Sounding Labor, Silent Bodies
July 01, 2020 through January 17, 2021
Curated by Kate Bonansinga, Director, School of Art in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning in collaboration with Amara Antilla, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Center.
Tania Candiani’s artistic practice spans sculpture, sound, film and performance to examine innovations of the past and present. Often responding to specific sites and local histories, she reanimates forgotten narratives, protagonists, and material traditions in order to honor the human labor invested in social change, and to poetically call for a more just and inclusive future. For the past two decades, she has focused on examining the breakthroughs and failures of dominant cultural, economic, scientific, and technological structures. Whether commenting on US-Mexico border law, gender inequality, scientific theory, or workers’ rights, she creates objects and actions that provoke empathy, critical nostalgia, and reflection on the commodification of time, land, and labor.
Produced over the course of two years and several visits to Cincinnati, Sounding Labor, Silent Bodies features historical visual ephemera alongside a new suite of artwork that examines the contradictions present in the rhetoric of progress that accompanied America’s industrial past. Often mediated through the body, Candiani’s work recognizes the politics of voice and insists on the expressive potential of repetitive movement forming what the artist calls “a choreography of labor.” The centerpiece of the exhibition is a three-channel film featuring a women’s choir reciting the sounds of disappearing forms of manual work. The resulting a cappella music, which recalls pouring, squealing, cutting and hammering, echo through the galleries as a requiem for four industries that dominated Cincinnati’s workforce in the late 19th century. Sounding Labor, Silent Bodies highlights women as a corrective to dominant historical narratives that excluded their role as factory workers, and suggests parallels with current struggles against gender inequality.
Tania Candiani was born in Mexico City in 1974. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2004); Sala Alcalá 31, Madrid (2005); Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2007); Cairo Biennial (2008); University Museum of Contemporary Art MUAC, Mexico City (2010); Cuenca Biennial (2011); Prix Ars Electronica, Linz (2013); Museum Boijmans Van Beauningen, Rotterdam (2014); Jewish Museum, New York (2015); Polytechnic Museum, Moscow (2016); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan (2017); Kochi-Muziris Biennial (2018); Havana Biennial (2019) and ASU Art Museum, Phoenix (2020). In 2015, she was one of two artists to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale. Candiani has received awards from the National Fund for Culture and the Arts, Mexico City (1999; 2006–07; 2012–15; 2016–19); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York (2011); and the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Washington D. C. (2017–18). Candiani lives and works in Mexico City.
This exhibition is generously supported by Helen & Brian Heekin, the Harvey C. Hubbell Trust, Jerry Kathman & Liz Kathman Grubow, Sue Friedlander, The WOMXN and the Generous Supporters of the CAC Exhibition Fund. Partial support was provided by the UC Office of Research University Research Council (URC) Arts/Humanities & Social Sciences. We thank Felsenhaus OTR, Lightborne Communications, Rookwood Pottery and Galeria Vermelho for their contributions to the artwork production.