The Ungovernables

2012 New Museum Triennial


The 2012 New Museum Triennial features thirty-four artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives—totaling over fifty participants—born between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, many of whom have never before exhibited in the US.

Cover Image:

“The Ungovernables,” 2012. Exhibition view: New Museum. Photo: Benoit Pailley

New Museum Theater, Lobby, Lobby Gallery, Second Floor, Third Floor, Fourth Floor, and Fifth Floor Visit Us

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“The Ungovernables,” the second triennial exhibition at the New Museum, acknowledges the impossibility of fully representing a generation in formation and instead embraces the energy of that generation’s urgencies. These urgencies are formal and philosophical, material and ideological. They stem from the unique experiences of this generation who came of age in the aftermath of the independence and revolutionary movements that promised to topple Western colonialism. However, these revolutions became mired in military dictatorships, the emergence of integrated world capitalism, regional and global economic crises, the rise of fundamentalism, and international interventions as well as failures to intervene. Faced with this somewhat bleak inheritance, artists in “The Ungovernables” embrace their complex relationship to history and assert a remarkable resourcefulness, pragmatism, and hopefulness in their work.

From left to right and back to front: Adrián Villar Rojas, Matthew Lucero (The Propeller Group), José Antonio Vega Macotela, Tuan Andrew Nguyen (The Propeller Group), Pratchaya Phinthong, Gabriel Sierra, Jonathas de Andrade, Ala Younis, Kasia Korczak, Nicolás Paris, Bona Park, Gary-Ross Pastrana, Dave McKenzie, Abigail DeVille, Emeka Okereke (Invisible Borders), Wu Tsang, Mariana Telleria, Rita Ponce de León, Dana Yahalomi (Public Movement), Cinthia Marcelle, Rayyane Tabet, Julia Dault, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim (Invisible Borders), Payam Sharifi (Slavs and Tatars), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Amalia Pica, Eungie Joo, Ryan Inouye, Pilvi Takala, Jumoke Sanwo (Invisible Borders), Lee Kit, Hu Xiaoyuan, Mounira Al Solh. Photo: Clifford Ross

Historically used as both a derogative colonial term to justify violent repression of the “natives” (“These people are ungovernable!”) and an affirmative call for civil disobedience (“We will make this country ungovernable!”), ungovernability is a double-edged sword that pursues a radical change in the everyday, but promises an upheaval that is not necessarily controllable. In terms of this exhibition, “The Ungovernables” is meant to suggest both anarchic and organized resistance: protest, chaos, and imagination as a refusal of the extended period of economic, ideological, sectarian, and political conflict that marks the generation’s inheritance. But the title also suggests a dark humor about this inheritance and the nonsentimental, noncynical approaches to history and survival it requires. Lingering in the present, artists in the exhibition embrace temporality and impermanence to explore new contingencies for an unknown future. “The Ungovernables,” then, is about rejecting incorporation and monetization, recognizing heat, transforming potential, and offering possibilities while maintaining self-awareness, humility, and humor.

Rejecting proscribed relationships to history and society, artists in “The Ungovernables” enact the present they desire through their work. The exhibition attempts to provide a platform for these multifaceted presents, with its structure responding to the urgencies of the artists and the form of the works themselves. The exhibition includes artists’ residencies conducted over the past year (including three that extend beyond the opening of this exhibition) and several works, “invisible” in the galleries, that take place before, during, and after the exhibition. A full list of these activities can be found at These temporal, performative, and research-oriented works resonate with instances of drawing, sculpture, video, and installation also found in this exhibition.

In addition to his work for “The Ungovernables” Adrián Villar Rojas presents a new site-specific sculpture called Before My Birth at the World Financial Center Plaza (220 Vesey Street between West Street and North End Avenue), from March 1-29, 2012 in conjunction with the New Museum Triennial. In Before My Birth, Villar Rojas endeavors a distinct approach to his material of choice. Clay no longer holds the mythological connotations that the artist has given it for so long. Instead it becomes a background device that frames a system of minimal resources.

“The Ungovernables” is organized by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director of Education and Public Programs, with Ryan Inouye, Curatorial Assistant.

