Triple Canopy is pleased to present Doomed to Be Free, an evening of readings, screenings, and conversation to celebrate the publication of Bas Jan Ader: Death Is Elsewhere, a new biography by art historian Alexander Dumbadze. He will be joined by artists Matthew Day Jackson and Xaviera Simmons, who will present selections of their own works that explore some of Ader’s preoccupations—the force of gravity, gradual disappearances, searches for the miraculous, and the artist’s agency. Triple Canopy editor Molly Kleiman will moderate.
- The piece is expressly about freedom, about the will, about the ability to make a choice that has a corresponding nonchoice. Determinism lurks, but it is of a different kind, not something malicious like gravity or potentially random like God. Instead it is freedom itself that controls the situation; it is this quality that doomed Ader.
—Dumbadze on Ader’s Broken Fall (Organic) from 1971, in Bas Jan Ader: Death Is Elsewhere, page 33.
Compelled by the act of falling, “volitional gestures,” and the eradication of artifice, Ader attempted to create unmediated works. And, as Dumbadze notes, “to an extent, he accomplished his goal, but only at the expense of his life”—Ader was lost at sea in 1975 at age thirty-three. Despite this, Ader’s work is distinguished, too, by a droll humor and physical elasticity that evokes Buster Keaton as much as Icarus. Matthew Day Jackson will share images from the maiden voyage of his self-fashioned, jet-black, unmarked dragster. “If you over-muscle or over-steer or slam on the brakes, your car’s going to buck and roll, and you’re going to total it,” Jackson has said. “You have to let the car do its thing. You have to let go.” Xaviera Simmons, like Ader, is interested in the boundaries between fiction, myth, and lived experience; and in creating “in-between spaces, with nonlinear narratives, with narratives that drop off and then continue, with shifting landscapes and shifting narratives, shifting characters and shifting histories.”
- Alexander Dumbadze is Associate Professor of Art History at George Washington University. His book Bas Jan Ader: Death Is Elsewhere was published by University of Chicago Press in May 2013. He co-edited and co-authored, with Suzanne Hudson, Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). In 2011 he received a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. He is a founder of both the Society of Contemporary Art Historians and the Contemporary Art Think Tank. Recent essays include "Spectacle and Death" in September 11 (MoMA PS1, 2011) and "Can You Hear the Lights?" in Art, History and the Senses: 1830 to the Present (Ashgate, 2010).
- Matthew Day Jackson is an artist living and working in Brooklyn. His work has been exhibited at Contemporary Arts Museum (Houston), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), and was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. His solo exhibition "Total Accomplishment" is currently on view at ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany.
- Xaviera Simmons produces installations, sculptures, photographic, video and performative works. Selected solo projects and exhibitions scheduled for 2013–2014 include "Archive as Impetus" with the Museum of Modern Art (New York), "Underscore" at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Connecticut), and "Open" at David Castillo Gallery (Miami), in addition to many group exhibitions. Her works are included in major museum and private collections worldwide.
- Molly Kleiman is a Triple Canopy deputy editor, co-director of the Back Room, and formerly the coordinator of NYU Gallatin's Writing Program.