We Were Already Gone

Selections from Hunter MFA
May 15 - June 5, 2021

Hauser & Wirth
542 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10011

We Were Already Gone is an exhibition of artists, curated by their classmates and peers in the Studio Art and Art History program at Hunter College, presented at Hauser & Wirth's 22nd Street Gallery. Conceived of after a year of political unrest and learning through the virtual sphere, we asked ourselves, how do we imagine and prepare ourselves for the future, when we live within the carcass of the past? What are the tools we need to move our present forward, instead of being dragged back by the ghosts of our past. In his 1993 text Spectres of Marx, Jacques Derrida coined the term “hauntology,” which refers to the persistence of past elements in the present day. Organized through this conceptual framework, the artists in this exhibition all grapple with the invitation to assemble the remnants of the past into the foundation for a hopeful future.

Hunter MA and MFA students collaborated to curate, organize, and install the exhibition, including an ambitious wall installation by artist Sydney Shavers.

Artists Chris Berntsen, Areum Yang, and Carrie Rudd direct their inquiry toward contemplating the past, with an aim toward understanding how memory manifests itself in the present. Amidst this decaying architecture, our societal rot has been further exacerbated by the global pandemic. Not only are we haunted by the structural ghosts of neoliberalism, we are haunted by the absence of our social lives and the deprivation of touch with our fellow humans. Our lives have become submerged into the digital world, where human connection is refracted through manicured representations, 24/7 surveillance, bellicose politics, and the numbing drone of corporate advertising. Yet this glitch, this unprecedented rupture, has lent a sudden urgency to the building of new communities which stretch around the globe and have the potential to enact substantial change. Artists such as Sydney Shavers, Peter Macaulay, Dahlia Bloomstone, Alina Yakirevitch, Whit Harris, and Jeremy Lawson are experimenting in this uncertain present by interrogating notions of the avatar and virtual self, in addition to the quest for leisure in a late-capitalist landscape.

In our deeply uncertain present, our haunted past may offer fertile ground upon which to break down outdated systems and rebuild anew. What if this dilemma need not be a source of anxiety? Artists like Noemie Jennifer Bonnet, Shauna Steinbach, Lele Dai, sgp, Christina Barrera, and Helen Ran each present different answers for precisely this kind of question.

From left to right artists are: Carrie Rudd, Helen Ran, sgp, Areum Yang, Shauna Steinbach, Whit Harris, and Noemie Jennifer Bonnet

To read critical writing by Hunter MA and MFA students, visit Assemblage, a student-run, peer-reviewed, open-access journal, committed to publishing graduate research from Hunter College’s Art History department and to representing diverse areas of study within the art historical field.