‘Utopian Imagination’ to Open at Ford Foundation in September




Mariko Mori, Miko No Inori, 1996. Photo courtesy of the artist

The Ford Foundation will open its doors to the new exhibition, Utopian Imagination. Curated by Jaishri Abichandani, the show brings together works by 14 diverse artists from around the world, and closes out the inaugural year of exhibitions at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice’s beautiful new gallery.

farxiyo jaamac, IFTIN, 2017. Private Collection. Image courtesy Ford Foundation

Using science fiction to frame this interrogation, Utopian Imagination presents objects, bodies, vessels, and fragments created by artists over time that when pieced together offer futuristic narratives that inspire hope for our existence.

“The artists of Utopian Imagination are creating worlds ahead of our time by imagining societies built upon justice and inclusion that hold the key to our survival,” says Lisa Kim, the gallery’s director. “While our future may be uncertain, the works by ease artists offer us a momentary space of respite and joy, a vision of a just world transformed by love, imagination, perseverance, and solidarity.”
Lola Flash, Syzgy, 2019. Courtesy of the Artist.

The above image, which is a self-portrait by Lola Flash, encapsulates the spirit of the exhibition. Viewed from below as one would look up at a deity, Lola’s ambiguously gendered tattooed body is clad in an orange prison jumpsuit with a pair of unshackled handcuffs dangling from her wrist. Head ensconced in an astronaut’s helmet, she is framed against a landscape of blue sky and water, a perfect embodiment of the dream of liberation of her ancestors.

Collectively, these artworks evoke a sense of wonder and magic through fictional landscapes, transformed bodies, and space and flight as a metaphor for liberation.

A girl stands in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) on the outskirts of Belet Weyne, about 315 km (196 miles) from the capital Mogadishu, February 20, 2013, in this picture provided by the African Union-United Nations Information Support (AU-UN IST) team. According to the AU-UN IST, the IDP camp is currently home to four hundred people displaced by floods that affected the region late last year. The AU-UN IST added that Belet Weyne, Somalia’s fifth largest city, was first liberated from the extremist group al Shabab in September 2011 by Ethiopian troops, but was taken over by the Djiboutian contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in September 2012. Picture taken February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Tobin Jones/AU-UN IST PHOTO/Handout (SOMALIA – Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS)

The exhibition brings together works by artists who are imagining our existence on an imperiled planet. With the understanding that (radical) love is the answer to the violence presented in Perilous Bodies, this exhibition recognizes the difficulties of the task ahead. Utopias are increasingly hard to imagine in a world torn asunder by conflict. Using science fiction to frame this interrogation, this exhibition presents objects, bodies, vessels, fragments created by artists over time that when pieced together, offer a vision of a future that includes all of us.

Zak Ové, Nubian Return, 2017. Courtesy of Zak Ové Studio and Vigo Gallery, London. Image courtesy Ford Foundation.

The participating artists represent a wide array of lived experiences and identities, including indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and feminist voices. They include: Saks Afridi (Pakistan/United States), Morehshin Allahyari (Iran/United States), Sue Austin (England), Firelei Báez (Dominican Republic/United States), Beatriz Cortez (El Salvador/United States), Lola Flash (United States), Juliana Huxtable (United States), farxiyo jaamac (Somalia/Canada), Lee Bul (Korea), Cannupa Hanska Luger (United States – Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota), Mariko Mori (Japan), Zak Ové (England), Mikael Owunna (United States), and Yinka Shonibare MBE (England/Nigeria).

Saks Afridi, Sightings #3, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Artist.

Utopian Imagination, curated by Jaishri Abichandani, will be on view from September 17 through December 7, 2019 at The Ford Foundation, 320 East 43rd Street, NYC. An Opening Reception will be held on Tuesday, September 17 from 6:00-8:00pm. The gallery is free and open to the public with hours from Monday through Saturday, 11am to 6pm.