Graduate Fine Arts

2019 PennMFA Thesis Exhibition in Philadelphia

Analogous to Our Own

Analogous to Our Own
Thursday May 9, 2019-Saturday May 25, 2019
Icebox Project Space
Crane Arts Building
1400 North American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122

Opening Reception: 
Thursday May 9, 2019 6pm-9pm

Featuring work by the MFA Class of 2019: Anthony Cerilli, Rami George, Nova Gothlin, Fields Harrington, Zachary Hill, Danielle Haya Kovalski Monsonego, Carolyn Lazard, Xiaoxuan Liu, Aaron Ross, Fred Schmidt-Arenales, Mengda Zhang.

Curated by Sara O'Keeffe.

In 1922, entomologist William Morton Wheeler delivered a series of lectures on the appetites of a wide array of creatures, including beetles, wasps, bees, ants, and termites. The study of desire, he argued, and its many modes of satisfaction are key to understanding social structures and power dynamics in the animal kingdom. Ants, he wrote, “live in a condition of anarchistic socialism”1; wasps and bees trouble a strictly binary model of gender; moreover, “the whole trend of evolution in the most interesting of social insects is toward an ever increasing matriarchy.”2 These lectures were compiled and published the following year in a volume titled Social Life Among the Insects (Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1923). A peculiar wonder arises when we study insects, Wheeler argued, not because “there are so many differences in structure between...insects and man” but rather because “we find that social organization [is] at least incipiently analogous to our own.”3

Analogous forms are strange indeed. They can be used to reinforce current configurations of power, but they can also allude to the possibility of other social formulations. Theorist José Esteban Muñoz wrote, “The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalising rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.”4 The works in this exhibition offer analogous forms: sister images and shadow histories that trouble and inflect the present. Using elements unearthed in archives, oral interviews, or culled from once functional objects, many of the works insist on lingering with forms that have been scavenged from the past. Re-contextualized, they estrange us from the normalization of the present, offering us, perhaps, the flicker of new desires.

About the Curator:
Sara O’Keeffe is an Associate Curator at the New Museum. She was part of the curatorial teams that organized “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” (with Johanna Burton, 2017-2018), and the “2015 Triennial: Surround Audience” (with Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin, 2015). She curated “RAGGA NYC: All the threatened and delicious things joining one another” (2015) and "Screens Series: Dynasty Handbag" (2018-2019), and co-curated "Jeffrey Gibson: The Anthropophagic Effect" (2019); “MOTHA and Chris E. Vargas: Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project”(2018-2019); “A.K. Burns: Shabby but Thriving” (2017); "My Barbarian: The Audience is Always Right" (2016); "Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign" (2016); "Cheryl Donegan: Scenes and Commercials" (2015-2016); "Wynne Greenwood: Kelly" (2015) with Johanna Burton.