Monaco – basically “the little engine that could” among metro area showcases of visual art – closes the month with a new exhibition titled “An Unusable Archive” from the collaborative duo Neeraja D and Ahmed Ozsever, otherwise known as N/A.
That exhibition opens Friday and runs through Aug. 28 during the gallery’s truncated hours in St. Louis’ Benton Park West neighborhood: noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays only (with additional by-appointment viewing).
A press release from Monaco dubs “An Unusable Archive” “the most recent installation by collaborative duo N/A.” The former artist operates from Bengaluru (previously Bangalore), India, where she serves as a faculty member at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. The latter artist, meanwhile, operates from Chicago and Bloomington, Indiana, where he serves as an assistant professor at Indiana University.
“Their practice is rooted in conversation and locates subjectivity in linguistic communication, relative to the geographical and physical space one occupies,” the press release states.
It intriguingly continues that N/A “began as voices over a partition of 8-foot-high unfinished drywall. Neeraja D and Ahmed Ozsever occupied adjacent studios which were enclosed and singular – as a single large room divided to create two individual spaces.”
Although vastly separated now from a geographic perspective, the two artists “sustain their projects via correspondence and technology.”
N/A’s “An Unusable Archive” incorporates objets trouvés and “blurs the distinction between a fictional and an archetypal archive,” states the press release. “The artists simultaneously assume the roles of an archivist and interpreter. They compile material and appear to ascertain meaning from remnant documents.”
At base, “An Unusable Archive” studies the explosive interface between the objective and the subjective. “An archive conjures up notions of objectivity: Here is the record, the witness, the evidence of time, motion, action and existence,” the press release states. “Yet it can never escape the limits of its generative impulse: what, why and whose archive?”
How, then, to contextualize content that fundamentally lacks any context beyond its stochastic aggregation?
“An archetypal archive specifically locates history and functions as a memory,” the press release states. “It becomes a system of complex relationships if one is able to locate, understand and interpret the material as part of a larger framework.
“Works in ‘An Unusable Archive’ appear to be whole, complete and absolute in terms of this vision: to record the evidence. However, in order to be useful, an archive must achieve the status of a catalogue. At the very least, it must be able to function on the principle of some discerning classification. Yet, N/A particularly ask, is it possible to look at found material beyond the randomness of its discovery and toward its potential as a mutable history?”
N/A’s works, the press release notes, customarily “take the form of video, sound, photography and sculpture and are seamlessly integrated into the unique features of the space where they are exhibited.” The collaborative duo’s moniker, which the press release defines as “the negation of information,” continues in that complex fashion: “All works are co-authored, and the coalesced identity negates the autonomy and authority of the individual. Both artists participate fully in the conceptualization, production and articulation of the projects.”
Regarding the venue for “An Unusable Archive,” its website states that Monaco – which Ladue News hailed soon after the artist-owned cooperative/exhibition space opened in 2017 – “operates as an alternative to the traditional gallery model,” basically questioning “commerciality in the contemporary art world.”
The cooperative, whose members include new and midcareer artists alike, emphasizes autonomy and supports those members “by forging new connections and fostering community.”
Monaco, 2701 Cherokee St., St. Louis, monacomonaco.us
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