The 2017 Whitney Biennial, the seventy-eighth installment of the longest-running survey of American art, arrives at a time rife with racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarizing politics. Throughout the exhibition, artists challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community. The Biennial features sixty-three individuals and collectives whose work takes a wide variety of forms, from painting and installation to activism and video-game design.
Leigh Ledare’s Vokzal, filmed in Moscow, uses the sprawling public space outside three adjecent train stations as a rubric for mapping complex group dynamics. The film captures interactions between various individuals passing through, working in, loitering around, or policing this area, linking instances of individual behaviour to clear signs of social breakdown. Within this environment, competing ideas of order play out, highlighting social fractures and laying bare a collectove predicament. Vokzal suggests a portrait of a society unconsciously shifting among various forms of dependency, fight-or-flight responses, pronounced individualism, and non-differentiation. In the 2017 Biennial, the film is split into three looped 16 mm projections and interspersed among other works in three galleries. Within this configuration, an analogy emerges: the projec tors are to the three stations, just as viewers are to the film’s subjects.