“Occupied Territory,” a presentation of archival material and artworks, charts the development of three New Museum exhibitions organized in response to the unsettling climate of globalization in the early 1990s.
Allan Sekula, Fish Story-Chapter Five: Message in a Bottle, 1992 (detail). Exhibited in “Trade Routes,” 1993, New Museum, NY. Courtesy Christopher Grimes Gallery
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“Occupied Territory” was originally the working title for a trilogy of New Museum exhibitions in 1993 that interrogated legacies of “colonial expansion and conquest.” Reacting to radical changes taking place internationally in the late ’80s and early ’90s, these shows—“In Transit,” “The Final Frontier,” and “Trade Routes”—posed questions about globalization’s social, economic, cultural, and intellectual exchanges, and grappled with issues as wide-reaching as neoliberal capitalism and as specific as the situations facing individual cities.
Engaging this moment in the New Museum’s history, this iteration of “Occupied Territory” produces a nuanced—rather than comprehensive or celebratory—self-reflexive account of the trilogy, one that reflects on the Museum’s desire to critically engage with an increasingly global art world. The documents and records on view make public much of the institution’s conceptual exhibition infrastructure, including the development and reception of each exhibition, and looks closely, and even somewhat critically, at several of the artworks that were included. “Occupied Territory” also shows how curators and their cross-disciplinary advisors were speculating on the capacities for artworks, exhibitions, and institutions to distill meaning from profound social and cultural shifts, and in some cases, their potential to enact change.
In its strategic probing of the Museum’s past, “Occupied Territory” relates to practices that purposefully create and mobilize history for specific ends. This particular archival selection privileges concepts and modalities from the original trilogy that are explored in other Museum programming, if from different vantage points—most notably in the exhibition “Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module” curated by tranzit. Future political imaginaries, the interplay of global and local, and the implications of technological innovation are all considered here in the context of what was, in 1993, a young American museum focused on producing an alternative, yet still institutional perspective on globalized art production in the wake of postcolonialism and postmodernity.
The exhibition includes archival documentation of artist projects and artwork by the following artists: Aziz + Cucher, Brian D’Amato, John Fekner, Laura Kurgan, Tadashi Kawamata, Sowon Kwon, Marcos Novak, Alan Michelson, Nela Ochoa, Miguel Rios, Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, Allan Sekula, Softworlds, Inc., Brian Tripp, Camilo Vergara, and Andrea Zittel.
New Museum Senior Curator France Morin organized “In Transit” (January 15–April 11, 1993) with anthropologist Kosta Gounis and political economist John Jeffries.
New Museum Assistant Curator Alice Yang organized “The Final Frontier” (May 7–August 15, 1993) with scholar of media and technology Lisa Cartwright and critic of mass media and popular culture Celeste Olalquiaga.
New Museum Curator Laura Trippi organized “Trade Routes” (September 10–November 7, 1993) with cultural critic and feminist scholar Gina Dent and sociologist Saskia Sassen.
“Occupied Territory: A New Museum Trilogy” is organized by Taraneh Fazeli, Education Associate, Tara Hart, Digital Archivist, and Alicia Ritson, Senior Research Fellow.