Performing the Institution: ICA Philadelphia’s Trevor Shimizu: Performance Artist at Kunsthalle Lissabon
By Emily Leifer for Title Magazine
December 2, 2019
What is an institution? Is it a building, a budget, a mission statement? These are the questions that I is for Institute, an initiative by the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, has been trying to answer. The project’s latest endeavor entails an international exchange between art institutions. For the next few months, the ICA Philadelphia will be inhabiting Kunsthalle Lissabon, Portugal, and in 2020, it will be hosting Raw Material Company from Senegal. These exchanges are something of an experiment. Is an institution geographically transferable? Can you take it “on the road”? I had the opportunity to speak with ICA’s Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber (CHE’60) Curator Alex Klein about the ICA Philadelphia exhibition Trevor Shimizu: Performance Artist, which opens at Kunsthalle Lissabon, Portugal on November 20, 2019, and runs through February 1, 2020. In our conversation, we discussed the multimedia artist’s engagement with video in our media-saturated world and what it might mean to show this work in an international context.
Klein walked me through the checklist of Trevor Shimizu: Performance Artist, providing a virtual tour of the exhibition that, alas, I will never see in person (unless one of you wants to send me to Portugal). However, we can take heart in the fact that several of Shimizu’s videos will be streaming on the ICA Philadelphia website during the exhibition. This access provides another node in the international display of this Shimizu’s digital video and another point at which to consider what constitutes an institution. Is an institution a website? The curator’s walkthrough and the review are certainly practices that help to build an institution, respectively clarifying the institution’s motivations and establishing an audience. Klein’s description emphasized Shimizu’s formal experimentation, his engagement with previous art traditions, and his intense involvement with contemporary culture. In my opinion, this combination of museum research with the timeliness of a gallery is particular to the Institute of Contemporary Art model. Furthermore, it is not only the exhibition or the curator that establishes an institution, but also its reception. Thus this article itself, its tone, who reads it, and where it is published also contribute to the construction of the art institution. This very moment itself serves to shape the institution.