Words and Actions

curated by Naomi Lev

Participants: Oda Projesi+Nadin Reschke, Mujeres de Maiz, Collective_View, The 8th of March Group

Naomi-Lev-portrait.jpg

Naomi Lev (http://www.naomilev.com// @nlvrouge) is an independent art writer and curator based in Brooklyn. Lev is dedicated to supporting artists in their process, and promotes rights for creators and women in the field. In 2016 Lev founded the group Collective_View which is an all female-identified, art professional group. This intimate group meets monthly to discuss their roles as women in the art world and in society at large. During  New York’s first lockdown in March of 2020, Lev has launched a YouTube channel titled “7 Minutes with Naomi”, where she meets online with artists and art professionals from around the globe to discuss their current state and look at their works of art. Another project that was launched a couple years ago is “Artistsandwriters4ever.com” – an online platform that connects artists and art-professionals and offers a work-per-work barter between its participants. These are all collaborative initiatives that aim at creating a large supportive community. Lev has previously hosted a series of talks at Independent Curators International (2013-2014); curated a conversation and performative-monologue with Jonathan Meese at the Tel Aviv Museum (2013); and artistically directed a series of talks and panels with Vito Acconci at Bezalel Academy and Beit Berl College (2011). Recently curated shows include: "Headlines" (SPRING/BREAK Art Show, 2018), “With Passion” (NY), “in, side – throughout” (NY), and “Preliminary Study: RSI-T” (NY and MI). An upcoming collaborative curated show at Structura Gallery in Bulgaria and Radiator Gallery in NY will launch in July, 2021. Lev was a contributing editor at Creative Time Reports (2015-2016), and has contributed to international magazines such as ARTFORUM.com, Artcritical.com, TOHU Magazine, and BOMB Magazine, among other publications. She holds a BFA in Fine Arts from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, and an MFA from the Art Criticism & Writing program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

The exhibition “Words and Actions” contemplates what we communicate and how we act. It was inspired by the roles of politicians in our lives, particularly those who speak but don’t stand behind their words, or those who say too much, and the words become radical noise that affects our better judgement. ‘Words Matter’ was the initial term presented to me in relation to this project. My understanding of the term is that words have a place in the world and they make a difference. Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” And indeed, language paints a picture of reality. Words have the power to change, shift, convince, deceive, fool, seduce, nurture, and support.

 

The importance of so many nuances and radical circumstances has risen in the past couple of years. The recent Covid-19 pandemic accentuated the many issues we are facing as individuals on a personal level, as well as a society. In the U.S. alone, the rise and fall of Donald J. Trump led to numerous unprecedented events that shook the country and the world. The words spoken by the administration at the time had a severe effect on how people speak and act. Some have chosen to follow racist, cruel, and hurtful language. Others have decided to change, rethink, and reinvent. Support is the building structure of our community, and words, for that matter, build communities.

 

A solid alternative to institutional bodies can be provided by building a community based on trust, and in support of others. In different places these communities speak for different issues and represent various causes. In the art realm, collectives have proven themselves as a strong basis that provides an alternative to major institutions and controversial social and economic infrastructures. Art collectives are formed to question and to rebel, and they are created to provide creative options that are outside the mainstream path. There is a history to art collectives, how they work and how they are formed; what we’re interested in here is what they question and what they provide. The basic and strongest force within groups of people is communication: conversation and dialogue. Without these features, collectives could not exist, and society will not sustain.

 

This show is a testimony to the role of dialogue, and a celebration of human communication. It is a collaboration and a documentation of unique projects created by four art collectives. The all-women collectives were selected in relation to the discourse they are creating within their community, as well as the dialogue they’ve established for creating a community.

 

Oda Projesi, for example, an artists’ collaborative based in Istanbul and Berlin made up of Özge Açikkol, Güneş Savaş, and Seçil Yersel, founded their group with the core intention to open up a space for exchange and dialogue within the communities in which they are working. In this particular show they are presenting “Tongue” in collaboration with Berlin-based artist Nadin Reschke. This community-based pedagogic project plays with the role and influences of subjective language. The project was originally created in 2009 and is revisited today with a new understanding of the need to communicate: how communicating well through words can build, and how misunderstanding of subjective language can damage. 

Similarly, the L.A. based Mujeres de Maiz (Womxn of the Corn) founded in 1997 as agrassroots, multimedia women’s artivist organization, provides a space for their community to collaborate, communicate, and heal. The collective utilizes community partnerships, primarily with Chicana/Latina who are involved in the cultural, artistic and educational tapestry of the greater Los Angeles area. For our show, MdM is presenting their recent project “WE RISE: 4 Directions Unidos Para la Salud” which manifested both online and in person this past May of 2021. These events were composed of ceremonies, poetry readings, pop-up shows, and supportive community holistic events that allowed a space for their members to come together and talk (literally and emotionally). 

 

In NY, Collective_View was formed in November 2016 in response to the Trump administration and the #MeToo movement. CV’s work revolves around discussions relating to art and labor of females in the art world, and is based on dialogue as well as intimate shows that connect and create an active and supportive community. CV offers an alternative to institutional structures, and promotes equality and collaborations. Their project “Shared View” presented here, is a home-based exhibition between members and collaborators that formed during recent lockdowns. This exhibition format has enabled intimacy and bonding in times when human connection and some form of physical presence were needed most.

 

And finally, The 8th of March Group, a Bulgarian based art collective, was formed as a reaction to an exhibition titled “Erotica” in 1997, which featured only male artists. In response, the group created an all female exhibition under the same theme, and continues to create groundbreaking exhibitions that bring forth feminist ideas and brings female artists and curators to the forefront. For their online project members of the collective reunite here to create a show inspired by their 2006 exhibition “Reflections Multiplied.” The online presentation will focus on the understanding of how concepts about femininity have shifted in the past 15 years, and how this shift allows us to read women’s works of art from a different, deeper perspective. 

 

One week at a time, the collectives will launch their project, as each group will have a special webpage dedicated to their creative contribution. This online show seeks to highlight the groups’ alternative radical actions and soothing words that create unlimited interpersonal connections; eventually, what these groups are doing is connecting people with people through words and actions.