press release

An Inventory of Shimmers: Objects of Intimacy in Contemporary Art considers our entangled, intimate relations with and through objects. The group exhibition features works by Andrea Büttner, Sophie Calle, Alejandro Cesarco, Jason Dodge, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Antonia Hirsch, Jill Magid, Park McArthur, Lisa Tan, Erika Vogt, Susanne M. Winterling, and Anicka Yi. The works included variously act as vehicles for affective engagement or transactions of desire between people, or are directly engaged with actions of care, trust, and love. Many objects in the exhibition carry the traces of things we can’t see but have to trust, intuit, or perceive in ways that are not related to vision or hearing. Throughout the show, artists engage with modes of address and content that are variously tethered to affect, emotion, or feeling yet at the same time eschew sentimentality and expressivity.

The exhibition was originally inspired by ideas of affect, which, in the most general sense, describes a set of unconscious states that determine how bodies—human or nonhuman—are shaped, modified, or affected by the intensity of their interactions. The “affective turn” gained currency across a range of disciplines in the 1990s but has roots in the work of 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and has more recently resonated with contemporary artists, curators, and critics. To characterize the shifting, elusive territory of affect, the show borrows its title from French philosopher Roland Barthes’s The Neutral, in which he stated that “the inventory of shimmers is of nuances, of states, of changes.”

The works on view engage embodied, rather than strictly visual, modes of perception and explore different registers of intimacy. While intimacy requires some kind of reciprocity between discrete entities, proximity (actual or felt), the exhibition also considers affective relationships with things not necessarily considered animate. We both project affects onto objects and are in turn affected by them, revealing the entanglement of internal experiences and external objects, living and not.

An Inventory of Shimmers: Objects of Intimacy in Contemporary Art is curated by Henriette Huldisch, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center. The exhibition is accompanied by a 96-page fully illustrated catalogue published by DelMonico Books/Prestel in association with the MIT List Visual Arts Center. Edited by Henriette Huldisch, the catalogue features essay contributions by Eugenie Brinkema, Associate Professor, Literature Section, MIT; Johanna Burton, Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum; and Emily Watlington, Curatorial Research Assistant, MIT List Visual Arts Center and graduate student History, Theory and Criticism of Art and Architecture, MIT.

An Inventory of Shimmers: Objects of Intimacy in Contemporary Art is generously supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene Demoulas & Tom Coté, Jane & Neil Pappalardo, Cynthia & John Reed, and Terry & Rick Stone. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station.

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and many generous individual donors. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.