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ART X Lagos: Nigeria’s Art Renaissance Ocula Report ART X Lagos: Nigeria’s Art Renaissance 17 November 201817 Nov 2018 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Nigeria's art scene has flourished over the last decade, leading to a renewed interest in cultivating and supporting modern and contemporary art in the country. Ranked Africa's largest economy in 2017, making up 0.8 percent of the world's GDP, a surge in wealth amongst some individuals has led to a developing collector base (not to mention rising...

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Cao Fei Ocula Conversation Cao Fei Artist

Cao Fei's first large-scale institutional exhibition in Asia, A hollow in a world too full (8 September 2018–4 January 2019), is taking place at Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong, the city's new non-profit art centre housed in a former colonial police and prison complex in Central. Organised in collaboration with Ullens Center for Contemporary Art...

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Shanghai's West Bund and Art021 fairs overlap in 2018 Ocula Report Shanghai's West Bund and Art021 fairs overlap in 2018 17 November 201817 Nov 2018 : Diana d’Arenberg for Ocula

The last time I visited West Bund Art & Design was four years ago, when the fair was in its first year of operation: a small, boutique offering held in a cavernous hangar that seemed too big for it. Much has changed since then. Mirroring the rapid development of the city itself, West Bund has grown from 25 galleries in 2014 to a fair that...

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Through her tangled, multilayered films, video installations and theatrical performances, Chicago-based artist Catherine Sullivan combines diverse historical and cultural references to examine both past and current-day concerns such as race relations, class and the global economy.

A trained actor, Sullivan has long been interested in the 'gradual estrangement between visual/performance art and theatre in the 20th century...as a symptom of an inherently troubled relationship between people performing and people watching them perform' (as relayed to Ocula Magazine in 2018). As such, her films and performances are intentionally byzantine and defy linear logic so as to complicate expectations of viewership.

Sullivan's works are often shot or set in discordant or unusual environments. In her 2010 video The Last Days of British Honduras, for example, Sullivan riffs off Ronald Tavel's 1971 play of the same name to explore contemporary North American culture. While Tavel's narrative takes place in Belize, Sullivan's version is set in Chicago and touches on contemporary issues of race, colonialism, the supernatural and rebirth. Indeed, Sullivan often liberally quotes from historical works in order to generate new meaning: in her two-channel video installation 'Tis Pity She's a Fluxus Whore (2003), the artist combined re-enactments of a 1953 production of a play by John Ford with with Joseph Beuys' 1964 performance at the Festival of New Art at the Technical College of Aachen, after which the artist was violently attacked by his spectators. Similarly, the video installation Floes Of Franz Joseph Land saw actors recreate a Russian drama entitled Nord-Ost.

Sullivan is notoriously demanding of her actors, often giving them fragmented directions for their roles and setting them up with seemingly impossible challenges. For example, for her 2005 video The Chittendens, in lieu of a script, Sullivan provided 16 actors (outfitted as both members of the 19th-century leisure class and as 20th-century middle management workers) with a list of 14 attitudes arranged on varying scales of intensity. The results were halting, staccato gestures performed in isolation from one another within the film's derelict office-like set. In a 2018 conversation with Ocula Magazine, Sullivan explained: 'What I don't know is shared with everyone else in the work, and this causes unexpected things to happen... I think I'm interested both in how actors are contagious and can conjure different kinds of space between people, and how acting is a means to see behaviours and habits in historical time.'

As an artist-in-residence at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in 2007, Sullivan created the ambitious multichannel film project Triangle of Need. The film was set in a non-descript apartment in 'an American city' and at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami—a site chosen for its mishmash of historical architectural styles and past life as the estate of American industrialist James Deering. The project engaged diverse collaborators including figure skaters, actors and composers (such as Sean Griffin, with whom she frequently works), resulting in a twisted whirlwind tale including time travel, Nigerian e-mail scams and a language called Mousterian, abstracted from theories of Neanderthal speech. In the film, as is consistent throughout the artist's practice, meaning becomes so confused as to disintegrate and collapse.

Returning to an office setting and inspired by conversations with women, Sullivan's film The Startled Faction (a sensitivity training) (2018) Sullivan orchestrated a cacophonic group of actors to perform generic professional training exercises, pointing to constructed expectations around gendered workplace labour.

Sullivan received a BFA in acting from the California Institute of Arts and an MFA in post-studio art from the Art Center College of Design, where she studied under Mike Kelley. She currently teaches at the University of Chicago.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

The Startled Faction (a sensitivity training) by Catherine Sullivan contemporary artwork Catherine SullivanThe Startled Faction (a sensitivity training), 2018 Anamorphic video with colour and sound, 34 mins
Metro Pictures Request price & availability

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Catherine Sullivan, The Startled Faction (a sensitivity training) at Metro Pictures,
Closed
6 September–20 October 2018 Catherine Sullivan The Startled Faction (a sensitivity training)Metro Pictures, New York

Represented By

Ocula Magazine

Catherine Sullivan Ocula Conversation Catherine Sullivan Artist

In Catherine Sullivan's artistic practice, she works with the actor as medium, crossing genres and histories of art, theatre, movement, and performance with poetry, literature, sound and popular culture. A former actor herself, Sullivan attended the California Institute of the Arts and the Art Center College of Design where she studied under Mike...

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Related Press

Catherine Sullivan’s X-Ray Dreams Related Press Catherine Sullivan’s X-Ray Dreams Hyperallergic : 15 September 2018

Catherine Sullivan is a Chicago-based artist whose films and installations have been shown only spottily in New York, and we're the poorer for it. The last piece of hers I saw was Triangle of Need (2007) at Metro Pictures, and that was more than 10 years ago. (Somehow, her 2016 collaboration with the composers George Lewis and Sean Griffin,...

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An Actor Prepares Related Press An Actor Prepares Frieze : 14 November 2005

When asked about the significance of the lighthouse in To the Lighthouse (1937), Virginia Woolf replied that it represented 'nothing'. 'One has to have a central line down the middle of the book to hold the design together' she wrote. Exemplary of mid-20th-century literary Modernism, Woolf's novel conjures a disorientating stream of consciousness...

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