Utopia after Utopia

a Yale University research initiative

Vertical Reach at Artspace Gallery


Vertical Reach: Political Protest and the Militant Aesthetic Now!

Organized by Sarah Fritchey and Martha Willette Lewis

February 20 – May 2, 2015

Opening Reception: Friday, February 20, 5-8pm



Vertical Reach is an exhibition that looks at the current political climate in Eastern Europe to explore how acts of protest and assembly operate when framed as artistic practice. The show brings together socially engaged works by collectives and individuals from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and the USA to look at how freedom of speech manifests now. This geopolitical juxtaposition contemplates the point at which a passive majority gives way to an active minority opposition, or rather, the points at which different oppressed populations rise. The question of what’s at risk for a politically active artist will come to the foreground and relate profoundly to his or her time and place, as will the glaring question of how much faith a viewer can put into any given image.

Many of the artists anticipate the criticism that art is politically declawed or represent governing hegemonies as soon as it enters the context of the contemporary art world. They respond by distributing their work via activist networks outside of the art world, forming free academies to teach without regulation, or appealing to art world tastes in order to disseminate their aesthetic message through its global network. Pussy Riot exemplifies the latter, fashioning themselves as a feminist punk rock band to spread their ideas through lyrics, songs and music videos that appeal to the masses. Other works in the exhibition use music, video, text, theater and documented street actions to subvert and distribute political messages. Through song, we relearn how to restructure and code language, harmonize, and listen.

Artspace is grateful to the artists who risk their personal security for participating in this show. While some viewers may take for granted the right to access the Internet, or to use words freely, the show flags recent government regulation and censorship of social media platforms and websites. Artspace will include wall texts that describe the stakes and consequences of producing each work,  commemorating the pioneering street actions of art collectives including Pussy Riot and FEMEN that have ended in prison sentences for some members.

Vertical Reach is presented in collaboration with the academic conference Political Violence and Militant Aesthetics after Socialism, co-organized by Marijeta Bozovic, Assistant Professor in the Slavic Languages & Literatures Department at Yale University. The conference will take place on Yale’s campus from April 17-19, 2015, and move to Artspace for a lunchtime conversation on Saturday, April 18, and a Closing Performance by Anastasiya Ospinova and Matthew Whitley and poets invited to the conference on Sunday, April 19. Both events are free and open to the public. Over the course of the exhibition, Artspace will function as an alternative parlor for gathering, singing, conversing, sharing meals, screening films, performing and hosting events that help introduce and unpack the complex ideas of the exhibition and associated conference.

Artists and collectives include: Yevgenia Belorusets, Chto Delat?, Anastasiya Osipova & Matthew Whitley, Zuzanna Janin , Nikita Kadan, Zbigniew Libera, David Livingston, Laura Marsh, Angel Nevarez & Valerie Tevere, Anastasia Ryabova, Gregory Sholette, David Ter-Oganyan, Mariya Vlasova, Artur Żmijewski & Yael Bartana, and others.

Vertical Reach would not have been possible without generous support from the Campus Project organized by Culture.pl, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts.

Press Contact: For more information or images, please contact Katie Jurkeiwicz, Press Coordinator, at katiej@artspacenh.org, or 203-772-2709.

Image details: (left) Nikita Kadan, Procedure Room (detail), 2009-10, plates, 6x4x10 inches each; (right) David Livingston, The Campaign, 2014, inkjet print.



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