Carnegie Museum of Art Announces Cauleen Smith: Pandemic Diaries

Carnegie Museum of Art Announces Cauleen Smith: Pandemic Diaries

Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO, 2020–2021 (video still), Courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago.

Cauleen Smith, COVID MANIFESTO, 2020–2021 (video still), Courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago.

Pittsburgh, PA (September 7, 2021) – Today, Carnegie Museum of Art unveils Cauleen Smith: Pandemic Diaries, a new exhibition by the interdisciplinary American artist that bridges the museum’s online exhibition series with its onsite artistic program. The exhibition, which runs through September 6, 2022 presents two artworks: COVID MANIFESTO (2020–2021), a new film streaming on Carnegie Museum of Art’s website at cmoa.org/exhibition/cauleen-smith and a rotating photographic mural of stills from COVID MANIFESTO installed in the museum lobby.

Beginning in April 2020, Smith initiated COVID MANIFESTO, a series of incisive photographs, social media posts, and short films featuring hand-written personal reflections, political demands, and musings contending with the daily onslaught of local, national, and global events. Through responsive drawings and an installation on her studio desk, Smith works to name interconnected systems, structures, and contemporaries—creating a space to imagine new and liberatory futures. These “living still lifes” feature a decorative assemblage of materials that drive Smith’s practice as she writes out messages such as: “the internet is not the answer”; “we deserve better than back to normal”; and “everybody, everybody out of jail now”.

The exhibition is a continuation and reframing of Smith’s COVID MANIFESTO, which began a few weeks after lockdown in the United States as a series on the artist’s Instagram account. These photographs of handwritten reflections and calls to action were inspired by Smith’s observations of the ongoing pandemic and multiple social justice movements. In November 2020, the artist recreated these
manifestos as short films on display in Piccadilly Circus in London and online in collaboration with The Showroom and CIRCA. The film, streaming for free and accessible to all at cmoa.org/exhibition/cauleen-smith, is accompanied by an ever changing and subtle ambient soundtrack.

In the museum, Smith presents three mural-size video stills that will be shown in rotation, each on display for four months. These colorful overhead shots of the artist manually inscribing notes at her desk appear in large-scale, confronting the realities of (in)access, the dissonance of the “back to normal” mentality, and the fact that the pandemic continues in many parts of the world. A QR code next to this presentation guides visitors to view the streaming film online.

“Situated in both Carnegie Museum of Art and on cmoa.org, Pandemic Diaries reimagines how the museum welcomes audiences while acknowledging the severity of the current public health crisis within the country and around the globe,” says Kiki Teshome, Carnegie Museum of Art’s Margaret Powell Curatorial Fellow. “The video stills, enlarged and expanded on the wall, create an invitation to peer into the artist’s process. Along with COVID MANIFESTO, Smith shares the objects she cherishes, the books she is reading, the incense she is smelling, the questions she is asking, which become representative of the intimacies that were created by the pandemic itself.”

Cauleen Smith is an American artist whose work builds on the historical legacy of the Black radical tradition, understanding the power structures that inform current ways of life and expanding the historical viewfinder to imagine new futures. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants. In addition to her presentation at Carnegie Museum of Art, she is the subject of solo exhibitions currently on view at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Events and programs based on visitor interaction with the work will be developed throughout the duration of Carnegie Museum of Art’s presentation. Unless otherwise noted, Carnegie Museum of Art events are pay what you wish with registration. More details can be found on cmoa.org.

Cauleen Smith: Pandemic Diaries is organized by Dana Bishop-Root, Director of Education and Public Programs, and Kiki Teshome, Margaret Powell Curatorial Fellow at Carnegie Museum of Art.

Online Exhibition Series
Carnegie Museum of Art’s online exhibition series draws from the museum’s vast film and video collection and is an extension of the museum’s curatorial program in the digital sphere. The online exhibition series offers a channel for local and global audiences alike to experience time-based works previously only accessible in-person. With this initiative, which launched in 2020, Carnegie Museum of Art revolutionized how visitors engage with its significant holdings at a time when many cultural institutions were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Support
General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Premier Partners
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and NOVA Chemicals.

Health and Safety
Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has continued to follow government and public health guidance to keep staff and visitors safe. To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant in areas with high transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends that every person—vaccinated and unvaccinated—wear a mask when inside public spaces. For that reason, all visitors age 2 and above are required to wear masks while inside our museums, and our staff members and volunteers will be wearing masks, too. Visitors experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are kindly asked to remain at home. To learn more about our Health and Safety measures, please visit cmoa.org/visit/health-safety

Mission
Carnegie Museum of Art creates experiences that connect people to art, ideas, and one another. The museum is committed to global engagement and regional advancement. We champion creativity and its importance to society with experiences that welcome, inspire, challenge, and inform. Our core activities—collecting, conserving, presenting, and interpreting works of art—make those experiences possible. Our collection of over 34,000 works emphasizes art, architecture, photography, and design from the 19th century to the present. In addition, the museum houses the archive of more than 70,000 images by Pittsburgh photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, whose work comprises one of the most detailed and intimate records of Black life in America. Through its programming, exhibitions, and publications, Carnegie Museum of Art frequently explores the role of art and artists in confronting key social issues of our time, combining and juxtaposing local and global perspectives. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. To learn more, please call 412.622.3131 or visit cmoa.org.

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