Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties
The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University is pleased to present Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties, the first institutional exhibition by comedic performer Morgan Bassichis, on view September 8, 2023 to January 7, 2024. For More Little Ditties, the artist brings together performance, video, and text-based works–created both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic–that mark time, loss, desire, disappointment and joy through playful musical gestures. The exhibition is co-organized with the The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, where it will be on view June 30 to September 3, 2023.
Through deceptively simple and incantatory “little ditties,” Bassichis approaches urgent questions with critical curiosity, poetry and—crucially—pleasure. Performing solo as well as working collaboratively in duets and groups, Bassichis’ practice offers intimate encounters with learning, collectivity, and lineages of queer and Jewish radicalism. As noted by the artist, these “songs fall somewhere between adult lullabies and practical spells, and will not include concrete policy recommendations but maybe they should?”
Visitors are welcomed by an installation of Bassichis’ Quarantunes (2020), a series of improvised songs created during the first month of mandated social distancing, and a display of free self-help brochures illustrated and designed by DonChristian Jones, called Questions to Ask Beforehand (2022). Included in the exhibition is documentation from three performances that explore lineages of queer and Jewish radicalism through humor and music: More Protest Songs! (2017), Klezmer for Beginners (2019), co-created with Ethan Philbrick, and Don’t Rain on My Bat Mitzvah (2021), co-created with Ira Khonen Temple.
Two new works have been created for the exhibition. First, a new young adult anthology, published by Wendy’s Subway, and co-edited by Bassichis, Jay Saper, and Rachel Valinsky, titled Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah. The book brings together thirty six artists, activists, writers, and rabbis to open-heartedly reflect on questions about Jewish tradition, Zionism, and solidarity, and will be available to read and purchase in the exhibition. Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah reimagines the rite of passage of the B’nai Mitzvah as an opportunity for people of all ages and genders to explore assumptions about ritual, nationalism, and community. The exhibition will also debut a new music video for what Bassichis hopes will be a “gay pop hit about seltzer,” animated by Daniel Pineda. Taken together, these works expand the artist’s interdisciplinary research into modes of transmission across generations.
The exhibition is curated by Amber Esseiva, Curator, Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University; and Dan Byers, John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts; with Danni Shen, Curatorial and Public Programs Assistant, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.
The exhibition’s presentation at the ICA at VCU is made possible by generous support from Paul and Sara Monroe.