Works of art are not singular or isolated things. Rather, we understand them in relation to the contexts in which they were produced and the investments they solicit from us—the feelings they engender, the values they accrue, and the communities they make.
Attachment is a thematic collaboration among KAM curators and draws from most areas of the museum’s permanent collection along with a selective number of loans. Organized under five themes—appendages, supports, shadow bodies, accumulations, and refusals—the exhibition examines critical scenes of attachment to encompass material, affective, bodily, psychoanalytic, cultural, political, and institutional frames of reference.
Desire, disgust, and comfort commingle in works that hover in the space between self and object. Attachments to mother figures, celebrities, and childhood textures and memories suggest physical and psychological appendages—things that seem supplementary yet are elemental.
The materials of artworks and objects can suggest systems for working, a structured but adjustable ground upon which attachments can be made: grids, collage, abstraction, and repetition. Formal aesthetic and political uses of supports demonstrate close ties between artists and their subjects and offer elements that draw us closer.
Tangible surrogates or proxies for bodies remote in time and space, some objects derive their power of attachment, paradoxically, from the work they solicit from us – to fill in, complete, or otherwise engage with absence, partiality, and fictions of the whole.
Many artists appropriate, obscure, and reconfigure powerful cultural symbols to which attachment is commonly expected. The late performance studies scholar José Esteban Muñoz developed the concept “disidentification” to describe working through such dominant images that pose possible threats, moving instead toward strategies of survival and techniques to imagine other possible worlds.
As collecting institutions, museums were born from the imperial charge to amass objects from subjugated worlds. Today this fraught history can be overshadowed by our attachment to the mission of keeping artworks safe in perpetuity for the public good. Thus acts of accumulation are always accompanied by acts of forgetting, revision, and recollection.
The online portfolio of collection works included in the Attachment exhibition may be accessed online.
Explore the Collection: Attachment
Ricker Library of Art and Architecture has created a library guide for this exhibition, containing bibliography, images, and online resources.