THE GENERATIONAL: YOUNGER THAN JESUS

by marissa bea

Saturday afternoon I braved the rain and tourists, and visited the newest exhibition at the New Museum, down in the Bowery. This large show includes 50 artists from 25 countries, all under the age of 33, and for those curious about the title of the show, Jesus was 33 when he died, hence, Younger than Jesus. There are a few pieces in the lobby and cafe, but the real magnitude of the showcase begins one floor up, by neon green elevator.

Artist: Tribe Called Quest
Song: Youthful Expression

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Enter the second floor where the main part of the exhibition starts off, and upon stepping into the room you are greeted by one of the most disregarded and yet passionate topics of this generation. Politics. Known for being much more apathetic (though the 2008 election saw that change a bit) than previous generations, this piece screams what many have come to silently feel. We have been fed a load of pre-recorded crap. Flanked by 4 “Vacant Portraits” that echo the video shown behind a chair inset with machinery and covered in what can only be described as an unidentifiable brown liquid, Stephen G. Rhodes‘ installation makes you feel like you are looking into a science fiction universe, part Matrix, part Brave New World, and the only way out is to think about it, rather than place it aside.

The artists each bring their own insight to the world surrounding this era, and some of my favorites along the way were Ahmet Ögüt’s “Mutual Issues, Invented Acts”, Haris Epaminonda’s multiple collages, Ryan Trecartin’s room sized installations, and Cyprien Gaillard’s piece, “Desniansky Raion”, a video of chaos set to dance music. Another highlight is Jakub Julian Ziolkowski’s “The Great Battle Under the Table,” which looks an awful lot like a Where’s Waldo drawing at war with an anthill, but with much more political oomph.

Also, be careful to avoid stepping on the banana peel. By far my favorite part of the exhibition, it is doing just what only modern art can do; make fun of itself. The installation piece, by Adriana Lara, is just what it sounds like, a browning banana peel, placed in the middle of the floor. Becoming an ongoing performance art in itself, the gentleman assigned the duty to tell patrons to “Watch the peel,” takes a stab at contemporary art, and its often over-the-top style of turning seemingly frivolous objects into greatly valued collectors items. I was greatly amused when he told me that they replace it every day, and it is the job of someone to eat a new banana and set the peel in the same spot. The reactions of the visitors was also quite priceless, from amusement, to wonder, and confusion. Quite genius.

While wandering through the space, you will notice the large amount of video and animation in the exhibition, which just goes to show how invested our generation is with this new era of technology. A good portion, if not all, of the installation and sculpture pieces include some form of video element, and they are even placed in odd spots, around a corner, hidden in a niche, so you almost happen upon it as a delightful surprise. For example, you should absolutely hit the fourth floor by way of the narrow staircase from the third floor, because there are several pieces hidden along the way, and it’s a lot more fun than the enormous elevator.

You will need to spend at least an hour in the museum (going at a fast pace, but I recommend spending more time) to take in all the different views and comments on modern society and to make sure you haven’t missed any of the hidden treasures in secret corners. The exhibition covers the first through fourth floors, and though the space of the museum makes the pieces seem sparse in their placement, it’s a very smart show, and very dense in the subject matter. The artists don’t form a cohesive one-sided viewpoint of their generation, but rather a multitude of separate ones, that can somehow still be understood by all. They hail from countries spanning the globe, from Japan, to Kazakhstan, to South Africa and everywhere in between, and regardless of where their specific inspiration comes from, they are all still quite welcoming to anyone within their same generation, whether they be from the same culture or not. The nationalities may be different, but they speak a common language, that of one generation, born with no memory of the Vietnam era or WWII, but quite invested in the times of the end of Apartheid and 9/11. We share common ideals, for our own nations, and for the world, and this is what binds us.

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