artist / participant
In the exhibition and residency Shabby but Thriving, A.K. Burns continues a serial work that draws on theater, science fiction, philosophy, and ecological anxieties. The project is organized around five elements: power (the sun), water, land, void, and body.
In Shabby but Thriving, commissioned by and premiering at the New Museum as part of the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s R&D Season: BODY, Burns presents the project’s next chapter, a two-channel video staged within an installation that explores the subjugation and agency of various bodies. A video, titled Living Room (2017–ongoing), is the installation’s central work; it was filmed in the New Museum’s 231 Bowery space, a prewar building adjacent to the Museum that houses the artist-in-residence studio. Moving from its basement through the stairwells (partially renovated and often bearing relics of previous eras) and into a series of found and constructed interiors, the video treats the entire building as both a stage and a metaphorical body. The building exists as a hermetic ecosystem and protagonist in the narrative of Living Room, as performers use their bodies to labor and leisure, choreograph and dialogue, bathe and subsist within this vital architectural interior. Likewise, furniture and props act as both benign objects and political subjects.
The installation includes sculptural objects that augment and animate the video’s narrative: a stripped and gutted couch outfitted with underglow, cast bags of dirt embedded with foil candies, a carpet soiled during the couch demolition, and fishing lures and lines stretched across walls.
The exhibition is curated by Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement, and Sara O’Keeffe, Assistant Curator.