‘Unfinished Conversations’ at The Museum of Modern Art

We’re having a moment, world. What with global experiments in right-wing populism and mounting millions of refugees, even the staidest institutions are joining on the conversation, not least of which, New York’s Museum of Modern Art. MoMA’s Unfinished Conversations, running through July 30, takes a stab at this moment of personal and political transition.


Featuring pieces from more than a dozen artists, each is a statement on upheaval and shifting conceptions of identity. Twelve drawings by Anna Boghiguian drawings depict events during the Egypt’s 2011 revolution and Sendeschluss/End of Broadcast I, depicting television static, which the artist captured in 2014 from a hotel room in St Petersburg, when Russia’s government was carrying out its invasion of the Ukraine and restricted images of protest on state-controlled television.


Anna Boghiguian (Egyptian, born 1946). Untitled. 2011. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.© 2017 Anna Boghiguian.


The exhibition’s title is taken from John Akomfrah’s large-scale three-channel video installation that traces the work of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall, who died in 2014. The piece invokes Hall’s concept of “becoming” in which Hall describes identity as “an ever-unfinished conversation.”


John Akomfrah (British, born 1957) . The Unfinished Conversation. 2012. Three-channel video (color, sound). 45 min. © 2017 John Akomfrah.


While rooted in the 20th Century, Akomfrah’s installation might be seen as reassurance that the present moment is no major departure in terms of its instability. “I no longer think that this is just a transitional phase and that we’re moving on to some more settled period… We’re in a phase of permanent revolution” Hall says.


Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA’s Chief Curator at large, talked about the role museums can play as facilitators of dialogue, especially at a moment of heightened political uncertainty. “It is our hope that this gives viewers an opportunity to enter into the dialogue, and to construct their own meaning based on their life experiences and what they see. The conversation can’t be finished without our public.”


Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection, March 19, 2017–July 30, 2017


top image // Iman Issa (Egyptian, born 1979). Heritage Studies #9. 2015. © 2017 Iman Issa


Reporting by Laura Brickman for Art Zealous

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