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Whitney Biennial artists grapple with AI, gender rhetoric ‘in a fractured time’

The 81st edition of the Whitney Biennial — the longest-running survey of contemporary art in the United States — opens Wed., March 20.

The exhibit features 71 artists and collectives grappling with today’s pressing issues. This Biennial is like being inside a “dissonant chorus,” as participating artist Ligia Lewis described it, a provocative yet intimate experience of distinct and disparate voices.

In the experimental short film “Spirit Emulsion,” the Inuit/Haitian/Taíno filmmaker, writer and activist Siku Allooloo combines analog Super 8 film that was hand-developed with plant medicines and flowers from both the Northwest Territories (where Allooloo is from) and Coast Salish territories (where the film was made) with digital video to convey the enduring presence of her maternal Taíno culture. (Whitney)
Not showing until Sept. 20, “Speaking in Camouflage,” a film by Christopher Harris, “expresses a fidelity to the materiality of analog film and a structuring concern for Black peoples and culture, while functioning under the influence of free jazz and other avant-garde musical forms.” (Whitney)

The exhibition’s subtitle, “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” refers to how artificial intelligence (AI) is, per the Whitney, “complicating our understanding of what is real — and rhetoric around gender and authenticity is being used politically and legally to perpetuate transphobia and restrict bodily autonomy.”

Using “subversive humor, expressive abstraction and non-Western forms of cosmological thinking,” among other methods, the artists show that “there are pathways to be found, strategies of coping and healing to be discovered, and ways to come together even in a fractured time.”

From June 29 to July 1, Holland Andrews will perform on the museum’s third floor. In this work Andrews “engages harmonic disintegration and language transmutation to solicit the wisdom held inside the body, producing somatic catharsis through sound.” (Whitney)

In addition to painting and sculpture, there will be programs of performances and films.

The Whitney Biennial, March 20 to Aug. 11, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St. For more information, visit

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