Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, an exhibition of photographs, paintings, videos, sculptures and installations by contemporary artists who invent humanlike, animal or hybrid creatures to symbolize life’s mysteries, desires and fears, opens Feb. 24 and remains on view in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Upper-Level Galleries through May 28, 2012.

The invented creatures and imaginary worlds featured in the exhibition have been inspired by oral and written sources as diverse as Aesop’s Fables, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, science fiction and the products of genetic experimentation in actual science.  The artists selected for the exhibition redirect the emotional associations implicit in their sources–pleasure, fear, wonder, curiosity and longing–to works of seductive fantasy and uneasy intrigue.

Organized by Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala, the exhibition will travel to Canada in 2012 to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba and Glenbow Art Museum, Calgary. 

“I have long been intrigued by artists and filmmakers for whom geneticists’ capacity to design new life forms has inspired fictional narratives of biological, spiritual and social transfiguration,” says Scala.  “Paradoxically, in imagining futuristic fables and hybrid creatures, these artists have often borrowed from the ancient language of myth, folklore and legend, in which the human and animal are mixed together to symbolize life’s contradictions.  Connecting past and future, the artists in the exhibition explore the hidden meanings behind composite creatures as they are transformed from fantasy to reality.”   

The first section of the exhibition, The Fairy Tale, focuses on artists whose works adapt, interpret or critique traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  While questioning the socializing
functions of fairy tales that perpetuate outmoded cultural stereotypes, these works also explore folklore as archetypal expressions of subliminal fears and desires.  Taking a cue from Sigmund Freud’s view of the fairy tale as a vehicle for projecting an animistic view of humanity’s relationship with nature, the exhibition will consider the ways such tales extend the tradition of creating anthropomorphic beings as metaphors for the natural, rather than the social, side of humanity. In this section are works by Meghan Boody, Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, Paula Rego, Tom Sachs, Allison Schulnik, Kiki Smith and Amy Stein.

In Monsters, the second section in the exhibition, artists explore the depiction of the monster as a sign of the threatening “other” or of the uncontrollable forces of the psyche.  The diversity of their imagery reflects the multiple associations of the word “monster,” which comes from the Latin verb monere, “to warn.”  In cultures around the world, monsters have been conceived as inhuman or part-human brutes that threaten those who violate the psychological or social boundaries they were invented to protect.  The monster often takes the form of the chimera, a hybrid creature that signifies the violation of natural boundaries, as in the story of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Artists featured in Monsters include David Altmejd, Ashley Bickerton, the Chapman Brothers, Marcel Dzama, Andre Ethier, Mark Hosford, Cindy Sherman and Yinka Shonibare.

The Genetic Imagination is the final section in the exhibition.  Moving from superstition and fantasy to potential reality, the artists featured in The Genetic Imagination depict new chimeras—evocations of the hybrid human/animals of old—while reflecting actual scientific developments toward the redefinition of life, especially in the field of genetic engineering. Echoing a split that occurs in much science fiction literature and movies, some artists raise cautions about the unforeseeable consequences of such experiments.  They anticipate the introduction of powerful new mutations, monsters and other potential horrors that may redefine or threaten human life.  For others, the creative potential of these developments is exhilarating and promises to take the interaction between art and science to a heretofore unimaginable liberation from biology.

The works of Suzanne Anker, Aziz + Cucher, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Motohiko Odani, Patricia Piccinini, Janaina Tschäpe, Charlie White and Saya Woolfalk are included in The Genetic Imagination.


Exhibition Catalog
The illustrated catalog published by Vanderbilt University Press features essays by Mark Scala, Frist Center chief curator, Jack Zipes, retired professor of German and director of the Center for German and European Studies and the University of Minnesota; Suzanne Anker, professor at the School of the Visual Arts in New York and author of The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age; and Marina Warner, professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex, England.

Tour Schedule
Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination will travel to two venues:
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba Canada: June 15–Sept. 9, 2012
Glenbow Art Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Sept. 28, 2012–Jan. 2, 2013

Exhibition Credits
This exhibition has been organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

Exhibition Acknowledgements
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Exhibition-related Programs

Artist's Performance by Saya Woolfalk
Lecture of the Artist: "Empathetic Plant Alchemy"
Friday, February 24                                   
12:30 p.m.
Auditorium
Free
Seating is first come, first served.

Saya Woolfalk’s recent work explores cultural transformation and hybridity by imagining the effects of crossing species.  The artist uses a hybridized group of fictional “Empathics” to investigate systems of human classification and the reasons why we might choose to embody monstrous forms outside of known categories.  In her performance Lecture of the Artist: “Empathetic Plant Alchemy,” Woolfalk will present a pseudo-scientific lecture about these Empathics who are slowly mutating to become like plants. The lecture will focus on animated images from a book called Empathetic Plant Alchemy and describe the merger of human and plant DNA.

This program has been developed in conjunction with Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, and Saya Woolfalk is one of the artists whose work is on view in the exhibition.

Artists Panel: Invented Bodies/Hidden Meanings: Fables for our Times
Saturday, February 25, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Auditorium
Free
Seating is first come, first served.

