Guggenheim
Introduction

"Representation [of the continents] is no longer enough; we now have the projection of something as uncertain as our own existence."1

The artist strives to create meaning, but also to struggle against what is wrong in the world. Rather than approach this struggle in a directly educational or an overtly political mode, artists in the D.Daskalopoulos collection use indirect and metaphorical approaches. In his collecting activities, Daskalopoulos says that he deliberately tries "to avoid political art." "The political is very connected to a specific historical context and specific issues. . . . I focus on how [the artworks I collect] relate to the human essence in a more universal way."2 Many of the artists have addressed the conflicts surrounding the planet's natural resources through an exploration of wars, science, or economics.

Rivane Neuenschwander (b. 1967, Belo Horizonte, Brazil) is interested in how human beings and other living creatures interact with one another and their environments. In her video, Contingent (Contingente, 2008), a map of the world made from honey is devoured by ants. Over the course of more than ten minutes, the continents shrink until they are gone altogether, raising the question, by analogy, of how humans are consuming the world's limited natural resources. Neuenschwander has said that she likes the symbolic quality of ants: "They have been present in almost every continent for thousands of years, long before us."3 The map also serves as a rich symbol. It is projected to the size of a classroom map, but one that asks to teach us about how we interact with our environment. Neuenschwander says she named the video Contingent because the word had multiple possible meanings. She likes the fact that "contingent" is similar to the word "continent," "or rather, these two words are very close in their pronunciation and spelling. . . . This interests me—the creation of a certain confusion, a rereading of the word, a delay of its meaning."4

Notes

1 Rivane Neuenschwander, quoted in Susan Thompson entry on Neuenschwander, in The Luminous Interval: The D.Daskalopoulos Collection, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, exh. cat. (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2011), p. 161.

2 Dimitris Daskalopoulos, in "Curating Rooms in My Head: Dimitris Daskalopoulos in Conversation with Nancy Spector," in The Luminous Interval, p. 25.

3 Neuenschwander in The Luminous Interval, p. 161.

4 Ibid.

Questions
  • Look together at two video stills from Rivane Neuenschwander’s Contingent (Contingente, 2008). What do students notice about the stills?
  • Tell students the video is 10 minutes, 30 seconds long, and that the first still comes from earlier on than the second. Knowing that, ask them what they think might be happening in the video? The full video can be found on YouTube .
    For this piece, Neuenschwander constructed a map of the world out of honey and then released a colony of ants onto it. Ask students to think about the potential symbolism behind the artwork. Make sure they explore the associations they might have with ants, maps, and honey.
  • Neuenschwander says she named the video Contingent because the word has multiple meanings. Ask students if they know the definition of the word “contingent.” Then ask them to explore its meaning as applied to the video.
  • Neuenschwander has said that she likes the fact that “contingent” is similar to the word “continent,” “or rather, these two words are very close in their pronunciation and spelling. . . . This interests me—the creation of a certain confusion, a rereading of the word, a delay of its meaning.” 1 Ask students what they think she means by this statement. Why would she want to create confusion rather than being as clear as possible?
  • Tell students about how all of artworks on view are part of the collection of Dimitris Daskalopoulos, who says he deliberately tries “to avoid political art” in his collection. He says: “The political is very connected to a specific historical context and specific issues…I focus on how [the artists I collect] relate to the human essence in a more universal way.”2 Ask students to debate this point in relation to the artists they have seen. Do they think the work of Neuenschwander qualifies as “political art”? Why or why not?

Notes:

1 Rivane Neuenschwander, quoted in Susan Thompson entry on Neuenschwander, in The Luminous Interval: The D.Daskalopoulos Collection, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, exh. cat. (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2011), p. 161.

2 Dimitris Daskalopoulos, in “Curating Rooms in My Head: Dimitris Daskalopoulos in Conversation with Nancy Spector,” in The Luminous Interval, p. 25.

Activities

Culling Archives

  • For this activity, students will make an artwork based on an image that already exists. For her artwork Contingent (Contingente, 2008), Rivane Neuenschwander used a map of the world. Students will look through image archives (collections) to find an image on which to base their artwork. First, discuss the word “archive” with students. What different kinds of archives are there? Where can students access an archive? What are the benefits of exploring archives as an artist?
  • Send students to the library or to their homes to conduct their archival research. In the library, they can look through books, files, or microfiche. In their homes, they can rummage through old magazines or family photographs. From the classroom, they can explore digital archives on the Internet. Students can then respond, in an artwork, to one or more images they find. To make this artwork, they can use any material: paint, pencil, collage, clay, text, even food (like Neuenschwander). Share students’ final products along with their archival images. Ask them: Why did they choose that image in particular? Why did they use a particular material for their response to the image? What are the different ways in which they were inspired by their archival images?

 

Animating Images

  • To make her video, Neuenschwander used a video camera. For this activity, students will animate images by creating a flip book. As in the above activity, students can base their animations on archival images. They should decide how they would like these archival images to change over time. Neuenschwander made a comment about limited natural resources through the changes the ants made on her honey map. What changes can students make to their images that would communicate some kind of message? Students should make several copies of their image, either by hand or with a photocopier. Then they should change each image slightly (with pencil, paint, collage, etc.) so that when the images are compiled as a book and flipped through rapidly, it looks as if they are changing continuously. Share the flip books as a class. Using stop motion, students can also create a short animated film from their drawings on the computer. What were students able to communicate about their archival images?