The group exhibition “at dawn” draws connections between techniques of image production and the social and political work that goes into imagining alternatives to what the late Cuban American thinker José Esteban Muñoz called our “poisonous and insolvent” present. The show seeks to express a sense of art’s utopian horizon—a generative space of desire, experimentation, and queer relationality aligned with what he described as “ecstatic time.”

The thirty works on view range from performance videos, film, photography, video sculptures, and Land art documentation to moving-image installations and poetry. Historical works foregrounding materiality and process by Nancy Holt (and Holt with Robert Smithson), Joan Jonas, Mary Lucier, and Anthony McCall connect to the formal and conceptual concerns of more recent pieces by artists including Heike Baranowsky, Rosa Barba, Carol Bove, and Jeppe Hein. These are set in dialogue with questions of desire and identity in works by the collective DIS, Barbara Hammer, and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as in A.K. Burns and A.L. Steiner’s sixty-nine-minute ode to queer sexuality in Community Action Center (2010). In what will be the biggest European presentation of the artist’s work to date, four large video installations by Jacolby Satterwhite fuse the artist’s own performance practice with a CGI dreamscape to explore queer ritual and the political potential of software. Two video sculptures by Nam June Paik can be seen as precursors to Satterwhite’s animated image overload.

The show also includes an update of the reading room by Cassandra Press installed at JSC Berlin since 2021, a discursive space in which visitors can delve into Black scholarship on subjects such as double consciousness, performativity, and reparations. Audio recordings of poems from Precious Okoyomon are nestled into the building’s exterior, while Cauleen Smith contributes not only a video but also an installation, Sky Learn Sky (2022), turning the building into a durational artwork. Like that of the exhibition, the installation’s title is borrowed from a saying by Alice Coltrane, known in her spiritual life as Swamini Turiyasangitananda: “At dawn, sit at the feet of action. At noon, be at the hand of might. At eventide, be so big that sky will learn sky.”

How and where do we locate the utopian in everyday life and in art? Why is it important to keep envisioning other ways of being, other temporalities, other spaces, even if it seems naïve to do so considering the violence that defines the status quo? “at dawn” offers examples of how artists carve out spiritual, psychological, and physical enclaves that call for “something else, something better, something dawning.”

until December 4, 2022