spanning from its rise and fall as a working-class neighborhood to its brief renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s when LGBT activism in Cleveland was centered around its bars and clubs. Recently reinvented as Hingetown, the neighborhood has seen an influx of affluent hipsterism that has fed fears of gentrification and displacement, all against the unchanging background of a disenfranchised and impoverished African American community living in public housing only blocks away.

While some boundaries within the community have been broken, others remain, and new boundaries are built. Opportunity has grown, but that has magnified inequity. Burns’s project addresses these realities by uprooting sections of fencing from the neighborhood, distorting their form, and placing them in transitional spaces in the community as “gentrification memorials.” These repurposed boundaries, now useless, become monumental and defiantly triumphant.
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