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That I am reading backwards and into for a purpose, to go on:

May 23–Jun 10, 2017
The Kitchen, 512 W 19th Street

Opening Reception: Tuesday, May 23,  5–8 pm.

That I am reading backwards and into for a purpose, to go on: brings together corporeal art, live performance, and the moving image. The exhibition presents the body as an access point to wider social and political conditions. The performer stands in for the unrepresentable collection of bodies and experiences that constitute our lives. Through identification with or alienation from the human figure—understood both literally as a body and as a trope—viewers are able to destabilize methods of knowing and representing. The duty and responsibility of art that works with bodies is to make tangible the methods through which visible and readable positions are produced.

The current American political crisis presents an acute challenge to the relationship between the visible and knowable, making it now more urgent than ever to consider how truth claims are constructed. This exhibition makes space for the coexistence of historical thought and present action. Working in film, video, sculpture, and performance, the contributing artists tease out the techniques by which the visible and knowable are produced and reckon with the ways the human body is enmeshed in and trained by multiple technologies. The artists use performance, rhetoric, and repetition to remind us that we are historically constructed subjects.

The title of this exhibition is a citation from the essay “Removing the Minus” (2012) by the artist, curator, writer, and teacher Ian White. Taking up White’s pedagogical poetics as a working method, this exhibition reckons with history and the construction of the conditions of the present. It is the privilege and duty of art to address both what is seen and the mechanisms of viewership—the keys to which, as White’s quote suggests, lie in reading backward and into while looking toward the future.

The exhibition presents works by Julia Phillips; Kevin Beasley; Brendan Fernandes; Babette Mangolte; Martine Syms; Silvia Kolbowski; Lorenza Mondada, Nicolle Bussein, Sara Keel, Hanna Svensson, and Nynke van Schepen; Steffani Jemison; Marvin Luvualu Antonio; and Aisha Sasha John. A free companion publication features texts by Park McArthur, taisha paggett, and Tanya Lukin Linklater. 

Curated by Magdalyn Asimakis, Jared Quinton, and Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows at the Whitney Independent Study Program (ISP).

The ISP provides a setting within which students pursuing art practice, curatorial work, art historical scholarship, and critical writing engage in ongoing discussions and debates that examine the historical, social, and intellectual conditions of artistic production.

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Public Programs

Aisha Sasha John: the aisha of oz
Dance at the Whitney Museum of American Art
June 1, 2017, 6:30 pm

“I don't know how to express anger physically.
There are reasons for this and consequences.
A performance of fire. And water and fire. And earth.
There is wonderful power in the wound.”
—Aisha Sasha John

Aisha Sasha John is a singing dancer and author of I have to live (2017) and THOU (2014). This will be the first iteration of the aisha of oz performed in New York. The show runs for approximately one hour.

Tickets will be released on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Yvonne Rainer and Gregg Bordowitz in Conversation
Abrons Art Centre
June 5, 2017, 7 pm

Artists Yvonne Rainer and Gregg Bordowitz will discuss their current work, drawing on their experiences working with artist and curator Ian White and focusing on techniques of reproduction in corporeal art.

Austerity and the Body: A Lauren Berlant Reading Group
The Kitchen
June 8, 2017, 5 pm

Led by the curators, participants will read and discuss two short essays by critic and philosopher Lauren Berlant. Seating is limited and reservations required; please register in advance by contacting


The 2017 Whitney ISP Curatorial Program catalogue is available online.


Curated by the ISP’s 2016–17 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows: Magdalyn Asimakis, Jared Quinton and Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and The Kitchen. Curatorial participants of the ISP are designated as Helena Rubinstein Fellows in recognition of the long-standing support of the Helena Rubinstein Foundation. Support for the Independent Study Program is provided by Margaret Morgan and Wesley Phoa, The Capital Group Charitable Foundation, The New York Community Trust, and the Whitney Contemporaries through their annual Art Party benefit. Endowment support is provided by Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.