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by Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza
New York City’s New Museum has, since its inception, been a museum that has dedicated itself to progressive ideas of gender. From its groundbreaking exhibit in 1982 entitled Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art, which was the first comprehensive survey of American gay and lesbian artists, to its present exhibit, Triggered: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, on now through January, which explores ideas of transgender and new queer sensibilities, the New Museum has fostered an open and political environment in which contemporary art can flourish. For its fortieth year the New Museum’s Triggered: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon explores gender’s place in contemporary art in the age of renewed gender politics.
Featuring an intergenerational group of over forty American artists in a multitude of mediums, including video, performance, and photography, the exhibit focuses on gender beyond the binary and shepherds in a new and inclusive notion of identity expression. Following in the footsteps of the New Museum’s progressive legacy, “Triggered” embodies all the definitions of the word. At once dealing with the traumatic recall of being “triggered” while simultaneously embodying the mechanical notion of setting things in motion and in turn setting about radical change. The artists in the exhibit present a desire to subvert and twist the female-male binary in order to expand strict definitions of gender while also expanding the boundaries of gender to include their intersections of race, ability, and class.
The museum brings together both, artists that have a long-standing history of activism and those who are new to artistic activism, but all the work presented is contemporary and very recent works by these artists. Commissioned performances also accompany the exhibit, including monthly performances from Justin Vivian Bond, a three-part musical by Morgan Bassichis, and a series of performance-lectures by Gregg Bordowitz on masculinity.
Gender has always been a controversial and political topic, and art has always been there to dissect it and amplify the voices left out of dominant and mainstream conversations. The New Museum’s Triggered: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon is a continuation of not only their own history and mandate, but a continuation of the way art can change the public discourse.