The Contemporary Austin | IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY — Flaunt Magazine

The exhibition is titled, IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY—could you give me an overview of this title? 

The title comes from a work by Jenny Holzer, a really prominent feminist and socially engaged artist. She came to prominence around 1980 and is known for works that intervene in the public sphere and really critically analyze discourse in media or public speech. She inspires people to take action to change the conditions of reality. The exhibition is a gathering of eight female artists, each of them in many different ways is really confronting received patriarchal power structures and creating works that make space for new forms of representation while encouraging us to think about who we are and what is possible. 

That phrase is like a current—it connects the very different projects that each of the eight artists is doing in this show. Whether it’s constructs of identity, or the ways in which archives and histories shape certain narratives and determine more or less whose stories are told, whose stories are suppressed, whose lives are privileged or subjected to violence. We’re gathering female artists who are both cis and trans from a wide variety of backgrounds and centering their voices and perspectives. It’s really a way of addressing the patriarchal structure and also white supremacy in this country. And so doing that in a way that also simultaneously opens up new spaces and creates opportunities to seek refuge and joy and possibilities to reimagine those very structures to open up a new path forward.

Was this core message already a vision going into exhibition curation? Did the artists come to you or did you find them beforehand and curate the other way around? 

To be honest, it was a little bit of a process of both working from both sides and that’s because the exhibition grew. It was originally a smaller project and it grew to become one that is occupying the entire downtown museum, as well as having site-specific projects at Laguna Gloria, the sculpture museum. It started with a subset of artists and then they were drawn together really for the ways in which they were approaching narrative and power structures using satire and humor, so there really was already a core. But, in fleshing that idea out, it became a more intentional process of drawing together artists who are approaching that topic. There are two major sections—one on the ground floor and one upstairs. The ground floor artists who are using the human figure: paintings, animations, photo collages, and videos all thinking about how subjectivity or identity is constructed and addressing constructs of gender and the power dynamics of gender. Then upstairs are artists who have a very conceptual research-driven practice. They’re thinking about systems: systems of knowledge, archives and histories of systems plus the way people’s lives and histories are represented in how we memorialize, but also shape and reframe for the future. Once those two central themes started to really crystallize, it became a process of making it feel robust and compelling while speaking to a wide range of subjects in terms of representation. 

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