The Whispering Campaign
Curator Dieter Roelstraete and artist Pope.L (University of Chicago, Department of Visual Arts) expand upon their collaboration at documenta 14 where Pope.L first presented his Whispering Campaign project.
Pope.L is a visual artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create art works in various formats, for example, writing, painting, performance, installation, video and sculpture. Building upon his long history of enacting arduous, provocative, absurdist performances and interventions in public spaces, Pope.L applies some of the same social, formal and performative strategies to his interests in language, system, gender, race and community. The goals for his work are several: joy, money and uncertainty— not necessarily in that order.
Pope.L began his career in the 1970s, creating works that find their foothold in personal travail, reading philosophy, and performance and theatre training with Geoff Hendricks and Mabous Mines. He studied at Pratt Institute and later received his BA from Montclair State College in 1978. He also attended the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art before earning his MFA from Rutgers University in 1981. His first performances occurred on the street, and later at major and historic venues, such as Anthology Film Archives, Franklin Furnace, Just Above Midtown, Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, Performa, The Sculpture Center, and the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York; MIT and Mobius in Boston; MOCA Los Angeles; Shinjuku Station in Tokyo; Diverse Works in Houston; Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead Quays, UK; Prospect.2 in New Orleans; Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and CAM Houston, among others. Major performances include Baile (2016); The Problem (2016); Pull (2013); The Black Factory national tour (2002–2009); The Great White Way (2001–2002); Community Crawls (2000–2005); Eating the Wall Street Journal (2000); Black Domestic aka Roach Motel Black (1994); How Much is that Nigger in the Window (1990-1992); Times Square Crawl (1978); and Thunderbird Immolation (1978).
Recent exhibitions, performances, and projects include documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel Germany (2017); the Whitney Biennial (2017); "PLAMA" (“The Spot”), a commercial commissioned for On the Tip of the Tongue at Museum of Modern Art Warsaw (2016); the 32nd Biennial de São Paulo (2016); The Freedom Principle at ICA Philadelphia (2016) and MCA Chicago (2015); The Public Body at Artspace, Sydney (2016); Less than One at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2016); Trinket at The Geffen Contemporary, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2015); Black Pulp! at Yale School of Art, New Haven and IPCNY in New York (2016); Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, CAM Houston, and Studio Museum in New York (2014); Claim at Littman Gallery, Portland State University, Portland, OR (2014); Cage Unrequited at Performa, New York (2013); Forlesen at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Chicago (2013); and A Long White Cloud, Te Tuhi, Auckland, New Zealand (2013).
His work has also been the subject of important group and solo shows throughout the span of his almost 50-year career, including Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Craft and Design, Museum of Art and Design, New York (2013); superhuman, Central Utah Art Center, Ephraim (2012); Reenactor, Williams Center Gallery at Lafayette College, Easton, PA (2012); The Last Newspaper, New Museum, New York (2010); 30 Seconds Off an Inch, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2009); Corbu Pops, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2009); Thirty Americans, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2008); Black Is, Black Ain’t, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2008); Drawing, Dreaming, Drowning at Art Institute of Chicago (2008); Art After White People: Time, Trees, and Celluloid . . . at Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA (2007); William Pope.L: The Black Factory and Other Good Works, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2007); 7e Biennale de l’Art Africaine Contemporaine, Dakar, Senegal (2006); Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art since 1970, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2005); The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams (2004); The Big Nothing, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2004); Only Skin Deep, International Center of Photography, New York (2004); William Pope.L: the friendliest Black artist in America at ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, DiverseWorks Artspace in Houston, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, ME, Artists Space in New York, and Mason Gross Art Galleries at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ (2002-2004); eRacism: Retrospective Exhibition, Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, Portland (2002); eRacism: White Room, Thread Waxing Space, New York (2000); Eating the Wall Street Journal and Other Current Consumptions, Mobius, Boston (2000); and Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998).
Pope.L is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Bucksbaum Award, the Joyce Foundation Award, the Tiffany Foundation Award, the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, the Bellagio Center Residency, Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship, Andy Warhol Foundation grant, Creative Capital Foundation grant, Franklin Furnace/Jerome Foundation grant, National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Artists Space grant, and more.
Dieter Roelstraete was recently appointed Curator at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago. Prior to this appointment he was as a member of the curatorial team for Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel in 2017.
From 2012 until 2015 he was the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where he organized Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A (2012); The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology (2013); Simon Starling: Metamorphology (2014); The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music 1965 to Now (2015, co-curated with Naomi Beckwith); and Kerry James Marshall: Mastry (2016, co-curated with Ian Alteveer and Helen Molesworth).
From 2003 until 2011 he was a curator at the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (MuHKA), where he organized large-scale group exhibitions as well as monographic shows, including Emotion Pictures (2005); Intertidal, a survey show of contemporary art from Vancouver (2005); The Order of Things (2008); Liam Gillick and Lawrence Weiner—A Syntax of Dependency (2011); A Rua: The Spirit of Rio de Janeiro (2011); Chantal Akerman: Too Close, Too Far (2012) and the collaborative projects Academy: Learning from Art (2006), The Projection Project (2006), and Kerry James Marshall: Paintings and Other Stuff (2013).
In 2005, Roelstraete co-curated Honoré d’O: The Quest in the Belgian pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale. He has also organized solo exhibitions of work by Roy Arden (Vancouver Art Gallery, 2007) and Steven Shearer (De Appel, Amsterdam, 2007), as well as group shows in galleries and institutions in Belgium, Germany and Mexico. From 2007 until 2011 he taught at De Appel’s curatorial training program in Amsterdam and at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. He is currently also a member of the Thought Council, a curatorial brain trust for the Fondazione Prada in Milan and Venice. Exhibition projects are currently planned or taking place at the Fondazione Prada (Slight Agitation, four-part exhibition, 2016-2018), the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (The Other Trans-Atlantic: Kinetic and Op Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1950s – 1970s, Nov. 2017 - Feb. 2018), and the Garage Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow (March 2018).
A former editor of Afterall, co-editor of A Prior magazine and cofounder of the journal FR David, Roelstraete has published extensively on contemporary art and related philosophical issues in numerous catalogues and journals including Artforum, Art Review, e-flux journal, frieze, Metropolis M, Monopol, Mousse Magazine, Parkett, and Texte zur Kunst.