October 22, 2018

Kennedy Browne
The Special Relationship

Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois

Kennedy Browne, The Myth of the Many in the One (still), 2012. HD video, sound, 19 minutes. Courtesy of the artists © Kennedy Browne.

Irish artists Gareth Kennedy and Sarah Browne have worked together as the collective Kennedy Browne since 2005. Kennedy Browne’s videos, workshops, and sculptural installations have probed common stories of global capital: the effects on workers of relocating companies, the visionary boyhood narratives of tech company founders, and struggles over privacy in the age of the internet. To produce their work, Kennedy Browne follows research threads from specialized and marginal business materials, mining support forums of tech company workers, business literature, archives of airport arrivals and departures, and the legal proceedings of privacy activists in Europe. The artists compile and rework such texts into scripts for performance, casting actors as avatars of industry and labor.

The Special Relationship is Kennedy Browne’s first solo presentation in the United States. The exhibition surveys six bodies of work in video, sculpture, and text produced since 2009. Included is the debut of The Redaction Trilogy, a complete series of video installations with accompanying sculptural elements. The artists produced this work over the last seven years in response to unfolding neoliberal systems of labor, technology and politics, offering artifacts of early twenty-first century capitalism. Real World Harm (2018) is a 360-degree video on Oculus, a virtual reality platform implicated in the concerns of the project. Partly filmed at the Irish Data Commissioners office, which is charged with the responsibility for upholding individuals’ control over how their data is used, Real World Harm stages a thought experiment concerned with contested rights to privacy and justice for online and actual citizenship. The Myth of the Many in the One (2012) and The Wonder Years (2013) distills the biographies of Bob Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and other notable characters into a single story and a series of objects. By highlighting similarities in their boyhood stories, the work exposes a common construction of visionary entrepreneurial genius dependent on gendered privilege and certain ideals of economic growth and progress. How Capital Moves (2010) condenses rumors, speculations, and actual events from the online discussion forum of employees at a multi-national computer company. The video installation stages interviews with a number of these figures, including a central character who was laid off on “wear your pajamas to work day.”

From Ireland’s position “between Boston and Berlin,” a geopolitical frame once described by an Irish politician, Kennedy Browne gives U.S. museum audiences new perspectives about both countries’ participation in international commerce and technoculture.

Curated by Amy L. Powell, curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with research assistance from Alyssa Bralower, doctoral student in Art History at Illinois

Kennedy Browne: The Special Relationship is sponsored by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Culture Ireland with co-sponsorship from the European Union Center at Illinois. The production of The Redaction Trilogy and other works in the exhibition has been supported by The Arts Council / An Comhairle Ealaíon. The exhibition’s public programs are funded by the Frances P. Rohlen Visiting Artists Fund/College of Fine and Applied Arts, the School of Art + Design Visitors Committee and Krannert Art Museum.

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