Building on the Museum as Hub model, “The Ungovernables” incorporated lengthy consultation with a network of curators, organizations, and artists from around the world, including Museum as Hub partners. Their contributions have inspired the Art Spaces Directory, a resource guide to over 400 independent art spaces around the world, co-published by ArtAsiaPacific magazine and featuring essays by Víctor Albarracín, Reem Fadda and Christine Tohme, Stefan Kalmár, Naiza H. Khan, Catalina Lozano, Elaine W. Ng, and “The Ungovernables” will also be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue designed by Santiago Piedrafita, Head of Graphic Design, North Carolina State University, and published by Rizzoli. The catalogue will include full color, four-page spreads on each of the thirty-four artists and groups; as well as essays and fiction by several participating artists, writer/curator Miguel A. López, curator Gabi Ngcobo, and Triennial curator, Eungie Joo.

About the New Museum Triennial
The Generational Triennial is a signature initiative of the New Museum. It is the only recurring international exhibition in New York City devoted to emerging artists from around the world, providing an important platform for a new generation of artists who are shaping the current discourse of contemporary art and the future of culture. The first edition in 2009, “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus,” featured fifty artists, from twenty-five countries, born after 1976.

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Title Sponsor:

“The Generational” is made possible by a generous grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Additional support is provided by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte.

Major support is provided by the Friends of “The Generational” co-chaired by Shelley Fox Aarons, Toby Devan Lewis, and Lonti Ebers.

The Steering Committee of the Friends of “The Generational”: The Booth Heritage Foundation Inc.; Ellyn and Saul Dennison; Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg; Susan and Leonard Feinstein; María José Garcés; Carol and Arthur A. Goldberg; Sunny and Brad Goldberg; Lietta and Dakis Joannou; Tina Kim and Jaewoong Chung; Ken Kuchin; Sueyun Locks; Shaun Caley Regen; Lyndley and Samuel Schwab; Eve Steele and Peter Gelles; and Laurie and David Wolfert.

Friends of “The Generational”: Lorenzo Martone; Kathleen O’Grady; Ana Sokoloff; and Rosina Lee Yue and Bert A. Lies, Jr.

Special thanks to the Artist Steering Committee of “The Generational”: Mark Bradford, Michael Joo, Damián Ortega, Lorna Simpson, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kara Walker, and Haegue Yang.

Support for the accompanying publications is made possible by the J. McSweeney and G. Mills Publications Fund at the New Museum, and a grant from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Curatorial travel and research has been underwritten by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Asian Cultural Council.

Artist travel and production support is provided by the Embassy of Colombia, Washington D.C., Consulate General of Brazil in New York, the Danish Arts Council, the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, and the Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in NY. Art shipping is provided, in part, by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The official hotel partner for “The Generational” is The Standard Hotel. Translation support was generously provided by Akio Aoki.

Before My Birth, by Adrián Villar Rojas, is commissioned by Arts Brookfield and presented in conjunction with the 2012 New Museum Triennial, and is sponsored by Brookfield Office Properties.

Museum as Hub Residency Program
Artist residencies will be presented through the Museum as Hub initiative, organized in conjunction with the “The Generational.”

The Museum as Hub Residency Program is made possible by the lead support of the Rockefeller Foundation. Artist travel is supported, in part, by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Additional generous support for the Residency Program is provided by Laurie Wolfert.

Public Movement’s participation is co-presented by the New Museum and Artis Contemporary Israeli Art Fund, with additional support from the Ostrovsky Family Fund, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, and the Israeli Lottery Fund.

Museum as Hub
The Museum as Hub is made possible by the lead support of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Museum as Hub and public programs are made possible, in part, through the support of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. Endowment support is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Skadden, Arps Education Programs Fund, and the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for Education Programs at the New Museum.

Education and public programs are made possible by a generous grant from Goldman Sachs Gives at the recommendation of David and Hermine Heller.

If even just a few of these artists manage to discover, as they grow and change, what ungovernable really is, and be it, future generations will owe the New Museum a debt of thanks.

Holland Cotter, New York Times

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