Philbrook Museum of Art Presents Adaptation: Video Installations

Philbrook Museum of Art presents an exciting, cutting-edge contemporary exhibition entitled Adaptation: Video Installations by Guy Ben-Ner, Arturo Herrera, Catherine Sullivan and Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation. Organized by the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, this touring exhibition features five works by four artists, all of whom adapt—with varying degrees of fidelity—elements of pre-existing art, literature, film, and popular culture into uniquely new video installations. The exhibition will run through January 9, 2011.

Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation, Photographic still from The Rape of the Sabine Women (Disintegration at Hydra), 2005. Photo by Ricoh Gerbl, courtesy of the artists and Roebling Hall, New York.

All have transformed source material to make new works of art by re-envisioning classic literature, film, ballet, painting – even e-mail. Rather than simply referencing or borrowing from the originals, these artists delve into their sources while also introducing new layers of imagery and meaning. The resulting “adaptations” are far from faithful, yet all achieve a level of fidelity that reveals elemental characteristics of their sources.

Many of the best-known works of art throughout history depict mythic, historical, or biblical stories; condensing complex narratives into a single frozen moment. Some past and contemporary artists quote prior creative works, while others appropriate or repurpose elements of earlier art. Such processes create fresh meanings by shifting fragments of an original into a new context. Similarly, some recent performance and video-based works demonstrate a deep engagement with specific sources by recreating prior performances or reenacting historical events in order to consider them anew from a contemporary perspective.

The works in Adaptation both embrace and question such time-honored traditions of making art based on other works. Unfurling over time, these extended meditations investigate, challenge, and amplify their sources. They remind us that the productive tension between fidelity and creativity – the central element of any adaptation – remains a strong generative force in contemporary art.

Stephanie Smith, Smart Museum Deputy Director and Chief Curator, administered the exhibition. The Office of the Provost and the Arts Council, University of Chicago, the Feitler Family Fund, Larry and Marilyn Fields, Susan and Lewis Manilow, Dirk Denison, and the members and friends of the Smart Museum provided support for this exhibition.

The Adaptation catalogue is published on the web and features video clips with excerpts from all the works in the exhibition, a curator’s essay, artist biographical information, and a discussion forum:

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