Join moderator and Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala and panelists Saya Woolfalk, Trenton Doyle Hancock and Meghan Boody for a casual conversation among three guest artists who are
represented in the exhibition Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination. The artists will
offer their insights and perspectives on this exciting exhibition as Scala moderates what is sure to
be a lively discourse of views and opinions. A question-and-answer session will form part of the overall discussion.

Curator's Tour: Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination
Thursday, March 1, 12:00 p.m.
Meet at exhibition entrance.
Included with purchase of gallery admission

Join Mark Scala, chief curator at the Frist Center, for a conversation about artworks in this exhibition that convey themes of hybridity and anthropomorphism in the context of folklore, psychology, ethics, science and science fiction.


Unexpected Tales Film Series: Pan's Labyrinth
Friday, March 16, 7:00 p.m.
Auditorium
Free
Seating is first come, first served.

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, on view in the Upper-Level Galleries from February 24 through to May, 28, 2012, depicts composite beings and fantastic narratives that are influenced by literary sources from folk tales to science fiction.  The exhibition explores themes of psychology, identity, and the future. Inspired by this constructed alternate world, the Frist Center has planned a three-part film series, Unexpected Tales, which will explore fairy tales through fantasy, monsters and genetic development.

About the film:
In 1944 fascist Spain, an imaginative young girl, along with her pregnant mother, begins a new life with her stepfather, a fierce captain of the Spanish army.  At night she meets a fairy who leads her to a faun in the center of a labyrinth.  The faun informs her that she is a princess and can only prove this by undertaking three grim tasks.  If she is successful she will meet with her real father, the king. If she is not successful, she will never be a princess.  The young girl is thrust into living two lives: one that is dark and oppressive and another that is terrifying yet alluring.  Stars Ivan Baquero, Ariadna Gil and Sergi Lopez.  Written and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, 2006. 119 minutes. DVD. Rated R.


Invented Bodies/Hidden Meanings: Connecting Disciplines: "Ambivalence Toward Animals and The Moral Community"
Saturday, March 17, 11:00 a.m.
Meet at exhibition entrance
Included with purchase of gallery admission

Kelly Oliver, Ph.D., W. Alton Jones Chair of Philosophy with appointments in African-American and Diaspora Studies, Film Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Vanderbilt University, will present a gallery talk in response to Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination. This talk will explore the ambivalence with which animals are treated as members of the moral community: on one hand, animals are treated as child-like innocents, while on the other, they are treated like monsters.

Oliver will discuss works in this exhibition in relation to this ambivalence while also exploring the ways animals and concepts of animality play into our fantasies and ideas about what is cruel, what is innocent, and what is natural and unnatural.

ARTini: Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination
Friday, April 13, 7:00 p.m.
Meet at exhibition entrance
Free with purchase of gallery admission

Join Keri Jhaveri, educator for youth and family programs  at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation about some of the works  included in the exhibition Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination.

Are you curious about art?  Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for you!  ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.


Free Family Day Festival at the Frist
Sunday, April 15, 1:00–5:30 p.m.
Free 

Enjoy a day of discovery and creativity, filled with art activities, live music and exciting demonstrations.  Bring your family and friends to share in a day filled with art and imagination!  Exhibitions highlighted during the free day include To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection; Connecting Cultures: Children's Art from Around the World; and Answers to Questions: John Wood and Paul Harrison.


ARTini: Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination
Tuesday, April 17, 12:00 p.m.
Meet at exhibition entrance. 
Included with purchase of gallery admission

Join Keri Jhaveri, educator for youth and family programs at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation about some of the works  included in the exhibition Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination.

Are you curious about art?  Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for
you! ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.


Unexpected Tales Film Series: Beauty and the Beast
Friday, April 20, 7:00 p.m.
Auditorium
Free
Seating is first come, first served.

Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, on view in the Upper-Level Galleries from February 24 through to May, 28, 2012, depicts composite beings and fantastic narratives that are influenced by literary sources from folk tales to science fiction.  The exhibition explores themes of psychology, identity, and the future.  Inspired by this constructed alternate world, the Frist Center has planned a three-part film series, Unexpected Tales, which will explore Fairy Tales through fantasy, monsters, and genetic development.

About the film:
Considered one of the finest fantasy films of all time, Beauty and the Beast is an adaptation of the traditional fairy tale in which Belle’s father is sentenced to death for picking a rose from the Beast’s garden.  Belle’s father begs the beast for permission to see his family one more time before his death; when he returns home, Belle decides to take the place of her father and goes back to the Beast.  Belle eventually becomes drawn to the Beast; he, in turn, falls in love with her and proposes marriage, which she refuses.  As Belle is drawn closer to the Beast, he decides to test her feelings by allowing her to return home to her family and making it clear that if she does not return within a week, he will die of grief.  This is a stunning film using surreal imagery and special effects to create a wistful, romantic story about never judging a book by its cover.   Stars Josette Day and Jean Marais. Jean Cocteau’s adaptation, originally released in France as La Belle et la Bête. Written by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont and adapted and directed by Jean Cocteau, 1946. 120 minutes. 35mm. Unrated.


About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery (open until 5:30 p.m. each day) features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID.  College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m.  Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling (615) 744-3247.The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling (615) 244-3340 or by visiting our website at http://www.fristcenter.org">http://www.fristcenter.org.

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