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Christine Wyatt and Christina Leoni-Osion in still from Alicia Díaz, "Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond: Women in Resistance Shall not be Moved," 2020

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Christine Wyatt and Christina Leoni-Osion in production still from Alicia Díaz, "Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond: Women in Resistance Shall not be Moved," 2020. Photo by Luis Vasquez La Roche.

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Concept drawing for Duron Chavis's Resiliency Garden, 2020 design by Quilian Riano of DSGN AGNC.

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Commonwealth

Sep 12, 2020 – Jan 17, 2021

OVERVIEW

Commonwealth is the outgrowth of a multiyear partnership between three dynamic, socially engaged contemporary arts organizations: the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA at VCU) in Richmond, Virginia; Philadelphia Contemporary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Beta-Local in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The project explores the historical concept of “commonwealth” and its legacy in each of the three locations. It asks whether it’s possible to unleash the collective power embedded in that term while recognizing its connection to exploitation and colonialism. The question of how people understand common wealth, and the tension between individual choice and collective wellbeing, has become all the more relevant in 2020, a year that began with earthquakes in Puerto Rico and has continued with the historic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Using the tools of culture — from critical conversation to writing, image-making, performance and even gardening — Commonwealth offers paths to understanding both the unequal structures that shape our lived realities and ways that people might come together to make the world more equitable.

ABOUT COMMONWEALTH

Originally designed to be presented as an exhibition in all three cities, the initiative has since been reconceived to account for limited travel and social distancing restrictions and to maximize digital access. The ICA will now present the sole exhibition of the project, with Beta-Local leading the development of a hybrid print and digital publication, and Philadelphia Contemporary launching grant-funded community partnerships and a billboard by artist Firelei Baez. The three institutions have also worked with the project’s artists to adapt their new works to be responsive to the current moment and to create a hybrid digital/in-person experience.  

The indoor/outdoor exhibition component of the project, opening at the ICA in September, will feature all of the new co-commissioned work by artists Firelei Báez, Carolina Caycedo, Duron Chavis, Alicia Díaz, Sharon Hayes, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Nelson Rivera, Monica Rodriguez, and The Conciliation Project (TCP). Working across different media, geographies, and ideas, each of the selected artists is creating new work, which will also be presented in different iterations online and in text, that delves into the notion of the commonwealth—its history and many afterlives, as well as the term’s conceptual possibilities and inherent limitations. Select works include: a “resiliency garden” outside the ICA conceived by food justice activist Duron Chavis and designed by Quilian Riano of DSGN AGNC; Distressed Debt, an installation by Carolina Caycedo that investigates the privatization of natural resources; a filmed performance by indigenous artist Tanya Lukin Linklater that addresses the legacies of settler colonialism; and a performance by the Richmond-based, anti-racist group The Conciliation Project (TCP) that responds to the current moment of racial justice protests. 

The bilingual publication, designed by San Juan-based studio Tiguere Corp, will be released serially over fall 2020 with three issues published both digitally and as limited-run print editions. Inspired in part by the directness and immediacy of newspapers, the publication will highlight both connections and differences across the three cities by mixing hyper-local, current content with broader historical perspectives and artworks. In addition to the publication, the partners will host online Commonwealth-related programming this fall..

Commonwealth is organized and curated by Beta-Local co-directors Pablo Guardiola, Michael Linares, and nibia pastrana santiago and former co-director Sofía Gallisá Muriente; ICA at VCU Chief Curator Stephanie Smith; Noah Simblist, Chair of Painting + Printmaking at VCUarts; and Kerry Bickford, Director of Programs, Nicole Pollard, Program Coordinator and Nato Thompson, Sueyun and Gene Locks Artistic Director at Philadelphia Contemporary.

THANKS

The ICA would like to extend heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed their presence, voice, creativity, and care to this project, including…

The Artists

Firelei Báez, Carolina Caycedo, Duron Chavis, Alicia Díaz, Sharon Hayes, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Nelson Rivera, Monica Rodriguez, and The Conciliation Project (TCP).

Tiguere Corp

The bilingual publication, designed by San Juan-based studio Tiguere Corp, will be released serially over fall 2020 with three issues published both digitally and as limited-run print editions.

Curatorial

Commonwealth is organized and curated by Beta-Local co-directors Pablo Guardiola, Michael Linares, and nibia pastrana santiago and former co-director Sofía Gallisá Muriente; ICA at VCU Chief Curator Stephanie Smith; Noah Simblist, Chair of Painting + Printmaking at VCUarts; and Kerry Bickford, Director of Programs, Nicole Pollard, Program Coordinator and Nato Thompson, Sueyun and Gene Locks Artistic Director at Philadelphia Contemporary.