Posts Tagged ‘SVA Summer Residency Programs’

No Toxic Factor

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Among the usual crop of gallery openings this past month, there was an exciting pop-up show taking place at Central Booking in the Lower East Side. The pop-up exhibition, titled No Toxic Factor reunited 33 artists who spent the summer of 2011 in the School of Visual Arts Painting and Mixed Media Residency.  They have kept in touch since then, and the lasting impact of their experience has led to this exhibition almost five years later.

“NO TOXIC FACTOR,” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

“No Toxic Factor” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

No Toxic Factor was an extraordinary event featuring former residents, faculty, and visiting artists from 2011, curated by SVA Residencies own Assistant Director of Special Programs, Keren Moscovitch.

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The title and concept of the show rest on the conceit that organizing as a group has an altering effect on the individuals who participate in it, synchronizing them while making them unpredictable.  This is observable in social phenomena such as “mass hysteria.”

Video and installation by residency alum Rebecca Kinsey

Video and installation by residency alum Rebecca Kinsey

From the press release:

“ …this exhibition seeks to examine the mass hysteria that can arise amongst highly energized, closely situated individuals. History has thus shown us that large groups of people can generate unpredictable synchronized behaviors that often remain unexplainable by science. Despite suspicions that environmental poisons or other bacterial agents may be at the core of such phenomena, oftentimes these events, when investigated using modern research methods, are shown to have ‘no toxic factor’ involved. This exhibition points to the ambiguity of mass hysteria, suggesting that the line between laughter and psychosis, joy and mania, the rational and the senseless, are innately blurred. Recognizing the destructive forces that lie dormant within all groups, we instead choose to celebrate creativity, community and collaboration.”

The crowd at "NO TOXIC FACTOR"; Installation by Majella Dowdican, Residencies alum

The crowd at “No Toxic Factor”; Installation by Majella Dowdican, Residencies alum

No Toxic Factor found an interesting spin on the group show. Framed in such a way, one begins to wonder to what extent individuals are changed by being in a close-knit studio environment like SVA’s Summer Residencies. The claim of the exhibition is that the experience does change the individual, and if that can inspire a strange mania, it can also be generative, collaborative, and a powerful creative force.

“NO TOXIC FACTOR,” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

“No Toxic Factor” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

See more of the artists: Residencies alumni Rebecca KinseyWilliam PaganoLiz FloresKatalina Guerrero, Lorella PalenCristina Camacho; and the faculty members Tobi KahnOfri Cnaani, and Ira Richer. Read our review of Ofri Cnaani’s recent exhibition here.

“Concerning Human Understanding” Panel Discussion

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Today’s blog post was written by William Patterson, staff member at SVACE:

The SVA Summer Residency Program hosted a panel discussion on the Residency alumni exhibition, Concerning Human Understanding, recently on view at SVA’s Visual and Critical Studies Gallery.  All three exhibiting artists were in attendance to discuss their work, along with art writer Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, who posed a number of thoughtful questions on the themes of communication, madness and the strategies common to all of the artists’ work.

The panel was preceded by a brief introduction by the three artists.  Sandra Erbacher was first to present, and spoke about her evolving interest in Institutional Critique.  Erbacher felt that the practices of Institutional Critique from the 1970’s had become narrow and limited in the way they critiqued the structure of power.  She decided to rethink  “Institution,” exchanging the term for the more far reaching “bureaucracy,” and replacing “critique” with “humor.”  This change in terms allowed her to explore new ways of commenting on the context, history and effects of  “bureaucracy,” with strategies that could be more immediate or insightful than traditional commentary.


Sandra Erbacher, “Ctrl+Alt+Del,” 2015, archival inkjet print, 22×42″

Works from the show, such as Ctrl+Alt+Del, 2015, are evidence of her thinking.  The image de-familiarizes a computer keyboard by erasing off the letters, leaving only blank keys and the plastic frame. This act interrupts the purpose of the device as a means of communicating and forces the viewer to see it as a blank object, a product of plastics and modernist design, in all its genuine strangeness. It no longer seems like a means to communicating human thoughts, but a series of blank and impersonal cells through which nothing can pass.

Marianna Olinger discussed the documentary film she was working on, about a corrupt and abusive mental health institution in Rio de Janeiro. She interviewed and shadowed mental health workers who had been working to rehabilitate the institution’s patients.  Marianna spoke of how inadequate normal, verbal communication was when attempting to understand these victims, and how the mental health workers had to place a much greater emphasis on their body language and tone of voice than we usually do in order to communicate.  Marianna decided to reinterpret the idea of a documentary with this in mind.  In following the cues of these patients, she sought to tell their story with that same emphasis on nonverbal language, and to understand what is often dismissed as “madness” as a form of language. It was this attempt that resulted in Wearing the Inside Out, her contribution to the Concerning Human Understanding exhibition. The video piece acts as a study in the structure of madness as a language, and as a precursor to the film she will ultimately create.


Marianna Olinger, “Wearing the Inside Out,” 2015, video

Tim Roseborough focused on a unique visual font that he invented called Englyph.  Tim uses Englyph in a variety of ways to both conceal and redirect statements written in conventional language.  Applications range from building visual puzzles out of the names of Tim’s friends to organizing a list of racial slurs in an Englyph pyramid by their frequency of use online.  This form of data visualization is always in negotiation with its own immediate aesthetic value, as it conceals a message behind an almost impenetrable code.

Nevertheless, the Englyph system can be read, and that possibility, if not always acted on, remains an important aspect of the work as it is written.  For Tim’s piece in the exhibition, he used Englyph to pattern a wall of the gallery with the message “Everything but Art.”  At center he placed a blank canvas. Words are Stronger than Art was the name of the installation, which served a potent irony within the context of the show, as the work of all three artists, each in their own way, proved just how untrue that really is.


Tim Roseborough, “Words Are Stronger Than Art,” 2015, vinyl mural, 11 ft x 18 ft, and canvas

A video of the complete panel discussion is available below: